Going the Extra Mile

It’s been a struggle in Haiti recently, the country in chaos over a power struggle within the government. Already experiencing daily conflicts, this new development  added weight like: fear, hesitation, uncertainty, despair. For over eight weeks this winter, Haiti was experiencing the terrifying results of a broken government. 

Peyi Lok,” or country shutdown, means the population was subject to constant protests, robberies, roadblocks, and gunfire. Children were unable to attend school, even though their parents had already paid. Merchants lost precious produce, rotting before the opportunity to sell. Any respite from the chaos felt like a cloud temporarily blocking out the sun, and everyone knew the intense heat would soon be back. Truthfully, most people felt like it was easier to lose hope, wondering if anything would change this time around to bring peace.

Then I’d think about a staff member, like Edyson “Sonson” Mardy, Back2Back Captain, his Loudest Laugh Award proudly hanging above his desk. He once told me he couldn’t believe he gets paid to do this work.  Determined not to let go of Back2Back’s mission of breaking the generational cycle of poverty, he worked through the challenges we were facing during this season. 

At the same time the country was struggling, so was  a child under Back2Back’s care in the children’s home Sonson captains. This young woman, wrestling with her circumstances and emotional needs, needed to understand she was known, loved, and safe. Trauma Competent Care is woven into the DNA of Back2Back, and explains how trauma deeply affects the brain, altering how one perceives, and thinks, and feels. Although Sonson was new to staff,  he understood from his training typical responses to challenge do not work with someone from trauma. Sonson sought advice from others on an interdisciplinary team, including a psychologist, a social worker, and fellow captains. As a group, options and opinions were discussed, until a consensus formed on how to move forward.

Throughout the following weeks, Sonson made it a point to visit this young woman every day, no matter the cost. Many days there were no taxis running, and the roads were not safe for our trucks to travel, so the only remaining option was to walk two and a half miles on dusty roads lacking shade. The heat radiated off the cinder block walls, requiring him to occasionally lift his t-shirt to protect his mouth and nose, filtering the black smoke, yet still stinging his eyes.

Sonson’s wife would often accompany him at the home, building a relationship with this young woman, as the three of them sat at the picnic table, discussing her feelings and her future. It would be difficult to find a staff couple more sincere, and sincerity breeds trust and confidence. Over time, this young woman opened up about her past, about her feelings of insecurity, and the uncertainty of what was going to happen next. 

Sonson did not give up hope, and persevered.  As a result, a teen girl in crisis began the healing process, all because someone decided there was always a point in making a difference for one. Sonson’s obedience teaches us a lesson – every person is worth it. 

Written by Matt Ellis, Back2Back Haiti Director