Helping Haiti with Retail ROI
We’ve all seen businesses touting themselves as ethical, sustainable, charitable, transparent, and a host of other positive adjectives. There’s probably a company or two that comes to mind whose efforts you truly admire, and perhaps one or two you’d raise an eyebrow at. But what gets lost in all that talk is that we have a responsibility to ourselves, our employees, our customers, and our planet to do better business and improve lives.
“At Retail Global, we integrate charity into each one of our events.”
You may have seen talk of the Gala Charity Dinner on our website, or perhaps you’ve attended one in the past. You may not have realised that these dinners are more than just an award show. Attendees don’t just get to dine on delicious cuisine, marvel at aerial acrobats, or chat with some of the biggest names in the business – they get to directly contribute to improving lives.
This year, as in the past two years, all the proceeds from the Retail Global Gala Charity Dinner will directly benefit two of our favourite charities: the Retail Orphan Initiative and an amazing, on-the-ground organisation called Lifesong – Ministere des Bras Ouverts.
Lifesong MBO is a frontline charity directly working to improve the lives of the 10,000 residents of Bercy, Haiti. A small community located in the foothills north of Port-au-Prince, Bercy has been affected not only by headline-making crises like earthquakes and storms, but by the day-to-day grind of limited water access, crushing poverty, and minimal medical help.
Lifesong MBO has been helping the residents of Bercy in a sustainable “hand up” approach for the past three years, but they need our help to continue. This February, Retail Global CEO Phil Leahy visited Bercy and the crew at Lifesong MBO and was deeply affected not only by the overwhelming need of everyday Haitians but by the amazing impact Lifesong MBO has already made.
Lifesong MBO’s Mission
Lifesong MBO was started by Mike and Amy Rivas, who made the decision to sell their home in California and move their entire family to Haiti in November of 2015. Their focus is to create a sustainable and thriving ministry and charity that will help educate, feed, provide medical aid, employ, and raise up the residents of Bercy.
Since their arrival, they’ve purchased 45 acres of hills, dirt, and rock and transformed it into:
- An orphanage and school, serving quality education and meals to boys and girls in grades 7-10
- Three family-style residences on campus for the school’s orphans, headed by married live-in “parents”
- Vocational training in safe construction, hospitality, and sustainable agriculture
- A working plantation and farm, including plantain, cherry, and livestock
- Safe housing built for those people formerly living on the acreage
- Employment for over fifty locals with living wages and two meals a day
- Improved roads and infrastructure within Bercy
- Partnerships with the Bercy Village Elders and local church leaders to ensure Haitian-led programming and public services
- Partnerships with other charities and ministries, like Extollo International, Heart to Heart International, Schools4Haiti, Light of Christ Ministries, and Retail ROI
- A community centre offering meal and clothing assistance to those families most in need
- A football program open to the youth of Bercy
- A comfortable and safe location for church and community events
It’s a stunning amount of work they’ve put in the past two years since breaking ground. After visiting Lifesong MBO, Bercy, and Port-au-Prince, we can truly say that Mike and Amy Rivas have improved the lives of hundreds of people. They’ve created an organisation with care and intent to become a self-sustaining positive force in Bercy and its surrounding communities.
But they’re not done yet.
How We Can Help Haitians
This year, Lifesong MBO is racing to complete several critical projects so that they can continue serving the Bercy community.
First and foremost, we need to get a classroom built for the orphans who will be graduating from tenth grade this summer. When school starts up this fall, they will have no place to start the eleventh grade – which spells an end to their quality education. These orphans will need to rejoin the local school system, whose class sizes range between sixty to eighty students per teacher.
Second, these orphans will need a place to live. Lifesong MBO is committed to offering the security and love that comes with family-style living. Instead of dorms, their student orphans are housed in family residences with a live-in married couple, where they live as a family. This arrangement not only offers stability and love – essential to any growing child – but a model for marriage and responsible adult life that many of these children never experienced before coming to Lifesong MBO.
Last, Lifesong MBO has worked with the village elders of Bercy and the international medical emergency charity Heart to Heart International to purchase an abandoned medical centre in the area. Once it’s operational, this low-cost clinic will offer wellness and medical services to the residents of Bercy. Unlike other medical services in the area, which can cost as much as 1/5 of the average Haitian annual salary, this clinic will only charge a small fee of 100 Gourde for a checkup – about $2AUD. This clinic will be run in conjunction with the village of Bercy, so half of the clinic proceeds will go to the village elders who can invest in new wells, solar panels, and other desperately-needed improvements.
Mike and Amy are determined to get these projects completed by the time school starts in the fall, but they’ll need our help.
Where We Come In
“You could literally do any charitable thing in Haiti – you could do something as small as giving each child one pencil – and it would have a positive impact.”
– Mike Rivas, Lifesong MBO Co-Founder
We all know that the need in Haiti in enormous, but seeing it first-hand has made that need visceral and real for Retail Global. We were impressed and inspired by the good work of the Rivas family and their entire staff, and were blown away by the amount of thought and research that goes into every facet of their ministry. We are going to make these projects a reality for Lifesong MBO this year – we simply can’t let the children, the families, or the good people at Lifesong MBO down.
You can help.
You or your organisation can sponsor a class at the Lifesong Christian School. While they currently teach grades 7-10, their goal is to expand and offer through grade 13. Your donation pays for the educator’s salaries, the uniforms and school supplies, the housing, and the food for these children in need. Donations start as low as $30USD/mo up to $2880USD/mo to sponsor an entire 24-student class. To donate, visit LifesongforOrphans.org.
Likewise, you can earmark your funds to directly benefit one of these critical projects. Just follow the directions above, and add the project name in the “Memo” field.
→ Launch Medical Clinic ($80k total)
→ Build Student Residence ($125k total)
→ Build 11th Grade Classrooms/Biology/Chemistry classrooms ($145k total)
Finally, you can attend the Gala Dinner. You’ll hear more about it in the coming months – about the entertainment we’ve lined up (let’s just say we’re excited), about the food and fun, and about the unparalleled networking opportunities. But we’re really excited to continue our great tradition of donating the proceeds to charity. In the past, we’ve raised nearly $140,000AUD in partnership with Retail Orphan Initiative to directly benefit Lifesong MBO. This year, we hope to raise enough to see these projects completed.
Join us Thursday, the 24th of May at the Gala Dinner by buying your tickets now.
Until then, let’s take a moment to be grateful for what we have, find space in our hearts for those who have less, and make the commitment to leave the world better than we found it.