Stories from the Field

Shalom – A Staff Team Retreat

Staff retreats are one way Back2Back staff take time to intentionally gather for community, to grow spiritually, and to refresh themselves physically, emotionally, and socially. A retreat was planned for the Haiti staff in the fall of 2019, but due to in-country turmoil, it had to be postponed.

Recently, Staff Care Director, Matt Cooper, along with Haiti stateside Director, Jason Munafo, joined the team in Haiti for the rescheduled retreat. The theme of their time together was shalom – peace be with you. The retreat included each staff member and their families, with group meals every day and specialized crafts for the children. It was a time of reconnection for the staff as they had spent so much time, like the rest of the world, in lockdown and meeting only virtually.

The theme of the retreat was especially meaningful to the national staff. After learning what shalom truly means, it was a time to truly focus on how they spend their time talking to God, and to their brothers and sisters in Him.

Edelaine, the social worker on staff, shared how she’s spent most of her time with God talking to Him, but not always knowing the importance of how and why to listen to Him. Following the retreat, many staff members shared gratitude for the lessons on how to actively listen to God, see His presence, and feel peace as a result.

The retreat included many group activities, but each staff member was also encouraged to invest in alone time, too – to not just ask things of God, but also stop and listen to what He has for him or her. This time for staff to connect and receive care and spiritual refilling is invaluable and helps each person to better serve the vulnerable children we’ve all come to love.

To Know Where They’re From, Where They Are, and Where They’re Going

A key component of Back2Back staff teams across the many sites we serve is social workers. Haiti has diligently prayed and interviewed for the last two years for a social worker called specifically to serve orphaned and vulnerable populations. Recently, those prayers were answered through Edelaine.

“The addition of Edelaine to our staff team was a huge victory,” shared Jimmy Francois, Back2Back staff. “She hit the ground running with her work, meeting with the children and teens at each of the partnering children’s homes, and is already making intentional connections.” In addition to meeting with the children at each of the children’s homes, she is also working closely with Nadege, who leads the developing Strong Families Program in Canaan.

Edelaine is spending an extended amount of time with the current Hope Education Program students. She takes time to make sure they have what they need physically, while also reminding the teens they still need something more – becoming more aware socially and emotionally as they look toward their futures and name their dreams. She is working intentionally on developing trust with every child she works with. Together, they are choosing goals for themselves and slowly opening up to another safe and trustworthy adult who wants to see them succeed.

During her initial time with the children and teens, Edelaine has realized many of the children remember members of their biological families, or what their time with them was like. As a way to honor and address those memories, she is working with the children on knowing where they come from, acknowledging where they are, and dreaming about where they are going.

We are excited to welcome Edelaine to the team and look forward for all the ways she will invest in every child and continue the work of providing care for today and hope for each of their tomorrows.

Teens Developing Skills Toward Independence

Vocational training and t-shirts are two things people in Haiti often feel passionate about and get excited for. With this in mind, staff member, Weekenson Moise, held an event for the teens at each of Back2Back’s partnering children’s homes – a two-day training session on screen printing!

This new skill helps open the teens up for opportunities to make money. As they were learning how to make the shirts, they realized screen printing can be done on cups, mugs, and other gifts. After the two day training, the teens had connected deeper with each other and the safe adults in their life, and acquired a marketable skill, which helps raise self-esteem and job-readiness.

Nadege, the Strong Families Program captain, also brought a few teens to the training, and it left a strong impression on them. One shared, “I’m very happy, because when I asked my mom to help me start something, she just says we don’t have the money, but now, I am learning something and will have the skills to start something on my own and help my family.”

Please pray for the teens who took part in this training – that they use their newfound skill and the determination they already have to make a difference, right where they are.