“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” —Albert Einstein
Our vision is to cultivate proven and innovative solutions to poverty. For us, the word “biblical” can be substituted for the word “proven”, because proven solutions—at their core—are biblical, and vice versa. Our platform for gospel ministry is where worldview impacts felt needs; where biblical worldview transforms culture. There is no shortage of this platform.
Prior to the earthquake three years ago, donor fatigue in Haiti was at an all-time high. People grew tired of investing in “Haiti” because as a whole, no one was seeing results. From our perpective, the prevailing ministry themes and development methodologies have been short-sighted and have failed to get beneath the surface of the problems.
Not wanting to go insane ourselves, we took a different approach.
According to the Failed States Index, Haiti ranks #2 in Human Flight—which is defined, “When there is little opportunity, people migrate, leaving a vacuum of human capital. Those with resources also often leave before, or just as, conflict erupts.” In other words, of all the places on earth people are trying to escape from, Haiti is atop the list.
Although the potential here is great, the fact of the matter remains Haiti is a hostile living environment not conducive to even minimum living standards people aspire for.
For us, that became our starting point. If Haiti can’t retain its “best and brightest” (spiritual leaders included) for lack of opportunity, what’s the point of our work? It became clear that infrastructure and housing solutions needed to be a top priority.
So in 2010 we set out to construct an indigenously sustainable prototype village of 10-12 homes, each with running water, sewer and electric (we call it Phase 1)—a dream that would defy the perceived limitations of the current economic landscape.
From the beginning we knew much of what we would try probably wouldn’t go as planned. We’d have to have thick skin. We’d have to be willing to risk—and be willing to fail.
This report isn’t so much a detailed accounting of our failures so as to assess the validity of Paulos Group, rather we desire to maintain transparency with those who invest in our work. We don’t have it all figured out. The more we learn, the more we know it’s only by God’s grace we can adapt, seize opportunities, and help cultivate any solutions in Haiti.
Among some of our failures that make us both cringe, and smile:
- The first prototype house we built ran 60% over budget.
- For every dollar we invest in housing, another is invested in infrastructure. Finding investors willing to finance infrastructure in Haiti is no easy task! On numerous occasions this has forced the cart to go before the horse, retrofitting projects at greater cost later on.
- After spending more than $30,000 on Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and Plan D; we are now on a Plan E roof. The upside to our research is that the houses stay 30 degrees cooler than typical houses in Haiti.
- Our electrical and pressurized water delivery systems have been serving their current purposes, working better than expected. However, three overbuilt septic systems have all failed, and we are still trying to figure out why?
- The quality of Jesus Storybook Bible Creole Edition has exceded expectations. But the issue remains that the cover price is two-day’s wages for most (although similar in price to a Creole Bible). Imagine Americans spending $300 on a book for their kids? We can’t.
- We started a non-traditional church plant several months ago, but attendence has slipped recently. A group of well-dressed women inquired about the church and asked, “Do you give out food, shoes and clothes in December like other churches?” The answer was “no”. Maybe that’s the non-traditional part?!! We cultivate solutions through empowerment, not dependence, and have no desire to let charity become a tool of destruction.