I know the blog has been a bit quiet, but it’s not because things haven’t been happening around here. I’ve been meaning to sit down and write a post for the past two weeks, ever since we got back to work on the 3rd.
December ended up being fairly busy here at the mission. We installed over 90 filters, which we’re pretty proud of considering we finished work on the 17th. As always, we hosted our staff Christmas party. There was a bunch of food, games, and gifts, and everyone had a good time. It’s also when we hand out year end bonuses and vacation pay. In Haiti it’s law to provide a 13th month of salary for all regular employees, so it’s something that our staff look forward to every year. We like to do it right before we take our Christmas break, because it means that they’ll have extra money over holidays, especially since it’s Christmas and New Years.
New Year’s day is also Haiti’s Independence Day. Haiti is the only black republic to have won it’s independence from a slave revolt. One of the biggest cultural things that happens on Independence Day, is that people make and eat Soup Joumou – pumpkin soup. It’s full of root vegetables and meat, and was something that slaves weren’t allowed to eat, while their masters did, so when Haiti won it’s independence they marked it by eating Soup Joumou. Every year it’s a reminder that they are free.
We had a great Christmas break. For our family it was a time to relax and visit with friends. We travel during the summer for a bout six weeks every year, and while it’s fun to get away, it’s a lot of traveling and being in other people’s homes, which can get tiring and is a break in routine. It’s nice to be able to be off work and be at home with no big schedule or anywhere we need to go. We don’t get many days like that here, so it’s a special time of the year for us. We do miss family during the holidays, but we’re also creating new traditions with our kids that are special to us.
Just before the Christmas break we had to fire a long term employee. It was hard. We hated that we had to do it, but we didn’t have a choice. I won’t go into details about reasons, because those are private for everyone involved, and really not necessary. As an employer it’s just a part of doing the job, and it never gets easier. The employee had been with us for about 8 years and was our foreman, so we needed to find someone to replace him, and we’ve learned that someone from within versus a new hire is always best if possible. We met with another long term employee to see if he would take on the role, and after some conversation and thought he agreed.
While he started in the job just before Christmas, Evens has taken things to a whole new level for us, starting on the first day back at work. As we gathered around and did morning prayer and the other things we do to start our day it came time for him to assign everyone their work. Before he did that he told us all that he wanted to share something, and proceeded to read a page long speech he’d written encouraging the staff to work with character and integrity, remembering that we’re here to serve the people of Haiti. He reminded them that it’s not just about what we do out on deliveries or follow up or repair visits, but all of the little things that happen every day – even things like picking up garbage, keeping the work yard clean, and respecting each other. Chris and I walked back into the office and almost broke out in a happy dance because we were so excited. None of this had come from us, it was all his idea and his initiative.
Since then we’ve watched the work get more organized, the depots are all cleaned out and organized, and Evens has been so very intentional about making sure the work runs well. Last week he spent time walking around the property with Edoise, the 72 year old man who serves as our care taker. They looked for very specific things that needed attention and Evens came along side Edoise as a leader in a way that we had wanted, but hadn’t witnessed before. What was a difficult situation has become one that has pushed our work to a new level, and just constantly reminds us that what we’re doing isn’t just about filters. It’s about building into people and teaching and training and coming along side them.
As we keep moving into this new year, we’re excited. This week the guys are laying plumbing lines in the new guest house/training center. We’re hoping that building will be done by June so we can get back to hosting our Training Classes and Vision Trips in the fall. We just hired two new employees who are now getting trained in all aspects of what we do. We’ve done two deliveries this month so far. Our Board of Directors is already in the early stages of planning our annual retreat where we meet together face to face and work on making this an even better organization.
I hope this year is one that is full of exciting new things for you, and that you’ll stay up to date with what’s going on here for all of us. There’s never a dull moment!