How Prayer Angels Are Blessing La Gonave Island, Haiti
by Shirley Edgerton
My husband and I have served as mission volunteers on La Gonave Island, Haiti, since 2007. Few in the United States know that La Gonave belongs to Haiti and is the most remote area of the country. Southern La Gonave is 40 miles from the Haitian mainland on the windward side--the area that gets hit by most of the hurricanes but receives little of the normal rainfall. Ground water there is deep or nonexistent, so water accessibility is a problem and food production is a challenge.
Other major issues on the island of La Gonave are lack of transportation and communication, poor opportunities for education, and a chronic lack of health care. These many problems have adversely affected the island's industry and economy, limiting access to services, impoverishing the residents, and resulting in very little development.
In the last two years, our mission work has centered on industrial development. The first step has been training community leaders to plan and work together in groups and associations. The economic focus has been on agriculture, animal husbandry, and fishing cooperatives. A Haitian Development Association--begun more than 25 years ago to teach adults to read and write--is now working with us in our economic mission. The association's members have trained 18 community leaders who, in turn, have developed a local association to form and support new groups of struggling island residents. So far we have used significant mission funds from the La Gonave Advance Project, but our goal is to enable the local association to become more self-sustaining as it develops.
A Local Fundraising Project
After four hurricanes struck La Gonave Island in 2008, very many islanders were left hungry and desperate. We needed a quick fundraising project to raise money with which to buy food. So I cut out a simple pattern to be used to make a Haitian "Prayer Angel." I offered the pattern to a local woodworker, Boss Claude, who knew of a nice, plentiful hardwood tree that grows in the higher island elevations. To make the little angels out of this fine wood, Claude hired some assistants to cut planks and carry them down the mountain. Next, the woodworkers used big saws to cut the wood. They carved out angel shapes, designed and sized to fit in the hand. Then they finished the angels with a teak oil rub. In this way they produced a lovely product.
Marketing Prayer Angels
Initially, the workers made 1,000 angels. We purchased them for US$10 each, which allowed Claude to pay salaries to nine employees while still producing a profit for his business. We then sent the angels, along with prayer cards, to churches and individuals in the United States for sale at US $20 each.
The money raised was augmented by other funds we had; and, with the assistance of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), we distributed food to the poorest residents in 12 communities and fed more than 5,000 people. Those with large families received an extra share of food, but many gave away one of their shares to others not on our lists; so it is hard to know the exact number fed.
Meanwhile, there was such demand for the angels in the United States that we asked the woodworkers to make another 1,000. We offer reduced mailing expenses for larger orders, and we discount the angels somewhat if a church is using them as a fundraiser. All additional money then goes to the new local development association to cover expenses in the developing industries. La Gonave Parent Association (APPLAG) manages the funds and assists the new Association of Peasants on La Gonave (APG) with planning and implementation.
Angels at Work
Thus far, more than the original 1,000 angels have been sold, and we have orders for more. The money raised through these sales has been earmarked for the purchase of goats for a large goat farm that has now been secured. Association members gave 50 goats to the project, and the money from angel sales and gifts will enable us to purchase 50 more. Prayer Angel profits will also provide funds for newly trained groups of islanders. Farmers will receive the offspring of goats from the goat farm or seed and supplies for planting. Fisher folk who sell fish on the mainland will receive boats, nets, and money to cover marketing expenses.
Zone 6 on La Gonave, where our work is located, is the poorest and most remote area of Haiti. There is excitement and hope now, thanks to the emergence of new leadership. And there is the promise of income for families who have had no way to educate, feed, or provide medical care for their children, for elders, or for the ill.
Praying with Angels
In the beginning, we planned the Prayer Angel project as a way to provide funds for food following the many destructive storms of 2008. Now, the world economic crisis has changed our focus. We now ask that people hold the angels and pray daily for the relief of hunger across the entire world. In the last year, Angel Industries has generated close to US $12,000 for workers on La Gonave and for the development of the other industries through APPLAG and APG.
The Rev. Shirley Edgerton and her husband, Joe Edgerton, are long-term mission volunteers from Kansas. They served in La Gonave, Haiti, from 2007 to January 2010.
How to Order Prayer Angels
Central United Methodist Church
Date posted: Apr 05, 2010