About Cindy CorellWhile serving as a volunteer youth advisor in her Virginia congregation, Cindy accompanied the young people on mission trips, hoping they would “find their missional feet” and experience the joy of serving others. However, as Cindy participated in mission in settings ranging from the surrounding community to national destinations, she became keenly aware that serving others in Christ’s name was having a profound impact on her own life. Her spiritual awareness deepened and she was “ready to dive deep into the sea of serving others.” In 2010, when she made her first trip to Haiti, Cindy sensed a heartfelt connection with this Caribbean country and its people. “I learned that everything I’d ever accomplished in 48 years of living had prepared me for being in that land of beautiful people,” she says. “I was forever changed, and I could no longer be satisfied in an ordinary job and only finding fulfilling and meaningful work on the side.” So Cindy left a 27-year career as a journalist to accept a Presbyterian mission appointment in Haiti. Having traveled to Haiti and having co-chaired a Virginia-based nonprofit organization that funds educational endeavors in that country, she knows that ministry there is fraught with challenges and frustrations. When facing difficult situations, Cindy says she is confident that family, colleagues, friends, and supporters will stand with her. She realizes that progress will come slowly, and she vows to “rejoice in triumphs, however small.” Cindy says she hopes her work with people in Haiti and the United States will result in transformed lives in both countries. “I want people to feel comfortable asking questions, even tough questions, about why life in Haiti has been so hard, especially for farmers in what was once such a verdant land.” One of Cindy’s favorite Bible verses is Philippians 4:8, a passage that bespeaks her positive outlook on life: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” “When we reach out our hand to help our neighbors as Christ commanded, so often we meet the people who match this lovely description,” Cindy says. “We might not recognize them as such right away. They might not even know how precious their own hearts are. They might be beaten by the negative forces of the world, yet they strive to help others.” In her career as a journalist Cindy worked at two Virginia newspapers, the Union Star in Brookneal and theNews Leader in Staunton, where she most recently served as community conversations editor. In this role she edited the opinion page and wrote editorials and a weekly column. Cindy earned a bachelor’s degree in English and communications at Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia. She is a member of Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church in Fishersville, Virginia, where she was ordained as a deacon.
JULY 2021 NEWSLETTER:
You are receiving this email because of your generous and faithful support of our ministry in Haiti. Please know that you are appreciated beyond measure. These are some of the questions I am frequently asked about my work in Haiti. This is long and perhaps as painful to read as it was to write. Our friends in Haiti are in peril. There are specific prayer requests included here.
When will I return to Haiti?
I’ve been in Virginia since September 2019 except for a brief trip to my home in Port-au-Prince in March 2020. Haiti reported its first case of COVID-19 on March 19, and the government immediately closed the country’s airports and borders. Since then, extreme violence in the streets, dire economic straits, corrupt government led by a president who rules by decree and the absence of a rule of law have destabilized the country. President Jovenel Moise is pushing for a referendum on a new constitution that would give him and his party more power. The short answer is that I don’t know when I will return to Haiti, but I somehow confident I will at some point.
What am I doing while I’m in the U.S.?
I have been busy speaking with congregations here by Zoom, and I look forward to more of that. I do my best to keep people up to date with what’s happening in Haiti, but it is a moving target, quite literally. I continue working with Fabienne Jean, coordinator of FONDAMA, and the network’s executive committee. The network of farmer organizations has instituted a garden project to help families grow their own food. I am also working with a small committee and World Mission staff to reinvigorate the Haiti Mission Network.
What’s the situation in Haiti and how did we get here?
The lives of our siblings in Haiti are in peril. What began with a violent lockdown in Haiti in 2018 has continued to pull the people of Haiti deeper into misery. Gang violence and a surge of COVID-19 is overwhelming large parts of the capital city, Port-au-Prince. The crumbling economy and challenges of transporting food means families have greater difficulty feeding their families. Even people in places like La Gonave, an island miles away from the mainland and usually exempt from major issues are suffering more than ordinary.
A gang war that has raged for weeks continues in a community called Martissant, not far from the National Palace. The bitter conflict has residents arming themselves to protect their families. Several people have been killed, and families also are fleeing. They’ve taken refuge in a gymnasium and a public park.
