“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:9-10
In March 2011, Carolyn Evey traveled to Heart of Worship School in the mountains of Haiti for the first time. This is her story of how Heart of Worship Ministries, Inc. was founded.
Grangou nan vant pa dous.
Hunger in the stomach isn’t sweet.
Having been to the country on 3 prior occasions I was not worried to travel alone, and I was going mainly to visit my friend and the director, Robenson Cesar; to see the school he had recently begun with a small group of dedicated teachers. Instantly, I saw the potential for this to develop into a beautiful thing for the families in the rural farming community of Viard.
During the first day, I observed docile children patiently listening to their lessons. A few students seemed to need to make more of an effort to pay attention than some of the others, but the classrooms were orderly and misbehavior was not an issue. Class sizes were smallish, with total enrollment at just around 50 students, and grade levels had mixed ages due to the fact that most students did not have an opportunity previously to attend a school. For me, it was an enjoyable experience even while not fully understanding what was being said.
Then as the morning progressed, students were eventually dismissed for an outdoor free time. My stomach was growling and I remember feeling thankful it was lunchtime. But no lunch came. I noticed a couple children snacking on a candy stick or with a bag of chips, but this was all. A young child standing by the door opened a baggie of dried beans and proceeded to pluck them out with his fingers, one by one. Four or five classmates gathered around him and simply watched him eat. After taking his picture, I fled to the private room at the back of the schoolhouse where I was staying and lost it.
When Robenson came to find me, I asked him, “Where is the food???” These kids were obviously as hungry as I felt. He said to me, “C, this is what I deal with every day.”
I had brought with me a gallon bag of cereal bars and granola. And I believe in the story of the loaves and the fishes but I did not trust myself to go out there and begin breaking off little bites to feed all those children. Instead, I shared what I had with the teachers and vowed not to go through the same experience the following day.
“Food for thought is no substitute for the real thing.” Walt Kelly
What’s more is that their free time outside, when they should have been laughing and playing games, was more like just getting fresh air. They just didn’t have the energy to run around and be silly with their friends. As my heart was breaking over this realization and reality was hitting me full force, it occurred to me that God was about to do something. I couldn’t see their faces and then do nothing about it.
That afternoon, it was less than $20 I gave to buy enough rice and beans in order to provide a lunch for everyone the following day. Many of the young children ate with their fingers. Then there was laughter. Kids played and there was joy and we were thanking God. But I had some intuitive sense this was only a beginning.
After I came home, that Spring of 2011, I made a few phone calls, and God made it possible for arrangements with another organization working in Haiti to provide for Heart of Worship from their surplus. This amounted to bags of rice only–no charcoal, oil, seasoning, sauce—-but enough for the school to have food 3 days a week. And I was grateful they had at least that much and thought I had served my purpose.
I visited HOW again that summer and was asked to help sew school uniforms. In November, soon after classes resumed, the invitation came to speak about Heart of Worship at a conference for the National Day of Prayer. Although my presentation focused on the Summer Camp and the Uniform Project, the day before the event I called the Director in Haiti and inquired of him: “It’s for the National Day of Prayer, and so how can we best pray for the school right now?” Without skipping a beat, his reply was, “C, there’s no food. Please pray for God to bring food.”
“Courage, cheerfulness, and a desire to work depend mostly on good nutrition.” Jacob Moleschott
Shocked, because school had already been in session for a month, and because I was under the impression they were still receiving from the other organization, I asked about this. He responded that he hadn’t wanted to tell me because I was already busy with the uniforms and sending school supplies and he didn’t want to burden me further. He also said that the other group had provided the bags of rice through the end of the previous school year but that they could not continue their help into the next academic year.
So at the National Day of Prayer, I just told what I learned. For whatever reason, God has given me these experiences and a heart for what’s happening there, and I’ve got a pretty big mouth. Sharing the story with groups of compassionate people helps to raise awareness for how they can really make a difference in the lives of the children. By Thanksgiving of 2011, enough donations were taken in to supply the school with food for the month of December. In a phone call I still remember well, the Director Robenson said to me, “Because there is food, there is so much JOY.”
I continued to talk. By Christmas 2011, enough donations were taken for January’s lunches. And in January, such a large amount was given, that at the time I began to feel a little uneasy.
God’s timing is always perfect. During the same month that contributions were flowing in, I happened to meet a businessman who helped orchestrate the launching of our nonprofit, which the Director of HOW School in Haiti and I chose to call Heart of Worship Ministries, Inc. A Board of Directors was formed, Bylaws written, and the application was eventually sent to the IRS. In early 2014, we finally received our official 501(c)3 status and donations to HOW are now tax deductible!
Then, in February 2013 another wonderful thing happened. Now as an organization, we partnered with another nonprofit from Franklin, TN. Trinity/HOPE has been overseeing Lunch Programs for schools in Haiti since 1998 and Heart of Worship became their 90th school on the island. While HOW Ministries, Inc. remains responsible for the funding of this program, Trinity/HOPE handles purchasing, distribution, and the accountability for each school. This has been a tremendous blessing.
Largely due to the fact that there is food offered during the day, school enrollment at Heart of Worship has steadily increased. From the beginning with 50 students, the second year swelled to 85, the third saw 145 children, and 2013-2014, the fourth academic year for HOW School, enrollment is at 185 students. Many children are sent to school because they know they will be fed, and in turn they receive a quality education.
When students have a daily meal, they can focus on their lessons and retain more of what they are learning. Thinking clearly and reasoning with sound logic is much easier when bellies are full. Students play and laugh. They smile.
Moreover, the general health of the children has increased exponentially since we have begun the Lunch Program. According to a medical team, comparing students at HOW with other schools they visited, the children we serve are in much better health overall and do not show the typical signs of malnutrition often cited in impoverished areas.
Our effort has largely been a month-by-month endeavor, and sometimes when funds are especially thin there is a temptation to worry. But God has been so good. Only by His grace, from the onset of the Lunch Program in November 2011, there has not been one month of school that the students have gone hungry while receiving their education.
While enrollment has increased, and the cost of the Lunch Program along with it, the amounts are actually still surprisingly low. Currently, for 180+ lunches, our cost is $50 for the whole school to have lunch in one day, or $1000 per month. When contributing to a cause such as this, many people mistakenly believe they must give a large donation to be of any significant help. This is just not the case. Considering that $5 equals the amount for one student lunch for one month, that is really not any bite out of anyone’s budget. It’s one less latte per month. It’s less than the price of a fast food combo meal. And it makes a profound difference.
The majority of our students are required to walk long distances over rugged terrain to come to school. Knowing there will be a lunch lifts their spirits, encourages them, sustains them through the day, boosts their memory, helps them to think clearly and smile, playfully interact with their peers, improves their health—food is good and increases the quality of their learning environment.
For God to use us to make this kind of impact is deeply rewarding and such a blessing. To think our work now may possibly reach into the future of Haiti, because the impact the school makes on the lives of the children is mind boggling. As we move forward and continue this effort, we are excited to see where God will lead Heart of Worship. We hope you will join us on the journey through your gifts, your talents, your time and your prayers.