"We are blessed to be a blessing." It's a phrase I'd often heard but hadn't seriously considered until meeting Pastor Samuel Metelus in Haiti in 2012.
We first met in the rubble of the earthquake that had decimated Port-au-Prince two years earlier yet still littered the streets. He was caring for 50+ children orphaned in the quake while helping his father rebuild his church in downtown Carrefour. To do so, he had left behind a comfortable life in the United States, with no guarantee of what the future in Haiti would hold. In that encounter, Dave and I realized just how blessed we were simply by virtue of where we lived, the education we'd been provided, and the friends and family who surrounded us, and how we were obligated to give back in some way to help others less fortunate.
That meeting with Sam turned out to be just the first of many. Between 2012 and 2016, we made 15 trips to Haiti, including a three-month stay during which we worked daily with Sam and his team to develop a plan to create financial sustainability for the Glory Glory Center, which by 2016 was home to the 50+ children and a growing church. The result was a God-sized vision to not only provide financial security but to change Haiti's trajectory by educating and inspiring the country's youth to become future leaders and world-changers. The idea for College Lumiere was born.
Since 2016, Dave and I have continued to visit Haiti regularly while working diligently stateside to raise the $1.5 million USD required to build, staff, and open this incredible school. Today (10/15/20), by the grace of God, we're just $400,000 USD shy of our fundraising goal! Situated on 7.5 acres of farmland in Torbeck outside Les Cayes, College Lumiere is 80% built. When finished, it will be 100% Haitian-owned and operated and will educate 1,000 students annually, providing more than 50 full-time jobs and serving as a symbol of hope and opportunity in the community.
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When we scaled back our ministry efforts slightly to launch Izzy Knits in 2018, we felt conflicted about focusing on our own personal goals rather than "the greater good", which had become our focus since 2012. But after a lot of prayer and conversation, Dave and I realized that our commitment to giving back didn't have to end with Izzy Knits. Rather, Izzy Knits could become a launching pad for new initiatives! And so it has.
Currently, Izzy Knits donates 10% of every "Izzy Knits Exclusive" product sold in our shop to support education in Haiti. For the moment, that means contributing to the end-stage construction of Collège Lumière. Once the school opens, it will likely support scholarships to benefit local students who can't afford to attend. Those products include, but are not limited to, Yarn (Ruff+Tumble DK), Patterns (I'm a Fan! Dog Sweater), Kits (Bommer Canyon Wrap), and other miscellaneous items (Izzy Enamel Pin).
Then, my dream is for Izzy Knits to develop and outfit a weaving studio and curriculum for the Collège Lumière Trade School. A few years ago, we measured the interest of folks at the Glory Glory Center for such an education and were received with great excitement. Sam and I have talked about it, and he's very interested. Stay tuned!