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Who is your good neighbor?


I know of a lady that is an excellent neighbor in a small town outside of Leogane Haiti. Maybe you have a neighbor like this and you can relate? Valencia is an easy woman to be around. She is quick to laugh and constantly smiling. Walking through the streets with her near her home is fascinating to watch, because she is received like a celebrity.  Lots of smiles, tons of hugs and kisses from a group of individuals struggling to survive, they view her efforts as a saving grace. So what does she do? Valencia is the picture of thinking globally and acting locally. As conditions in her vicinity are less than favorable, she drops in to see what she can do to help. In this photo she is introducing a pair of girls that have lost their parents due to homicide. In a house just down from here, there is a girl that is mentally handicapped that she visits and assists. Across the way is a family of 4 adolescent girls that have lost their mother and their uncle checks in on them from time to time but otherwise these 4 girls are on their own for schooling and eating, house maintenance. With a wide variety of needs and a large span of age groups Valencia has tried to develop activities for these neighboring children that will promote these sometimes hopeless kids near her and provide some relief for the caregivers that are being taxed incessantly.  What she and her husband have come up with is a club at their home that gives these children in the neighborhood a place to come and receive some care and instruction. For some its learning a marketable skill like weaving or braiding. For some of the younger children, they get to create with color crayons or use glue and scissors for the first time in their lives. For the young girl that is mentally handicapped, Valencia took the opportunity to teach her how to wash clothes and her family is astounded at the progress that she has made at being happy at home. Where others see problems and are indifferent, Valencia sees problems and is acting to make the challenges an opportunity for growth. In this instance, Valencia is exerting the opposite of indifference which is first understanding and then helping how she can, which really is a representation of love.

One part that encourages me is that Valencia is doing this on her own accord. She isn’t performing this service looking for personal reward, she is doing it because in her heart of hearts, this is who she is and this is what she wants to do, help and lift others.  In addition to opening her home and investing her time, she is using her own limited resources to make this initiative go. Her hope is a brighter future through promoting community and the mindset of the people that live there, with the power she has to make it so. Taking this project to a grand scale is not beyond Valencia’s dreams, she is just taking it one step at a time.

Neighbors in Valencia’s area really appreciate her because she is thoughtful about the health and condition of their joint community. What makes her different? She is bold enough to ask questions and follow up with people that are in need.  I feel blessed to have found Valencia. When I see her acting in this condition, I have hope for Haiti. I also feel like my own efforts in helping others could use a shot in the arm! The first thing I hope we all can see from this is that we can be powerful where we are. We are totally capable of building the people around us, all we have to do is try and I think this means we just love our neighbor. The second thing I would like is to give you the chance to champion and promote this good woman in her quest to live in a better world. Please note, Valencia isn’t asking for anyone to help her, I am.  There is much good that is coming out of her selfless service and what I recognize is that she will always have a better chance of changing Haiti than I ever would or will. Valencia in her service is abolishing child trafficking. She is giving kids that are susceptible to abuse and pointless living a way to contribute to and uplift their community. Truly these kids with continued counseling and training can claim the rights to a full life with joy, happiness and fulfillment. That impact is local but its reach is truly global. Join with me as together, we champion those who daily abolish child trafficking from the inside out.

Lance Mergens

Haiti Country Director

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