Congratulations to First Church Longmeadow for its nearly 20 year history of loyalty and investment in CONASPEH, the Haitian Council of Churches.  Dr. Mark Pohlman, Rev. Gary DeLong, Mary Friedman and others who helped develop its programs are to be commended for their initiation, dedication, and sustainability.

In addition to our delegation of five nursing students and professor from AIC, other delegates from UCC First Churches Northampton joined our mission.  My assignment was to work with 15 pastors and 22 students about what it takes to start a small business. These hard-working pastors and ambitious students who would someday like to own their own businesses radiate hope in a country where poverty is endemic and constantly visible.

Haiti is complicated. It is difficult for me to write about it based on only a week there. I was there to help Haitian citizens understand the dynamics of successful small businesses.  I truly believe that small independent enterprises are a key to alleviating Haiti’s current 80% unemployment rate. Job creation through entrepreneurship is a practical foundation for building a viable economic development strategy.

The history of Haiti does not generate optimism. The strength of the church and the faith of the Haitians are the most hopeful dimensions of the country. Like Cuba and other Caribbean countries, music and art also play a very important role in the rebuilding of the country.

Our translator, Cedrak, for me, personified the hope for Haiti.  Twenty-five years old and about to graduate from high school, (13 years in Haiti), he plans to go to law school when and if he can find the money. The youngest of six children, Cedrak credits his ambition to his mother, who neither reads nor writes.  She insisted that all her children must be educated.

CONASPEH with its 600 students and First Church are making a significant investment in education and health care, the hope for the future of Haiti. It was an honor and a privilege to be a part of the First Church delegation about which I have read with pride for so many years.  The outreach and mission committees of the church are in sync with the ideals of our global economy and Christian ideals in trying to promote the equalization of opportunities and wealth. Haiti presents a challenging and important opportunity for meaningful impact. Thank you Mark Pohlman and First Church.

Dianne Fuller Doherty

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