On behalf of everyone at COTP, we want to start by saying thank you for partnering with us in the mission and ministry of Children of the Promise Haiti. We feel honored to walk through this experience with you! We pray that you will use the time before your trip to prepare and to begin praying for God to use you while you are in Haiti. Trust that if you take the time to prepare and come to Haiti with a servant's heart, you will leave Haiti changed.
This packet has everything you need to prepare well for your trip. Included is a lot of important information and instructions that you will need to know before and during your trip. Please take the time to read over it carefully. If you have any questions after reading it, please do not hesitate to ask.
In addition to this packet, we encourage you to visit our website at childrenofthepromise.org in order to learn more about our programs and the work that is currently happening in Haiti.
See you soon!
FIRST STEPS AND DONATION
The very first step for anyone interested in volunteering is to download and submit the volunteer application, found on the COTP website. After submitting your application and 2 references (via email preferably), you can expect an approval or disapproval from the volunteer coordinator (VC) within 3 weeks. After being formally approved, you must sign the waiver also found on our website, and email that to us as well.
Qualifications & Suggestions
If you are volunteering with us for the first time, 2 weeks is the max number of weeks you may volunteer. If you are a returning volunteer, we are open to having you stay longer.
You must be at least 20 years old to volunteer and travel alone. However, If you are under 25 we suggest traveling with a friend. This will give you a companion for the week and someone to work alongside. Also, it makes it more fun having a friend!
If you are a minor (under 18yrs old) and traveling to COTP without both of your parents, you will need specifically signed and notarized documents stating who your “guardian” is while traveling. (Even if only one parent is with you should have the other parent notarize this document so immigration knows that one parent is not trying to sneak their child out of the country unbeknownst to the other.) This is important for teens or children that may be traveling in a group.
COTP suggests each individual volunteer donates $40/night ($280USD per week). Please send in this suggested donation in with a signed waiver. This cost covers airport transportation, breakfast and lunch meal (besides Sunday), room and board, water, facilities, basic groceries (eggs, bread, fresh fruit/veggies) see food and drink for more info.
We can not hold your dates until we’ve received the suggested donation and signed waiver. For groups, at least 50% of the suggested donated for the entire group must be sent in, in order to lock in your dates. This suggested donation is non-refundable.
Volunteers from the USA can send donations to:
Children of the Promise
1020 Hwy 71 NE, Suite 202
Willmar, MN 56201
Volunteers from Canada can send donations to:
If you are sending a check in Canada, send the equivalent of $40/night USD or $280/week USD in Canadian funds based on the current exchange rate.
COTP - Canada
c/o J and M DeJonge
995 Concession 2, R.R. 1
Selkirk On. Canada
Fundraising for your trip? Have donors send funds clearly marked for your support. They will receive a tax receipt for funds sent for your trip specifically. Checks must be made out to ‘Children of the Promise’ in order for them to receive a tax deduction. Do not have your name written on the check. Leave a note simply saying the check is to go towards your fundraising.
Day visitor? COTP suggests a donation of $5 if you are planning to stay for the lunch meal.
There will be a few opportunities to purchase souvenirs while on your trip. A couple of people come to our gate throughout the week to sell souvenirs like local crafts and paintings. Plan to bring extra money if you wish to purchase souvenirs. $50 USD is typically enough to purchase a couple small souvenirs.
Volunteers might receive one outing during their trip. For week long volunteers, an outing is not guaranteed. We try our best to make sure everyone at least has one opportunity.
Each outing comes with an additional cost.
FLIGHTS AND ARRIVAL INFORMATION
Travel arrival/departure days: Monday-Tuesday.
In order to save trips into town, we will try to coordinate volunteers of each week to travel on the same days.
If you are leading a large group to volunteer, we are willing to work with you on which travel days will work best.
Before purchasing any airline ticket, you must receive official approval on days. We have many volunteers throughout the year and limited space in the Volunteer house. Please do not assume we have space for you beforehand. You are responsible for purchasing your own airline tickets.
Plane tickets should be purchased 2+ months in advance. After purchasing plane tickets, please send itinerary to the VC.
There are a few different travel plans to arrive in the Cap Haitien airport. It is very difficult to travel to COTP all in one day at times and if you hope to your plane tickets will likely need to be booked farther in advance. Plan to spend the night either at a hotel in Florida or in the airport.
American Airlines has begun flying directly from Miami to Cap Haitien. This is most likely the cheapest option flying to Cap Haitien. However, feel free to do some flight shopping if you want to see for yourself. www.aa.com
IBC Airlines has flights from Miami International airport (MIA), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), and West Palm Beach (PBI) directly into the Cap Haitien airport. If planning on flying through IBC, we recommend checking IBC flights before purchasing any flights to Florida. IBC only has flights from certain airports on specific days. www.ibctravel.com If flying IBC you will likely also have to pay an exit fee upon leaving the country. This may have changed so please ask when booking your ticket.
