Helping Women Find Hope in Haiti
The pregnant woman showed up on the doorstep of the New Life Campaign with her 2-year-old son. She was so thin from giving all of her food to her toddler that her baby’s outline could be seen through her skin. Despite these circumstances, she was most worried about her 6-year-old daughter.
This woman, Mary (not her real name), had learned that her husband had been sexually abusing their daughter since age 3, and had also allowed other men to rape her. When Mary learned about this, when her daughter was 5, she immediately went to the court for protection. But because of the father’s connections, Mary was dismissed as crazy. The daughter went back to her father who continued to abuse her.
Mary turned to the government’s social services agency to get her daughter removed from the home, but Mary now had no means to support herself or her 2-year-old son. Mary began to prostitute herself to get food for her child. That led to her current pregnancy. Her daughter was finally taken from the father and moved to a safe house run by the government. Mary is trying to get custody of her daughter, but her circumstances are dire and her ex-husband continues to try to hunt her down.
She had no reason to hope.
Yet, through the New Life Campaign, she is beginning to rebuild her life. She is receiving housing, training, counseling and attends Bible study. Once her children are with her again, New Life Campaign will help to send them to school, which costs hundreds of dollars because there is no free education in Haiti.
That’s why Salem Hicks is in fund-raising overdrive. The Founder of New Life Campaign and a Blue Ridger, Salem has looked into the eyes of Mary and dozens of others like her. She’s held their hands and listened to their lives. In just two short years, she’s followed God’s leading to create ministry for broken, abused and sexually exploited women in Haiti. She wants to see women healed and free from their past life, made new from the inside out through the love of Jesus.
To make this happen, New Life has two programs:
The Outreach Program
A small task force team visits houses and brothels and invites women to weekly classes. It is through this program that they encounter women, build relationships and eventually give women the opportunity to meet Jesus and have a chance at a new life. This program, which includes sewing, English, life skills and Bible classes, has up to 65 women in a class at a time.
“Not everyone is in prostitution, but it’s a place for all women to grown and be empowered,” Salem said. “It’s an opportunity to invite different women into our programs. It’s grown so much that we’ve moved from our center to a school in another village.”
New Life has also begun offering the Celebrate Recovery program to its women. “What it does for us and why I think it will be amazing in Haiti is that Haitians want healing. They admit ‘my heart’s messed up,’ but the steps to get there are unsure. Celebrate Recovery is the path that gets us there — ultimately it’s Jesus who is woven through CR’s steps," Salem said.
The New Life Center Program
After two years of research and one year of on-the-ground research and relational development, New Life Center began their first program classes Sept. 12, 2016. This program includes sponsorships, discipleship, the study of scripture, counseling, life skills, basic education and career development. Women and children living at the center receive counseling and the children receive tuition, transportation and uniforms to go to school.
“These women actually come to hear about Jesus, they don’t just come to for what we have to give them. They really do want to know who Jesus is - there is hope there,” Salem said. Salem’s team includes class teachers, as well as an outreach team. This dangerous work sometimes puts them in the crossfire, so New Life Campaign also employs a 24-hour security team, which needs funding.
“Our staff is like a family. They believe in what they’re doing and they care so much,” Salem said. “They go above and beyond to make sure the women are taken care of — apart from me, which is really humbling.”
Salem, who has been a hair stylist for 12 years, said, “I never really thought I’d use that skill in Haiti. It’s just what’s gotten me through.”
However, now God has provided a donor who wants to help build a salon where women can do hair and be trained as hair stylists. Salem said this is a different kind of career development because it doesn’t rely on selling crafts or goods in the United States. Part of the beauty school curriculum will include financial management.
“We want to be the best beauty school in Haiti,” Salem said.
To build this program and continue the others, New Life Campaign needs prayer and financial support.
“I’m praying people’s hearts are moved by what God is doing through these women,” Salem said. “For us to continue, we need people who are committed to monthly giving … I’m not desperate for me, but for His kingdom. That's a desperation I can deal with. There needs to be desperation for these situations.”