Episcopal Bishop Oge Beauvoir, director of Food for the Poor Haiti, recently said the situation – economically and security-wise – is the worst he has witnessed in Haiti in 45 years. Today’s challenges have been growing for three years. In early July 2018, crowds of young people protesting deep corruption among the government of Haiti locked down the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Stores were burned. Protesters and bystanders were killed in the demonstrations. The violence raged for two weeks. Shortly afterward, it appeared that the government had gotten the message. The plan to raise fuel prices that ignited the fiery protest was rescinded. But within months, it became clear that President Jovenel Moise, despite his denial of corruption, but not interested in taking care of the people of Haiti. In November 2018, La Saline, a poor neighborhood that has traditionally opposed Moise and his government was the site of a massacre. More than 70 people were killed, including children, 11 women raped and 150 homes burned. In a country accustomed to violence, this massacre shook Haiti, but rather than be stopped, more massacres in poor communities occurred. In Bel-Air, 24 people killed. In Cite Soleil, 145 casualties. By 2019, protests continued to grow. Opposition parties and groups of young activists loudly called for Moise’s removal, but the president remained. Violence has persisted beyond the protests and massacres. Kidnappings are rampant. No one is immune, and several victims also have been murdered. Gang leaders go about their business with impunity. All the while, Moise rules by decree. He failed to hold parliamentary elections since 2018, and in January 2020, Parliament disbanded for lack of a quorum. Moise unilaterally has replaced mayors and other local leaders around the country. He ordered troops to attack Haiti’s Supreme Court and shut it down. He has arrested and jailed political opponents. And Moise has unilaterally written a proposed constitution – one that would give him more power. A referendum on the proposal was to be held on June 27 but has been postponed.
Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic in April accuses Moise and others in the Haitian government of complicity in the crimes against citizens. The report: Killing with Impunity, State-Sanctioned Massacres in Haiti, is attached to this email.
Each element of these struggles means the already tiny economy of Haiti shrinks. Families have lost more than half their purchasing power in three years. With security issues making the streets extremely dangerous, it is difficult to find food in cities, and too expensive to purchase in the countryside. And the exodus of people in critically dangerous regions flee the cities to live with family in the countryside who already are struggling to feed themselves. I am in touch with colleagues and friends in Haiti every day. I hear their frustration and pain and fear. I hear of their faith in God, and their tenuous grip on hope. We pray together. And we work together, always seeking to improve the lives of all those in Haiti.
What is the reality of the pandemic in Haiti?
Haitians today continue to fight for their lives as dangerous and even more contagious strains of COVID-19 spread across regions. Through the spring of 2021, it appeared that Haiti had dodged the bullet on severe repercussions of COVID-19, but in May, a second more deadly surge hit the country. Two strains of the virus have been identified, and they are more deadly and more contagious. Even young people and children have fallen ill. Given the extraordinary amount of violence in the streets and neighborhoods, hospitals are on the verge of collapse.
Does Haiti have access to a vaccine?
World Health Organization has offered a vaccine from Astra Zeneca to Haiti, which at first was rejected because of its reported risks of blood clots. Since the latest and deadly surge of the virus, the Astra Zeneca will be made available and free through MSPP, the national health system. I also understand that other vaccines will be available at a cost through private pharmacies. Many people in Haiti are extremely hesitant to take the vaccine because of mistrust of government, their own and foreign governments.
What are specific prayers we can offer?
Prayers for peace especially in regions where armed groups attack neighborhoods and clash with one another.
Prayers for families struggling to feed themselves during economic strife and violence.
Prayers for the peacemakers, those fighting against the powers who seek more power.
Prayers for medical teams bringing aid and healing to those suffering violence and disease.
Prayers that when a COVID-19 vaccine is available the people of Haiti will strongly consider taking it.
How am I coping?
This has been the most challenging segment of my eight years serving Haiti. I am committed and humbled to walk alongside our friends in Haiti. I’ve learned so much, and I’ve learned there is still so much I do not know. At times, I’m overwhelmed by the stories of pain, suffering, death and near-hopelessness. Dear friends have died in the violence and from disease. Other close friends have become ill. I worry when I know any of them are traveling, even to buy food or seek medical care. It’s more painful because I am here, well fed, vaccinated and far from danger. My privilege affords me the chance to be distracted, to ease my fears from time to time. My privilege is a stark reminder of the abundant life the people of Haiti have yet to enjoy. My heart breaks. My faith feels untethered at times, but because God it adheres once again. I am grateful for that. And I am so grateful for the ways my friends in Haiti model strong faith and hope.
Even when it seems hopeless. We know better. As they tell me every day: Se anyen Bondye pa kab fè.
There is nothing God can’t do. How can we help? If you feel so called, there is something you, too, can do. The needs are so great across Haiti, and this project is one small but essential way to help some families. Our Joining Hands network in Haiti, FONDAMA, has been providing help for especially hard-hit rural areas by offering training and seeds to families. You are invited to be a part of this on-going endeavor. To help fund Yard Gardens in Haiti, please use this link to give online https://www.presbyterianmission.org/donate/h000014/. When giving online, write “FONDAMA gardens” in the box that states: “Comments/Instructions/Name of local congregation.” If you prefer to send in a check, please write “FONDAMA gardens” in the memo line and mail to: Presbyterian Church (USA) P.O. Box 643700 Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700
Thank you for your generous and faithful support for Haiti through financial gifts and most of all, through prayer.