Starfish update: mamas and godmothers

Over the last six months, Touch of Hope has made a lot of transitions in our leadership and one of the biggest transitions has been me – Kayla – moving into a leadership position for the Starfish program.

First it’s interesting that God would transition me into this role at such a vulnerable and emotional season of my life. Last July I led my first Starfish meeting and was 6 months pregnant at the time, trying to manage school registration for 1,000 students, running my business Rosie’s and trying to keep it all together as we fought to get papers for our first three children. During the month of July, I would meet two other Starfish women just as pregnant as myself and admitted a third woman, who was 23-years-old, 7 months pregnant with her third child and homeless into the program. My heart would continue to break on the daily, as I would take on the needs of the Starfish program.

Somehow, by the grace of God, I made it through the summer and came back last November – with a newborn! – ready to take on the long list of demands and needs for the program. However, that readiness state-of-mind quickly vanished and I reached a state of burnout very quickly as I transitioned to Haiti with my newborn.

In my desperation and weariness, the Lord opened my eyes to a group of women who I’ve been investing in since I first moved to Haiti nearly five years ago. When I moved to Haiti in June 2012, a jewelry company initially employed me and my responsibilities were to oversee and manage the artisans. To say a lot has happened since then would be an understatement, but a constant in my life has always been this group of women and one special man – God bless him for dealing with so many women!

I’ve seen these women rise up and grow in so many ways. So, I thought how perfect would it be for these women to start giving back to women who are in the same positions they were in nearly half a decade ago. I was nervous to ask them to join the Starfish program at first, but they’ve taken the reins and done more in two months than I imagined.

Over the course of the last two months, we have started a godmother program for the women in the Starfish program. We have divided the twenty Starfish women in the program into four small groups and each group has 2 or 3 godmothers who will mentor to them as they go through the program.

My vision is to see the godmothers do house visits, where they will pray and encourage each other. They can help the women come up with business ideas, as we will continue giving small business loans (they know way more about the local markets and demands than I do!) They will help me prioritize the needs of the women like who needs a house or bed first, who should be the next to graduate, who should be the next to be admitted, etc.

My heart is to keep investing in the godmothers as I hope to one day see a core group of women leaders leading other women out of poverty in a dignified, God-glorifying way. The last thing I love about the godmothers doing more of the leading is that it takes me – the white American – out of the forefront of the program and puts me in the background, delegating money, raising funds, encouraging, etc…and, truly, that’s where I want to be!

And, because I want to brag about how awesome these godmothers are, I have to tell you a success story in the making…

Late January I took a two-week trip to the States and while I was gone a few of the godmothers met a woman named Genese. Genese is 23-years-old, was basically homeless and doing everything she could to take care of her five children. A godmother, Yolande, just finished her brand new house in the beginning of January (I’ve been working closely with her on this building project for the last TWO years) and before moving her own things in, she moved Genese and her five children into her home. Just last week I found a small house to rent for Genese and her children, but Yolande insisted on letting them stay at her house longer. My heart about exploded as Yolande taught me what true hospitality and grace look like. Last week another godmother spent her afternoon sewing new uniforms for Genese’s kids; they will start school this week! And lastly, I was advised to make Genese the newest employee to Salsa Sisters, so she has been cooking up salsa with me the last two weeks. Genese has the warmest smile and I can’t wait to watch her flourish under the care of Yolande and the rest of the women.

I also can’t wait to see what other stories will unfold and the lives that will be impacted as the force of the godmothers take over the Starfish program…

You can be a part of this exciting new adventure with the godmothers by making a one-time donation to the Starfish program or signing up for a monthly sponsorship fee (see Donate tab) The funds for this program help us in so many life-changing ways…getting women and their kids off the streets by paying their rent, helping with school fees to get their children enrolled in school, giving small business loans to help create an income for the family, building bunk beds so their children no longer sleep on the dirt ground…the list goes on and on!

For more Starfish stories, sign up to follow the Touch of Hope blog as we will continue writing stories of lives transformed through the Starfish program.


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