In 2012, Mike Wilson and his wife Missy launched myLIFEspeaks in Neply, Haiti. The nonprofit was created to help special needs children in the area who had been cast aside due to voodoo culture beliefs that deemed the kids not worthy of care.
The mission of the organization expanded to helping the overall community of Neply. The three focus areas of their programs are family empowerment, educational excellence and public health impact.
Over the years, myLIFEspeaks has opened a school for children in the area for both special needs and general population students, a medical clinic, a physical rehabilitation center, a feeding program to provide meals to school-aged kids, homes for families and kids, a weekly meeting for seniors to work on cognitive skills and several other community-based programs.
During the time myLIFEspeaks was expanding their work, they connected with Third Lens Ministries through a mutual contact. myLIFEspeaks was ready to embark on a new construction project and reached out executive director Brian O’Neil to see what options were available.
“MyLIFEspeaks has a vision for an entire campus of buildings that would facilitate their operations, including housing, a community center, the school and offices.” O’Neil said. “The first building we started in 2019 was the guest house. Up until last year, myLIFEspeaks had 600 to 700 people coming to Neply from the US to work in the community. Teams are currently staying in the same building that houses the school. The school is growing so quickly, but they were sharing a common rented building and are running out of space. The vision is let’s build a guest house so the school can continue to expand in its current facility and move out the residence space to the new campus.”
Currently, Third Lens is overseeing the construction of the Guest House with an expected finish date of the end of April 2020. Also, work is begun a storage building and basketball courts. The storage building will house a generator so that the campus can use a generator to power itself when electricity in the village goes out.
Future plans for the campus include building two school buildings, staff housing, an office, a community center, additional basketball courts and a playground.
“Once it’s finally built out, it’s just going to be an amazing place for the ministry to continue to grow,” O’Neil said. “They’re not just going to be in Neply, but the surrounding villages and they’ll be able to reach out and host community events. They’ll have sports programs, they’ll be able to increase the amount of students that can come to the school. It’s gonna be a truly world class facility that we’re excited to be a part of.”
myLIFEspeaks has been able to create a way to bring a community together and help break barriers between special needs individuals and the rest of the population. The organization has created a home for all and blended the Haitian culture with American and Christian ideas.
“There’s no barbed wire, there’s no fences, there’s no walls for missionaries to hide behind,” O’Neil said. “I walk up and there’s Americans interacting with Haitians, they’re part of the community. I knew that there was something different and special about the work that was being done.”
Despite changing political climates in the country, myLIFEspeaks has found a way to continue to bring people in to help the people of Haiti. Haiti is currently in the midst of a political and economic crisis that is resulting in violent civil unrest throughout the country.
“The leadership of myLIFEspeaks shared with us recently that because of the political situation they can’t have missionaries coming in large groups like they did before, its just not safe at this moment,” O’Neil said. “But what they do want to do is bring other organizations throughout Haiti and bring them to their campus and teach them what they’ve learned about ministry, about doing family based care and providing orphans with you know, forever families and working with special needs students and integrating them into the school population. They’ve got a model that’s working, it’s encouraging. It’s actually changing the way nonprofits look at the way that they do ministry. In lieu of the challenge of not being able to bring as many missionaries in, they’re gonna bring ministries in and say, hey, let’s, let’s collaborate, let’s train, let’s get better. Let’s find better ways to do ministry.”
myLIFEspeaks will be in Neply for a long time to come and for as long as they need help creating the structures they need to fulfill their mission, Third Lens will be there to answer the request.
“We’re doing some design modifications, and it’s going to be one building after another until we get this thing done,” O’Neil said. “And then the hospital will be a part of the next phase. I think myLIFEspeaks and Third Lens will be partners for a long, long time. I have no doubts about that.”