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Of HAPI-ness, Gratitude Journals, and Haiti

By Mary Beth Coudal*

Artisans have been expressing gratitude in spite of their horrific experiences. They are grateful to be alive. They are grateful to God for giving them strength. They are grateful for the gift of hope. We can follow their example by keeping a gratitude journal! On the very paper that symbolizes their rebuilding, you can write down ways you too are grateful! -- From the Haitian Artisans for Peace International (HAPI) website

A small gratitude journal can make a huge difference. A ten-dollar journal from United Methodist mission partner HAPI not only enhances one's gratitude but helps a local artist in Haiti return to work.

HAPI is a co-op of about 50 local women between the ages of 20 and 45. They are making a positive difference by feeding, clothing, and rebuilding their local community and economy. Begun three years ago, HAPI's mission is to assist the local families of Mizak, a mountainside community outside of Jacmel. In Mizak the population is approximately 35,000 and they are served by one local school and no hospital. A majority of the adults are unemployed.

HAPI offers employment, classes, clinics, and programs on health, nutrition, theology, peace, and the arts. Through the HAPI handicraft project, artists are using recycled cement bags to make small, hand-bound journals.

As the HAPI journal-making business grows, the artisans, such as bookmakers, textile workers, and painters, are able to employ other local businesspeople, such as translators, housekeepers, and restaurateurs to work with community members and visiting volunteer teams. The teams have been coming from United Methodist churches in Michigan and Iowa since 2008. They are returning this spring and summer, along with a new team from Texas.

Mizak was not as badly hit by last month's earthquake as urban regions because it is less densely populated, yet homes were destroyed and the people experienced food shortages. The community continues to worry, reported Valerie Mossman Celestin, the US executive director of HAPI, who is now in Haiti. "More and more families are flooding into the rural communities, which don't have the capacity to absorb so many people," said Ms. Mossman Celestin. Through Peace Pals, the children's program, HAPI is distributing food kits to about 250 families weekly. The kits included spaghetti, rice, sugar, milk, and oil.

"The community members involved in HAPI provide an important witness in their work, as they strive to build the many components necessary for a community to truly have peace. They work towards a community of peace that involves not only an absence of violence but also includes health, safety, mutual respect, work with dignity, visual arts, music and faith," said Kim Lehmann, Global Ministries executive secretary for women and children.

Ms. Mossman Celestin agreed. "What sets HAPI apart is not what we do, but how we do it. We work at creating an environment of spiritual nurture, mutual respect, encouragement, productivity, and creativity that raises the sense of self-worth of the individual. It is a Christ-centered approach that cares for the whole person and [his/her] environment. We strive to reduce the daily fears and facilitate an enhanced sense of peace," said Ms. Mossman Celestin.

HAPI connects to the mission of Global Ministries through various networks, such as the Women's Division international ministries committee, which provided seed money and grants for training artisans. Other United Methodist connections include the Communities of Shalom and the West Michigan and Detroit Annual Conference Haiti Task Force.

HAPI is one of 12 Advance projects uplifting and empowering the people of Haiti. And for that, we can all be grateful.

Individuals can learn more about HAPI or shop in their store at haitianartisans.com

The small-sized gratitude journals begin production in March. Churches and groups who would like to purchase a bundle of HAPI products can contact Debbie Smith at HAPIproducts@gmail.com to learn about wholesale pricing, ordering, and payment information.

Find out more about HAPI and the self-empowerment programs at advancinghope.org.

When giving to HAPI, Advance project #3020490, as always, 100 percent of your gift goes to the project.

*Mary Beth Coudal is staff writer for Mission Communications at the General Board of Global Ministries.

Date posted: Feb 19, 2010

Last Updated: 02/04/2013

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