Please note that we highly encourage you to fly into and out of CAP instead of PAP. If you fly through PAP you can miss the last flight of the day to CAP or have to fly back to PAP the day prior to leaving, you will need to change airports in PAP via a taxi, and safety in CAP is dramatically better than in PAP. If you chose to fly through PAP please contact the VC for more details before booking your ticket.
Arriving in CAP from the USA
If you are arriving in CAP from a direct flight from the USA…
You will exit the plane and go through customs. Hang on to your green card that the official will hand you, as you will need it when exiting. Once you have your bag, you will be directed to the customs table where they will most likely open and look through your bag. This shouldn’t take too long and is part of the process. Please note that if you are bringing a large amount of baby formula and/or medical supplies, you may be charged for customs. If you are planning on bringing a large supply of formula, be prepared that you may need to pay extra for customs. Depending on the amount of supplies you are bringing, the extra cost of customs can be between $20-$100USD. (Price is negotiable so offer half of what is asked and negotiate from there.)
Please exit the airport to find our driver who will be looking for you. Rikerns, photo on right, is our main driver who will likely be picking you up.
If you are arriving in CAP from the PAP airport…
After you arrive in the Cap Haitian airport, you can grab your luggage and walk out. You do not need to go through customs again in the CAP airport.
After you have your bags, walk outside and look for our driver, Rikerns. He will be wearing a COTP shirt. If for some reason you do not see anyone wearing a COTP shirt and/or holding a sign with your name on it, do not panic. Wait inside and ask an official airport worker if they know who Rikerns is (he’s a popular guy around there!). If after 10-15 minutes you still don’t see a driver, call one of the contact numbers for COTP--you can ask a security guard to borrow their phone (if they seem to want a tip, a buck or two would be fine as calls are very cheap in Haiti.)
Customs and Immigration Information
The airline bringing you into Haiti will give you 2 cards to fill out on the plane. One is for your temporary visa and the other is the customs form.
When you enter through customs all foreigners will need to pay a $10 USD entrance fee.
Entrance fee: $10
Exit fee: $60 (ONLY if flying IBC, American Airlines does not require an exit fee.)
Airports in Haiti will be overwhelming. Be prepared for people to help roll your bags, direct you, get you further in line, etc. You can tell them “no, mesi” but that does not promise that they won’t still help you. If they help you, at all, they will expect a tip. It is up to you whether or not you wish to tip them, depending on their help. We suggest bringing some $1 bills to give as tips in the airport if you are so inclined.
If anything unexpected happens, flight cancelled or delayed, please call this number (or email the volunteer coordinator):
If you do not have a cell phone, find an official and ask if you may borrow it. If the official asks for a tip, $1USD should be appropriate.
FOOD AND LODGING
Food and Drink
The cooks will prepare breakfast and lunch every day, besides Sunday. We serve Haitian and American meals. The Haitian meal typically includes rice, beans/bean sauce, meat (chicken/beef), plantains, and other typical Haitian foods. Examples of American meals are hamburgers, sloppy joes, tacos, burritos, pasta, casserole/hot dish. If you have specific dietary restrictions please let us know ahead of time.
Leftovers are stored in the fridge inside a container. Any leftovers that you do not plan to eat may be given to our gate worker who will give them to a family in town.
Volunteers are responsible for cleaning their own dishes. There is a cleaning lady who sweeps, mops, and cleans up the volunteer house, but your dishes are not her responsibility. She will do them if they are there, so try your best to help her out and keep up with your own dishes. Thank you!
Some staples are provided in the volunteer house:
Foods for extra cost:
Upon request (no additional cost):
You are responsible for preparing your own dinner. Be prepared ahead of time what you want for dinners and pack accordingly. You may want to bring:
Group Tip: It works well with a large group to have 1 or 2 people in charge of meal planning for the time spent volunteering. This makes meal prep and food packing easier and better planned.
Coke and Sprites are available for volunteers. Volunteers are limited to one a day. After taking one out of the fridge, please put a warm one back so it is cold for the next. All empty bottles are placed back in the racks under the sink.
Filtered drinking water is found in the water cooler placed in the volunteer house. Use this water for drinking and also for brushing teeth. Do not drink tap water. Water that will be boiled is okay to use from the tap. COTP has one location on the campus with a water filter and UV light. This is where we all fill up our drinking water containers.
The volunteer house has four bedrooms, common area, bathrooms/showers, and a shared kitchen. The volunteer house is equipped with sheets and towels. You will either have a twin or full-size bed. You may choose to bring your own towel and sheets then leave it at the end of your trip - which is always helpful! Not only does it make your suitcase lighter.
