Bring Good News to the Poor!
Jean and Joy Thomas have lived their lives by embodying this phrase.
They have served the community of Fond des Blancs faithfully, they have taken the road less traveled, they have labored and borne fruit.
"As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Our story. Since, I, Lemec Thomas am the son of Joy and Jean Thomas and am writing this letter, I will share part of their story through my perspective
The early days, finding a home
My parents moved to Port au Prince in 1982. When they first moved they had no idea where Fond des Blancs was. They first believed finding a place to serve would be as easy as pulling out a map, closing their eyes and picking a place. But they soon found that even back in 1982 there were already a number of programs operating in many different locations, some good and some not so good, and they wanted to find a place not yet being served. The key aspects that led to the choosing of Fond des Blancs were that it was not being served at the time and they embodied the spirit of cooperation and motivation necessary to get involved in programs that met their own needs. They had a strong desire to reach self sufficiency. My uncle Paul was actually the one to discover Fond des Blancs and he wrote a report that could describe Fond des Blancs in four words; needs, problems, challenges, and opportunities. I of course have only heard and read these stories. I didn't come into the picture until 1985. The story that has been told to me many times by my mother is that I was a punctual baby, I was born on my due date, January 26, 1985. Apparently I wasn't a quiet baby however, I would not take a binky (pacifier) and would not stop crying until I was held. My poor parents tried to sleep train me once, but I screamed so loud one of the neighbors graciously came over to make sure I was ok. That was the one and only time I was sleep trained.
Springs of life
Now living and starting a family in Fond des Blancs, my parents were experiencing first hand some of the hardship of the community. The first and biggest struggle was access to fresh clean water. They knew this had to be addressed even before moving to Fond des Blancs. A study showed that fifteen percent of babies died at birth and another half died by the age of twelve from poor nutrition and from diseases directly associated with poor water supplies. With a grant of just $10,000 and the might of a unified community, who understanding the importance of the moment, they listened and followed the voice of survival and desire to improve their lives. They volunteered to do the work necessary to bring clean water to the entire community. This water source has survived natural disaster, droughts, and it has never stopped flowing clean fresh water for nearly 40 years. This water source has played a significant role in the communities and my health. It is and was a place to meet and commune. It was a hang out opportunity for my friends and me. We could go fill up water jugs or go refresh and rehydrate after a soccer match. That river and clean water has forever been a source of life.
Boy did I love those little pigs!
In 1978, Haiti and the Domican Republic pig populations were hit with African swine flu and all the pigs on the Island were exterminated. Whether or not all the pigs needed to be killed was hotly debated, but in the end that's what happened. From that debacle my parents saw the need for livestock replacement, as livestock was a vital means of survival and a source economic stability. Those pigs from the livestock redistribution became my best friends. I can actually still remember getting up first thing in the morning and going to see my friends. I have a memory of sitting in dirt or mud and just hanging out. With the eradication of the pigs there came an opportunity to apply the Redistribution principle. The very poor owned no livestock, so with the livestock redistribution program, HCDF could address this inequality. Many outside of Fond des Blancs and Haiti have been skeptical of the success of national livestock redistribution programs, but in Fond des Blancs it has been a radical success. HCDF, with local leadership and expert assistance was able to provide the community with healthy, reproductive livestock, provide a degree of economic stability and a way for people to survive.
Living to serve
My parents have worked in the community of Fond des Blancs for the past 40 years. Working on projects and programs like; reforestation, road improvements, credit union, education and farming. I got the opportunity to received a lived experience of John Perkins and my father's dream of the three R's. Relocation, Redistribution and Reconciliation. A holistic ministry pioneered by my parents in Haiti. I have witnessed severe poverty, deprivation, and struggle. My family and I have been in harms way, we had our own struggles, but never did I see my parents doubt for a moment that we belonged in Haiti or that it was our home and neither did I. Through it all I got to witness the best of humanity. I believe holistic ministry is about liberating those with less power through whatever power you have been granted to provide space for them to live out their healthy authentic selves and help them liberate themselves from whatever cycle of trauma or oppression that is keeping them from living fully healthy lives. My parents lives have been and are dedicated to serving the people of Fond des Blancs and I am incredibly grateful that they passed down that sense of care and heart to serve.
A bright future
My parents are now transitioning away from HCDF and have found a beautiful space in Dariol, which is one and a half hours out of Fond des Blancs, to start the next phase of their lives. They have created a beautifully strong legacy and have made a positive impact in countless peoples lives. I am so thankful for being born in this life of purpose and finding my way back to it in my own way. Growing up in Haiti has allowed me to witness and participate with humanity in a such beautiful way that I can live my life with eyes open and with a purpose geared towards helping and enhancing the humanity and divinity that surrounds us all as humans in real and practical ways.
The word transition is probably the best way to describe my parents new journey because they both will continue to be active within HCDF. My mother will work with the school library, something that she has been passionate about and my father will head the farming program and of course I am certain that their presence will also be felt in Dariol.
Below is their beautiful home in Dariol. I am happy that my parents get the chance to step back and hopefully appreciate all the work they have done and all the lives they have changed. I am thankful to all you who have supported my parents and HCDF for all these years. You have all directly or indirectly been a part of lives in Haiti and you helped create a space with my parents were the Fond des Blancs community can continue to grow and be a force for change in the country of Haiti. I thank you and look forward to continuing the work my parents started and building off of their strong legacy.