I think being in Haiti it’s always easy to forget the major calendar dates because Haitians don’t celebrate a lot of them. In Haiti New Years Day is a much bigger holiday than Christmas, and with Catholicism being one of Haiti’s official religions, any Christmas celebrations tend to take place on Christmas Eve.
The reason for Haiti’s celebration of New Year’s Day is that it not only marks the beginning of another year, essentially another year of life, but also Haiti’s Independence Day. Did you know that Haiti is the only black republic that freed itself from slavery?
On New Years Day Haitian’s mark this time with a big batch of Pumpkin Soup, or soup joumou as it’s called in Creole. When slavery was still here slave masters would occasionally allow their slaves to eat pumpkin soup, a favorite in French cuisine. When Haiti won it’s independence Haitian’s marked it by eating pumpkin soup, sort of as a way of saying, “We’re free, we can do what we want now”. So, it’s traditional for big pots to be cooked and for everyone to share with their neighbors and family. It isn’t the only time during the year that families will eat pumpkin soup, but it’s thought of as a special meal in the same way a turkey dinner at Thanksgiving is for us.
Here at Clean Water for Haiti we’re gearing up for the end of our ministry year. Every Christmas we take a few weeks off so our family and any other volunteers can travel home for a break to celebrate the holidays with everyone back home. We’ve been working really hard in the past couple of weeks to get all of our filter follow-up visits finished up and making sure that any filters in the repair que are fixed before we shut down next week.
Our workers anticipate the last day of work for the year because it means they get a nice fat bonus. In Haiti, as an employer we’re required to give two weeks of paid vacation each year, and the equivalent of one months salary as a bonus. We wait until the end of the year and give these to our workers right before the holidays. For them it means having money on hand while the mission is closed down, but it also means being able to do some things they might not be able to do during the rest of the year. For some it means working on their homes. Others will buy gifts for friends and family. In the past we’ve even had a couple of workers take a trip over to the Dominican Republic.
We like to end the year with some fun, so our last day of work ends at noon. The morning is usually spend cleaning. Cleaning the work yard and taking away any garbage. Cleaning and sorting the welding area so things are ready to go come January. And, the biggest job – cleaning and sorting the shop so that everything is put away and ready for us to start a new year of work come January. Then, at noon we stop. The workers shower and change, and then come to our house for a party. We usually have some sort of Haitian meal, or like last year did a mix of American and Haitian food.
After everyone is stuffed we play some games. Every year Chris laughs at me because he thinks that the games I have planned just won’t catch on, but I’m the one that gets the last laugh because every year our workers have a ton of fun. Last year I introduced Christmas picture Bingo. Again, Chris thought there was no way that everyone would like it, but when Yonese won the first line you would have thought she’d won real money she was so excited!
We’re looking forward to next week. To having fun with our staff and celebrating another great year of ministry. The numbers aren’t in yet, but we know that despite having to cut back to 3 days of work at the beginning of the year, we’ve still done great with our filter installation numbers. What we’re even more excited about though is seeing how effective our follow-up program has gotten. After looking at the data we can see that what we’re doing is working. 95% of our filters are still in use after the first year, which is fabulous!
Please be praying for us as we go through the next week.
- Pray that we get everything done that we need to, and that things end on a high note.
- Pray that we remember the real reason for this whole season and that we take opportunities to share with our staff and others when they arise.
- Pray for our finances, that God would provide abundantly so we can start the New Year without worry of having to cut back again.
- Pray for Clean Water for Haiti as a family of organizations. We have some very exciting things going on and we’re looking forward to sharing them in the New Year.
Thanks for all of your support!