The beauty of Haiti is unparalleled. In one direction, peaks of hilly land jut out against a clear, blue sky and in another direction, water shimmers beneath palm trees. In between land and water, there are 11 million Haitian men, women, and children. It is an island that has long suffered from natural disasters, lack of infrastructure, and counry-wide unrest. The 2010 earthquake ultimately led Back2Back to begin providing holistic care through partnerships on the island and we are still there, engaging and enacting change through passionate staff.
“Since the United Nations left in 2017, Haiti is a different place,” shared Jason Munafo, Back2Back Stateside Haiti Director. “The stability immediately went downhill. In July 2021, they lost their President, and gang violence is at an all-time high as they vye for territory.”
With the constant news covering the faltering systems, it’s difficult to imagine any growth and change, but it is happening. At partnering children’s homes and on the Back2Back campus, lives are transforming and growth is ongoing. Two partnering children’s homes are in areas closed off due to gang violence, making access for staff nearly impossible. Jimmy Francois, Back2Back Haiti Director, established a connection with someone living nearby the homes, and she is filling in the gaps. “She visits the homes, serves the children by doing activities and lessons, and supports the staff,” shared Jimmy. “We feel at peace knowing someone can report to us their needs and how they are actually doing.”
One of the strongest programs we have there is the Hope Education Program which started a few years ago and has flourished ever since. It began with one teen boy and one teen girl and has now grown to three homes total. The teens are showing up, focusing forward, and reaching new goals. “We are seeing growth despite the hurdles everyone has to jump through,” shared Sarah Ellis, Back2Back staff.
A newer initiative, the Haiti Strong Families program, located in the community across the highway from the campus, is expanding. As a result of current gang violence, there is no entry for those who don’t live there. “To keep investing in the families, we invite them to campus twice a week,” explained Sarah. “The parents come on Wednesdays and take part in TCC (Trauma Competent Care) in Action lessons that address how to manage stress, while also offering marriage counseling to the families.”
Staff report how families are growing and strengthening in ways they’d prayed for in the beginning of this journey toward orphan prevention. In addition to weekly classes, families are provided medical intervention. A father recently received cataract surgery, almost completely restoring his vision, and a young boy requiring surgery is receiving therapy and is in a cast.
“There is so much that is difficult and heavy in Haiti right now,” shared Sarah. “Then we receive updates from staff and connect with children and families; we hear stories of growth and opportunity, and we know this is being protected by God in ways we couldn’t have imagined.”
The Back2Back Campus has become a refuge for staff, students, and nationals working for change in their country. The staff stay on campus when needed for their safety, and Hope program students come regularly. It’s a space for learning and advancement. In 2022, 2,138 people were on the campus for Trauma Competent Care and masonry training, pool parties, graduation and birthday celebrations, and connecting with others in similar life seasons.
“Every day, our staff is creatively problem solving to ensure no child or family is left unseen or forgotten,” shared Jason. “I am grateful to lead a team of people who remain in the fight for the vulnerable.”
Though much is unknown about the future of Haiti, Back2Back trusts in God’s sovereignty. Through riots, loss, and increased danger, God is providing a barrier between the work being done and unsettling circumstances. Please join Back2Back in prayer that He would protect the campus and the staff doing the hard work everyday. Back2Back is in this fight, and no matter the circumstances – won’t stop until every child is known and loved.