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Q&A

Q & A (Part One: Ministry and Haitian Culture)

Ministry

 1. How long have you been volunteering in Haiti? 

I have been volunteering in Haiti since my first trip in November 2017. 

2. What kind of ministry do you do exactly?

I do not have a set area of work. Sometimes it is planning the homeschooling curriculum and helping the staff with teaching. Other times it is assisting on a larger scale at Grace Academy. I do renovation projects. Go on visits in the community. Oversee food distribution. Lead worship nights. Take the sick to a crowded hospital and advocate for them to see a doctor or treat minor needs myself. Care for health-compromised little ones. Translate for visiting Americans. Garden projects. Arts and crafts. Cooking, cleaning, and organizing. My job description is whatever is needed most at the time. 

3. How does your schedule look? Do you have free time?

Because my activities change daily, my schedule does as well. However, I am typically busy until 4 pm. And free on most Sundays. 

4. Who designed your website? Why did you choose to switch from Facebook and update Emails to a blog? 

My older sister designed and runs my blog. The reason I left Facebook was foremost for safety reasons. Posting on social media while working in an increasingly dangerous country was not a wise idea. Yet without Facebook, many people asked for updates. I was looking for another channel to write and share pictures. Though my following is less, I have realized other benefits of a blog. 

5. Do you get to do ministry with your fiancé?

Nelson and I work in the same ministry and occasionally on a project together, but we are mostly busy with our own tasks. We hope to do more ministry together in the future. 

6. What is the area like where you live and work?

Though only a few miles apart, the area where I live in Haiti is quite different from where I work most. 

I live in the children’s home at the edge of a town teeming with people, little shops, moto traffic, and markets. Down the road in one direction is the huge Latibonit river, and in the other, the largest charity hospital in Haiti. People are relaxed and friendly. 

The road that leads from where I live to the school where I work is dusty and full of potholes. It is a farming community a few miles out of town. An impoverished area sprinkled with shacks, crops, cows, naked children, and rolling tropical hills, all leading down to the river. It is looked on with disdain by most of Haiti– known for voodou, violence, and feuding. I fell in love with it on my first trip to Haiti. I attend church there, and it is the place of my fiancé’s birth. Most of his family live there. 

7. Are your trips donation funded? 

Partly. However, I earn more of my funds through working while I am home between trips. 

8. How can I help you continue to do what you do?

I need your prayers! Since the middle of 2018, traveling into Haiti has become dangerous and sometimes impossible. The unrest is a barrier to ministry.

Secondly, monthly support keeps me going when I am not in the US to work. It is the primary way to support me financially. You can become a partner here.

Haitian Culture

Please know my answers to cultural questions reflect the location I work in and the people I serve. I cannot speak for all of Haiti as it is diverse. 

1. How is Christmas celebrated in Haiti? What other holidays do they observe?

Christmas in andeyò (the sticks of Haiti) is not commercialized as it is in the states. Churches hold programs of singing and preaching the birth of Jesus. Santa Claus or Tonton Nwèl is talked about occasionally as a man who gave gifts to children. However, people do not usually exchange gifts. Some shops and larger houses decorate with lights.

Easter, mainly celebrated by Catholics, is again not commercialized, and there is no Easter bunny.

Haitians celebrate Valentine’s Day by wearing pink if you are in a relationship, taking a stroll or going out on a date, and buying chocolate and flowers for the ladies.

The celebration for Independence day on January 1st includes going house to house eating Joumou (pumpkin) soup. The reason being that under French rule, African slaves were not allowed to eat pumpkins.

Food, dressing in red and blue, and festivities mark the celebration of Flag Day.

The birthdays of military leaders, Toussaint and Dessalines, of the revolution, are remembered with a history day at school, gunshots, and cheering near midnight.

