Short term missions, long term partnerships.
“I’m going to go there someday.”
This is what Michelle Smith thought, sitting in her Indiana church, looking at the picture of Haitian children standing on a trash heap as the pastor presented about a recent missions trip. Three years later, in 2012, Michelle and her husband went to Haiti with Northside Christian Church of New Albany, Indiana, to serve alongside two missionaries from a ministry called Waves of Mercy.
Her passion for Haiti grew as she witnessed Haiti's poverty firsthand, seeing an opportunity for God’s work. When she returned the next fall, she realized that she wanted God to work through her. So, without a plan, or any idea of how God would use her, she prayed.
In 2014, she met with Larry and Diana Owen from Waves of Mercy. Michelle knew the Lord was directing her to start a ministry, but she didn’t know what its focus should be. While meeting, Larry was quick to suggest vocational training, because there are very few colleges or vocational training programs in Haiti, especially the Northwest, where their ministry is located. This would give students an opportunity to learn skills that would lead to higher paying jobs and more promising, brighter futures. Diana was thinking along the same lines. For years, she had been dreaming about starting a sewing program so women and men could start their own sewing businesses.
A ministry is born
After months of hardwork and planning, the first sewing program started on June 29th, 2015 in Port-de-Paix with 10 students. Since then, the Haiti 323 Project has become an independent nonprofit with sewing programs in two different locations. Today, Michelle serves stateside with the Board of Directors, and together they oversee fundraising, marketing, partner relations, and program development. Local partners, Waves of Mercy and Northwest Haiti Christian Mission, help oversee the Haitian staff and the day-to-day operations of the programs in Haiti.