|Meeting the Almark family in front of their old home in June, 2016.|
Last June, I met 24 families—23 families that had received new home plus one family, the Almark family, that was still waiting. After celebrating with the lucky 23, I found it difficult to talk to the Almark family. I wanted to meet them because I wanted to see firsthand the conditions that most families live in. I just didn’t know what to say to encourage them. At the time, the family of nine was living in a small, three room structure built from mud and sticks. The mud had washed away in places, exposing the sticks and allowing the sun to shine through and critters to gain entry. The roof leaked badly when it rained. I promised the family, "Keep praying. God will provide."
|Posing with the Almark family in front of their new home in March, 2017. Pictured here with 4 of their 7 children: Jean Bigenson (14), Rose Karline (12), Rose Darline Jean (9), and Wedlyson (6).|
With your help, he did! During my visit earlier this month, I met with the Almark family in their new home. Jean Daryse (Mom) was so overcome with gratitude that she attempted to give me the only thing of value she had—a small bag of charcoal used for cooking. "It is the most, the best thing, that I can offer you to say how very grateful I am," she explained. The gesture was not unlike the widow offering her last two mites. I clutched my heart with both hands to show my appreciation for the thoughtful gift. Then, I politely declined her offer, citing the difficulty of getting the gift home on the plane. We exchanged tears and hugs as we stood in the living room of their new house.
|Inside one of the small rooms in the Almark's old home.|
Jean Daryse expressed how ashamed she had been of her old house. She had been reluctant to show it to me because of its terrible condition. Her eyes lit up as she explained how very proud she is of her new home. I thanked her for her willingness to let us see her old home, explaining, “Because you showed it to me, I was able to go home and help other people understand the conditions. That helped the village.” She smiled meekly.
We stepped outside into the warm sun and turned the conversation to the future. We already knew that Jean Daryse’s husband, Jean, is a fisherman. He works on someone else’s boat, earning enough to pay for school for three of his children but not enough to provide a good living for his large family. Jean Daryse stays home and cares for their seven children, ages 7 to 16. We asked Jean Daryse if she wants to work. She nodded shyly. Since we we’re nearing completion of the housing portion of the project and Food for the Poor is gearing up for the sustainment project phase, I asked, “What would you do if you could have your dream job?” I have no idea how “dream job” translates in Creole, but, somehow, Kate got the idea across. I received a response I wasn’t expecting, though I would not have been surprised, if I’d thought much about it before asking the question. “Oh, no,” she said, wrapping herself in a gentle hug and turning away from us. “I don’t want to think about it. It could never happen.”
When one lives in extreme poverty generation after generation, it is difficult to believe that things could ever change. With a little encouragement from Kate, Jean Daryse confided that her dream is to do small commerce, buying and selling food items. Her reluctance to share stems from the fact that it takes an initial investment to get started. When your family struggles to keep starvation at bay, there is no money available to invest in such ventures. I look forward to getting into the sustainment portion of the project, so we can give families like the Almark’s hope for a better future.
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