Halloween is celebrated by all who practice voodou, but Christians do not participate in the holiday. You can read about this celebration here

2. What is it that makes Haiti so dangerous?

Most of the unrest is inspired by the president, whom the people want to overthrow for not carrying out his promises and for some large money scandals. Protests are frequent and turn violent with guns and rocks. Barricades block the streets preventing travel and street activity. Kidnappings by armed gangs to fund their operations for ransom is increasing. If a family cannot pay, they slaughter the victim and share images across social media to inflict fear. Voodou is rampant and dark in many areas of Haiti, including the community where I work. A voodou boukar will use black magic and violence to remove anyone who opposes him or has more material possessions than he. Jealousy among the poor often leads to killing and stealing. Americans, and the Haitians who have known ties with them, are overwhelmingly targeted because of known or assumed wealth. These are just some of the complicated dangers increasing in Haiti. 

3. What language do they speak? Can they speak English?

The first language of Haiti is Haitian Creole, based on French. All Haitians speak it though it varies by zone. 

The second national language is French. French is the technical language for books and government documents. Those who have the opportunity for schooling commonly understand and speak some French. 

Few Haitians in andeyò speak fluent English, but some are self-taught through American music or learn it in English school. 

4. What is the main religion of Haiti?

The main religion of Haiti is devout Catholicism, mingled with the practice of Voodooism. Vodou and Catholicism often cannot be separated in Haiti. Yet plenty of Protestant Christians take no part in Satan worship. 

They say that Haitians are 90% Catholic and 100% Voodou. However, this is not true. There are a diverse number of religions and Christian denominations. There are Catholic, Protestant, Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah Witness, and Voodou churches or temples in our town. In other parts of Haiti, there are Muslims, Mormons, and Mennonites, in addition to convents and monasteries. 

5. Do the people vote for their president?

Yes, the current president, Jovenel Moise, was voted in the same time as Donald Trump in November 2016. However, there are always reports of voter fraud and scandal surrounding elections. Haiti is a democracy with a history of presidents, dictators, and coups. The people have little say over what happens with the presidency. 

6. What is the family dynamic? Do they have lots of children, do extended family live together, do relatives marry? 

Relatives often share the same yard. Family land is passed down and divided so that most members build next to each other. Families tend to be large and intermixed. Cousins often marry cousins, though some of the newer generations disprove this practice. 

The birth rate in Haiti is high. In our area, families tend to have four to eight children each. Rather than a desire for children, this is often due to poverty (pregnancy is the result of paying a debt), fear of family planning (several forms of birth control are free, available, and pushed by the local hospital), or multiple partners. However, a small percentage of people do have large families on purpose. Regardless of circumstance, children are usually welcomed by the family and seen as a blessing. To be infertile is a shame in Haitian society. 

7. Does Haiti have a national sport? 

Soccer. Soccer. Soccer. 

8. Do people usually have pets?

 No. Animals are 99% kept only for practical uses. 

9. Are there medical services in Haiti? Police?

Yes, though not up to our US standard or availability, there are hospitals, clinics, ambulances, and police. More medical care would prevent many deaths. The demand is much higher than available facilities, beds, and doctors. Law enforcement, such as police, is present but underfunded, and they are not of much use against armed gangs who inflict the most crime.

10. Are all Haitians black?

Haiti has a long and epic history. In 1804 African slaves killed off their French masters and rulers, took over the island, and started their own government. There are occasional white Haitians who descended from the small number of French who surrendered and were kept alive rather than slaughtered or came as immigrants from Poland during the Holocaust. Some Spanish are also present. They are descendants of neighboring countries. In our area, there are only black Haitians. 

11. Can you describe Haitian food?

 Rice and beans are the staples. Foods that are also common include spaghetti, soups, boiled and mashed vegetables, fried and boiled chicken, goat, pork, fish, bread, plantains both boiled and fried, vinegar cabbage slaw, sweet potatoes in milk, and vegetable and meat sauces over rice. 

Beef, cat, and seafood are less common but also eaten. Seafood is a staple in coastal towns. 


Stay tuned for part two! I will answer your personal questions about myself, the needs of Haiti, and some prayer points. 

4 Responses

  1. Thank you for the answers of the many common questions people might have of Haiti. It helped me understand more of the country and its people. God bless you and your work there!

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Hi! I’m Rachel. Through a series of God orchestrated events I ended up in Haiti, in 2017.  Through years of serving with a ministry there I came to love the country and its people. I met Nelson and we got married in 2020. It was the best decision of my life! 

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