By Mike Clohessy | Aug. 29, 2017
Are you guys crazy? A cause and a calling change a community.
“Are you guys crazy?”
That is a question that my wife and I have gotten often over the last 15+ years from all sorts of people. This question is spurred on when we describe our work in Haiti. This work started back in 2000. My wife, Carole, was part of a church mission trip serving a church and school in the mountains of northern Haiti. At that time, Carole and I were in our early thirties. We were both working full time in our careers (her a pediatric physical therapist; me a contractor) and we were raising four children ages 4-10.
During Carole’s first trip, she discovered that the school children didn’t have access to reading materials other than the text books that had to remain in the classrooms. Carole, an avid reader, felt called to do something, but she knew it would take more than efforts through an annual mission trip.
After two years of setting aside some savings, Carole headed back to Haiti on her own. (The places she will go to get away from me and her four kids for a week.) This time she used all of her resources to purchase as many children’s books as she could afford. She took the books to the school and introduced the concept of a lending library.
From there, the project kept snowballing. We were provided an empty classroom at the school to expand our library. We established our non-profit foundation, The Haiti Library Foundation. We began ordering books in French out of Canada. We hired a librarian with our own money and from donations of family and friends.
As if we weren’t “crazy” enough doing all of that, we recognized the need was bigger than that of just one school. Through constant fundraising, we raised enough money to construct a free-standing library for the entire community. This construction occurred in 2013. To date, the library offers more than 7000 books, games, and musical instruments to the children and adults of Plaisance, Haiti.
One of the most impactful moments throughout this journey occurred in 2006. Carole and I took our four children to Haiti. What an experience. These kids (now in their twenties) have all chosen to go back on subsequent trips with our team of volunteers. It has truly set the stage for them to be servant minded.
Throughout all of this, I don’t know that I recognized it as servant leadership. I saw it more as an obscure project that Carole and I were called to do.
The Leader in Training (LIT) program opened my eyes. What was different between LIT and our Haiti project is that the people involved in the Haiti project have a passion for a specific cause. The LIT program brings 20+ diverse individuals and transforms them into a unified team to serve others. That is pretty amazing.
That is servant leadership.
So, are my wife and I crazy? Probably so. But trueU and the LIT program have proved that we aren’t alone.