In 2003, Mike Wilson first visited Haiti. Seventeen years later, Neply, Haiti is now home to his and his wife’s nonprofit, myLifespeaks. Mike and Missy live there along with five of their six children, three of which were adopted from Haiti.
“So we we moved here in 2014 with the understanding that in order for us to really truly effectively lead this ministry we had to be on the ground,” Wilson said. “It could not be done from the United States.”
myLifespeaks was founded in 2012, and it focuses on three main goals: family empowerment, educational excellence and public health impact.
Wilson describes Haiti as a place that has systematic corruption which leads to a lack of education and a high rate of unemployment.
“I couldn’t understand why something would be so drastically different for being so close to the United States,” Wilson said. “The more I came back, the more I realized that Haiti has a systematic problem of corruption. Just lack of education across the country…. 80% unemployment is a real, real issue here. A lot of people who want to work can’t.”
Another area that myLifespeaks is especially focused on is helping to change the stigma around special needs individuals. In Haitian culture a person with a disability or deformity is considered cursed. In order for that evil spirit to be gone, the person has to be sacrificed.
For the Wilsons, this was a major problem that they wanted to help solve in Haiti. They realized that to help fix this they would need to approach it from a lot of different angles.
“What we realized early on was, it was not going to be something where we could come in and just work with individuals with special needs,” Wilson said. “ What we would need to do is create a safer environment for them as a whole. We’ve worked really hard to create a community, a place where people can be who God created them to be. We’ve seen that individuals with special needs are no longer pushed to the to the margins of society as much. They are seen as people with worth.”
A big change is now parents are trying to care for their children with special needs instead of looking for orphanages to place them in.
myLifespeaks provides a feeding program for kids, classes for parents, mentoring programs for teens, physical therapy, special education classes, classes for typically developing kids, the LIFE Clinic, and support groups.
A big part of myLifespeaks’ work is the LIFE Academy, which provides education for kids with and without special needs. The LIFE Clinic is also a major part of the Neply community. It provides basic health care at low to no cost as well as houses several feeding programs. It also has a program for the elderly to practice cognitive skills.
Third Lens Ministry has been a big part of helping to build all the necessary buildings that will be needed to accomplish the mission of myLifespeaks.
Currently a guesthouse is being finished, with an end to construction expected in early summer. That will complete the first step of their building project. myLifespeaks plans to take a break from construction for a little while and then come back to do more work on the various plans they have.
“I just, to the best of our ability, want to be able to communicate that Third Lens alleviated something that would have been a burden for us,” Wilson said. “And so we were able to focus on ministry rather than to have to be concerned with construction in a time where it was very, very difficult.”