Thursday I wrote a bit about what I initially saw in Haiti. Today my focus is on some of my thoughts since being home.
On the way home from Haiti I read Rachel Held Evans’s book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Though the book was slow to start for me it rebounded well and I really enjoyed it overall. Anyway, one of my favorite parts was when Evans was discussing the Proverbs 31 woman. I don’t want to go into the whole thing here but in the end Evans says the Proverb is actually a love poem (modern day Christians often interpret this passage prescriptively which, Evans claims, is not at all how it was originally written) if you will, to an Eshet Chayil which loosely translates as “Woman of Valor”.
That phrase “Eshet Chayil” stayed with me. A few weeks of introspection proves that phrase spoke to me because Eshet Chayil was all around me in Haiti.
Indeed, UNICEF reports that the ripple effects of empowering women can change the future of society. It raises economic productivity, reduces infant mortality, contributes to overall improved health and nutrition, and increases the chances of education for the next generation. –A Year of Biblical Womanhood
Marie was the first stove vendor we met at the large market in the heart of Port au Prince. She was the top seller for The Adventure Project (TAP). Marie pushes out somewhere close to 80 stoves a week! Marie learned about TAP because one of her friends was a vendor but “didn’t take advantage of the opportunity”. So Marie asked if she could try, and try she did! Marie is a mom to four. She now makes enough money to provide transportation to a job for her older two children. Marie’s younger two children can now go to school. Marie is the very essence of an entrepenuer. When asked if there was anything she wanted to tell us she went on for minutes. Ideas about ways in which to grow her business, to provide for the citizens of rural Haiti as well. We never had to ask Marie to smile, the woman was on fire. All of the intelligence, dignity and strength she possessed before was only enhanced by her opportunity with TAP. Marie is a Woman of Valor! Eshet Chayil!
Mylande was another vendor we visited just outside the city. When those of us from TAP first arrived at the meeting place there was a group of men meeting inside the building. There was much talking between them. When Mylande arrived it was quiet. She approached us with shoulders back and a soft smile. Mylande is a young woman who lives with five people in her home (mom, dad, aunts, uncles, etc). She is now able to provide for all of them with the income she receives as a stove vendor. Also? She is able to buy a few nice things for herself. Because she is not unlike so many of us, she was very proud of that. I can’t blame her. Mylande, Eshet Chayil!
Nicole is the second best seller of stoves. When we arrived at her house there was somewhere around 10-15 family members there. I’m not sure if they all lived there but it was clear they were all enjoying lunch at her house. While talking with Nicole a group of 5 children came home from school. Their uniforms were clean and bright. I was struck by the realization that all of this came from one opportunity. But of course that one opportunity didn’t make all of this happen, Nicole made all of that happen. Because she works her butt off. That potential was just sitting in wait, she took the opportunity and ran with it. Providing food for her family and schooling for her child and the children of her community. Nicole, Eshet Chayil! (Note: Nicole didn’t want her picture taken so you get a picture of me asking the Director of TAP’s partner, ILF, a question. I asked lots of questions. This is actually what I looked like most of the trip: sweaty and annoyingly inquisitive).
There were more stove vendors, of course. All with similar stories, all women of valor. There was even a man! Another group visited him and came back with his incredible story. But it wasn’t just the stove vendors that were women of valor on that trip.
There was Erica who was a fund developer for another charity I support 😉 Erica who goes to India on yoga/spiritual retreats. Erica who quit that really amazing job to lend her support to TAP for free. Erica who was the only other vegetarian on the trip and often had to “share” a meal with me (I ate most of it). Erica-Eshet Chayil!
Sarah who also volunteers as TAP’s numbers genius. Sarah who started one of Texas’s biggest and most successful real estate companies. Sarah who clearly takes on life with an amazing smile-all the beautiful and terrible. She is Eshet Chayil!
Megan who is a busy mama to five. This craft maven of an uber popular blog took her passion (crafting) and turned it into a thriving business. She hosts craft weekends that have a long waiting list just to attend. I got to room with Megan and I can tell you her heart is good and it’s pure. Her love for all things God loves is true. Megan-Eshet Chayil! (There are no pictures of beautiful Megan because she happens to be an amazing photographer and took beautiful pictures. This is all I have, from the last day when we dressed in the same colors.)
Rebecca is a big shot marketing director in New York. But meeting Rebecca you get a sense that marketing is just her day job. Rebecca travels the world learning about new cultures and new communities. She falls in love with them all. Rebecca so obviously understands so little separates us all. Rebecca owns all that she is and it is a sight to behold. Rebecca, so clearly is an Eshet Chayil!
Rebekah is the southern belle I always pictured myself being. She is sweet and smart, funny and strong. Rebekah had all the women and men we met in Haiti eating out of the palm of her hand. Her charm came from a place of strength and a complete awareness of self. Though Rebekah is a successful businesswoman, when I left her the only way I could think to define her was Eshet Chayil!
Christine and Raphaella were the Directors of the partner that TAP works with in Haiti. Christine is half haitian, half french canadian. Hearing her extensive knowledge of Haitian history and her passion for renewing Haiti to it’s former glory was absolutely inspiring. Christine-Eshet Chayil! Raphaella, a beautiful Italian woman who had just completed her PhD in International Aid. A woman in her 40s, when she told me her life’s story it was a story about constant re-creation of self. When Raphaella realized what she was doing with her life wasn’t what fulfilled her anymore, she tried something new. Raphaella was an ever evolving woman who, throughout her life, was clearly the essence of Eshet Chayil!
Jody and Becky, the co-founders of The Adventure Project. They are what started it all. For me, for the stove vendors, for the women on the trip with me- it’s all because of them. One meeting many years ago in the back of a van in Uganda led these women to start a non profit that is quickly becoming the model for other non profits. Becky, a woman who is educated in International Aid but whose heart has been there long before. Becky who has a sense for the need and exactly how to provide it so that it doesn’t look like she was involved at all. Becky who knows exactly what she wants for TAP and has poured years of blood, sweat and tears into making it happen. Becky who will stop at nothing to add venture to the countries who need it most. Becky-Eshet Chayil! And Jody, a friend of mine for whom I’ve been thankful as long as I can remember. Jody, who knows instinctively how to rally those of us at our homes, taking care of our kids or in offices working away at cubicles. Jody who relates so well to the women in America who want to change the lives of the women around the world. Jody, who really knows how to bring heaven down to earth in so. many. ways. Jody-Eshet Chayil!
This blog was wordy, I know that. But I think it had to be. Because I want so badly for you to get a glimpse of what I saw in Haiti. I want you to see that it was a story I could’ve told about women here in the States as well. So little separates us. I love knowing that my money is providing opportunities for women there to change the face of their families, their communities and their nation. I. love. that.
I knew somewhere deep in my bones that a revolution was afoot, that the women of this earth were rising up, and that, in some way, great or small, I was going to be a part of it. –A year of Biblical Womanhood