Back to Work!

Everyone here has been on a six week break while our family was back in Canada and the US on our annual summer vacation. For Chris and I it’s never all “vacation” though. Part of our time back in North America is spent doing mission promotion and fundraising, and getting together with members of our board face to face, something that we really look forward to!

We started our time off with our AGM (annual general meeting). Many of our board members were able to make the trek to Tacoma, Washington, for the weekend meeting in June. Chris and I are very thankful for the group of men and women that we get to work with to lead and guide the work of Clean Water for Haiti. In the past two years they have all worked with us to establish a stronger foundation for what we’re doing. We’ve worked through the process of establishing a governance policy manual – a process that no one had wanted to work through before, and one that took us about a year to complete. We now have processes in place to protect the mission as a whole from any inside issues that could cause it’s downfall. I’m so proud of everyone for the work they put into this – it’s hard and not fun at all! We have also gone through the process of establishing a new charity in Canada after some issues with our old branch there. We’re all registered, and part of that process was establishing a working agreement between the Canadian branch (the CWH Foundation), the US branch (Clean Water for Haiti US) and the Haitian branch (the Clean Water for Haiti Foundation of Haiti) that protects the investment of each group into the work we’re doing. These are both HUGE things that most organizations never work through, and the result is a lot of wasted money and energy.

This year’s focus at our AGM was all about moving into the future of Clean Water for Haiti! We’re excited about where God is taking us and we are completely dependent on his timing, because most of it involves funding. Our board really wanted to focus on the topic of fundraising and how we can do that better to meet the goals of the organization. Chris and I felt that it couldn’t just be about fundraising ideas though, so we backed up and started at the point of making sure we were all on the same page in how we communicated about Clean Water for Haiti. We even went as far as testing everyone on the parts of the filter and how the filter actually works. I’m happy to say that everyone passed with flying colors!

One thing that is incredibly important to us when it comes to fundraising, is the issue of ethics. We feel called to serve the people of Haiti, and to do that we need to examine all of our motivations in everything that we do. Yes, we need funding to do what we do to help with Haiti’s water situation, but if we are exploiting people through the use of imagery or language in that process, then we are not serving, we are using them to our advantage. I don’t know if you’ve ever taken the time to look through the Clean Water for Haiti website, but if you have, you may have noticed something that may be different than a lot of other non-profits who work with vulnerable people groups – none of our images show people in their hardest moments. We feel those times are personal, not public. We also know that a child half naked getting water out of a garbage filled stream is only part of the bigger picture. That same child may or may not go home and clean up and put on a school uniform. I don’t know. What I do know is that we want to respect people here and not decide for them what their life looks like. We always try to ask ourselves what we would want people taking pictures of and posting on the world wide web. Would I want strangers walking by my yard, not greeting me, taking pictures of my half naked son playing in our yard (probably filthy because that’s how he rolls), and then posting them online to help “tell our story”? Absolutely not! So, we don’t do it here. This is one of my soap box issues, and I feel so strongly about it that I’ve gone head to head with former board members about specific images that they wanted to use in promo materials. As we talked about the ethics of fundraising with our board, Chris and I were able to communicate why, as an organization, we want to do better. We believe that Clean Water for Haiti’s work should speak for itself. That our reputation as one of the largest, and most effective filter projects in the entire world is what should tug at people’s heart strings, not pictures of naked babies. We want to work with the kind of donors who see the value of what we do, and don’t only take notice when we manipulate their feelings.

We talked about strategies and narrowed our fundraising goals down to a focused few items. It was time well spent.

The other area of focus was on board member recruitment. Over the next year we want to grow our board of directors, so we talked through what type of people we want to serve in this capacity, and established a new process for bringing them into service as directors. All in all it was a great meeting and we’re all excited about the next year!

We did spend time visiting family and friends, having fun, and did a few fundraising things as well.

We arrived back in Haiti on Thursday and I’m thankful that we had the weekend to settle in and adjust. Alex is having the hardest time adjusting to the time difference (three hours ahead of the west coast) and has been waking up a lot at night. It’s exhausting! It’s also been crazy hot here since we got back. Two nights ago it was still 90*F at 9:30 pm, and the temperature only dropped a couple degrees overnight. Yesterday evening we were blessed with a cool breeze followed by a drizzle of rain that was enough to just get things wet, but more importantly, move the heat out. It was nice to sleep with cooler temps and to wake up to a cooler day. It’s amazing what a few degrees can do to a persons ability to function well!

Today we’re all back to work! While we were away there were a few storms that passed by. One in particular brought a big dump of rain. In the past few years we haven’t had a problem with water running through our yard, but one of the storms left a lot of fine silt mud in the driveway and covered part of the grass. We also usually have someone rake the yard once a week, and since that hasn’t been done, there are a lot of leaves everywhere. Other things that are normal routine maintenance issues, like security lights burning out and the grass needing to be cut are on the list. For today and probably the next day or so we’re just going to be focusing on cleaning up the yard and getting things back to our “normal” here so we can get back to work.

Well, it’s time to go get some other things caught up. Thanks so much for your patience with us as we took some time to rest. We’re happy to be back at things!

~Leslie

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