Looking Forward

Dear Friends,

It has been just two years since the birth of Starfysh, a grassroots movement of folks with the crazy notion that they could do something remarkable, and that they would do it in one of the least likely of places. A place called La Gonave.

“Least likely,” it is, not just because of her overwhelming poverty, but because of the many overwhelming obstacles in the way of digging out. Strangely, though, we have discovered that it is the high “degree of difficulty” which compels us all the more. We must do it because it is hard.

Starfysh’s first year was both busy and productive: organizational groundwork was laid, and Stateside and in-Haiti networks and collaborative partnerships were established. During that first year we also got our organizational feet wet with a few small projects: feeding kids, cholera field hospital start-up, etc. We also established a small base-of-operations on the island.

Starfysh’s second year has been equally remarkable, a year where three of our five long-term strategic initiatives began to develop: clean water, agriculture, and education. Hundreds of in-home water filters were installed, at first with the help of teams who visited us from the States. Today, a trained team of La Gonavians carry on the task of installing filters and following up on families where they are being used. Hundreds of families in the mountains of La Gonave were able to build their very first household latrine as a result of funds provided by our generous donors. Over a thousand banana trees were distributed to peasant farmers, and thousands more are currently in the pipeline for distribution this year.

We funded the startup of a family bakery which has grown today to employ six and now provides bread at wholesale to twenty-some women who take it to market. After just one year, thirty family breadwinners. A solar-powered chicken hatchery, funded by a youth group in Michigan, is currently hatching out chicks for distribution across the island. Our first Creole book, an early childhood reader, was published and a second book (a 3rd-4th grade level reader) is currently in publication. And children in a certain small village in the mountains of La Gonave now go to school.

Several dozen guests stopped by our place here on the island throughout the year, to see and to assist with our work. We enjoyed meeting and getting to know lots of people sharing with them our vision for La Gonave.

The Starfysh board of directors expanded by two during the past year, with the addition of veteran missionary to Haiti, Dan Irvine, and Dr. Eli Maxime, physician working at the island hospital. Freddy Williams (Teams and Projects) and Stacy Oldenberg (Educational Development) have been invaluable in advancing our work on the island. We are thankful, too, for our Haitian staff who do such things as install filters, tend to banana trees, teach school kids, care for the base of operations, and for our guests when they come down.

Today, at the beginning of our third year, we find ourselves on trajectory for a year of even greater impact. We are thankful for what this will mean for La Gonave. But greater impact on La Gonave will demand that we continue to “up our game” back home. We dare not rest on past accomplishments. We look forward, always forward, praying for God’s guidance for what might be, and making our plans to get there.

Moving forward, our all-volunteer model cannot, of course, be sustained for too much longer. We celebrate this as it is the result of growth. To date, the majority of donations to our work have come in the form of individual gifts, a remarkable thing when one considers what has been accomplished thus far.  We will continue in 2013 to depend on the generosity of individual partners, but will also take an important step in expanding our categories for generating income, such as seed and project grants.

Finally, there can be no denying that the tremendous good being done through Starfysh is not limited to what we see happening on a small island in Haiti. The Starfysh vision for what could be is resonating with hearts back home, too, and our model for actually pulling it off is capturing the imaginations of many. Hope, it seems, cannot be delivered without a bit of it spilling out on those who deliver it.

So I’ll be bold in my ask: As we get ready to turn the page on 2012, would you consider Starfysh in your year-end giving strategy? (You can donate online here) After two years of laying groundwork and early project successes, we are on the brink of what we think will be an amazing year and we must not let the lack of capital investment prevent us from realizing what God wants to do through us. Few investments will yield such significant and long-lasting returns.

In a world where bad news often drowns out the good, I am here to tell you that today, in a forgotten, impoverished, out-of-the way place, a larger-than-life drama is being written, a true story comprised of many small good stories. Good stories of compassion shown. Good stories of dignity restored. Good stories of gladness and hope overcoming despondency and despair. Thank you for your part in writing the stories. I am excited to see how the drama unfolds, aren’t you?

Steve Edmondson
President, Starfysh