The laundry staff does the volunteer laundry on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. If coming in a group, only wash clothes that are extremely in need of a wash and can not wait until returning home. With large groups, laundry can build up quickly for the laundry ladies.
You are responsible for keeping the lodging area clean in the volunteer house. The cleaning staff is not responsible for doing your dishes or picking up garbage. Be respectful as you are not the only one using that space.
One of the beautiful things about living in Haiti is that it offers the opportunity to experience a place that is very unlike the world in which we all live. We are blessed and comfortable in the first world, but we run the risk of not putting our full reliance and faith in God if we do not have perspective on our position. Therefore, we want to do our best to encourage you to take a break from first world living in order to gain perspective.
There is a computer in the common space in the volunteer house. This computer is for you to use for brief emails home. Remember, you will be in Haiti and the internet may not always be fast or even work. Be sure to tell family that you may not be able to check in every day. If you are staying at COTP for one week, personal devices will not be given access to COTP wifi. However, if you are staying for 2 weeks or longer, we will allow you to have access.
Facebook is off limits in the volunteer house. COTP has a strict photo policy and eliminating the opportunity for photo sharing is one of the main reasons for restricting Facebook. We are not Facebook friends with every volunteer and can not supervise each shared photo. Also, Facebook can be a real time-sucker. Take the time to step back from being connected while you are at COTP.
Please make sure to contact your Community Health Department for their recommendations regarding immunizations for traveling to Haiti. You can also go to the CDC website (http://www.cdc.gov). You should also make sure you have adequate health insurance that will cover you in Haiti. It may be a good idea to ask your doctor for a broad spectrum antibiotic to bring with you.
You are in an environment very different than the one your body is use to. There are different bacteria in Haiti that you may be susceptible to.
GENERAL RULES AND IMPORTANT POLICIES
Remember while you are in Haiti, you are immersed into a different culture. Clothes that may be more modest at home may be very immodest in Haiti. Haitians place a lot of importance on how they dress. We expect the same from you. We understand that you may be doing work projects and we do not expect you to dress in your Sunday best during those hours :)
Be prepared to have at least a few nicer outfits for opportunities to go into town.
-knee length or longer skirts
-long shorts (no more than 4 inches above the knee)
-bikini swim suits
-short shorts, short running shorts (unless going on an actual run)
-leggings or spandex
-guys without shirts
-tops or pants that show midriff
-ladies low necklines
-shirts with bra/sports bra straps showing
-men or women cut off muscle shirts/tank tops
Remember you are on the mission field. All of the staff watches you and what you are doing. We expect our volunteers to glorify God through their behavior and dress.
Absolutely no photos are allowed for one day visitors. For others volunteering for longer than one day, we have strict photo policies. First, we encourage volunteers to wait a few days before taking out their cameras. This allows you to get to know the kids and nannies before taking their pictures. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if someone came to your work and started taking pictures of you? Yeah…pretty awkward, right?
Below lists our photo policy
To follow Haitian law and the Hague Adoption Laws we must hold strict photo policies. The reason for these policies is also for the protection of our children. Unfortunately, when pictures are posted on the web they are free for anyone in the world to take and use as they wish. Even if your blog is marked as a “private” blog, people can still access your pictures.
A few pointers…
We want you to walk away with many photos to highlight your time spent at COTP. We want you to go home and share them with your friends, family, and church family. Remember that our website and Facebook page is booming with pictures of our kiddos. Feel free to direct your friends and family to those sites!
All communication with adoptive parents should be left to COTP staff. Volunteers are not allowed to send adoptive parents pictures or updates on their children. International Adoption Laws require all information and updates to go through the adoptive family’s adoption agency. Breaking these laws can put an adoption at risk, as well as our ability to process adoptions.
Our children come from a variety of situations and backgrounds. We want to do our best to respect their families, biological and adoptive. You may ask staff member about children, but they typically are not allowed to share the entire story. Please respect this while you are here and don’t put our staff in an awkward situation. The international staff is not allowed to share biological family information, adoptive family information, or personal medical information.
If you encounter staff having a private conversation about a child, please give them space to do so and do not probe them with questions.
Child Home Etiquette
Our child homes are a very intentional shift in the model of care we provide for children going through the adoption process. We have made this shift largely due to attachment issues and better emotional and brain development for the kids we serve. Because of this, volunteers are not allowed to go back to the child homes unless invited by house parents, doing a specific job or activity with the kids.
It would be strange for an unknown person to show up at your doorstep and ask to play with your kids, kiss them on the face, and snuggle them. The same should be true for these families. The primary caregivers (house parents and child home nannies) are just that—and we want to highlight that rather than detract from it.
If you are involved with kids from child homes please don’t treat them like you have known them for a long period of time, if the child is hurt or crying, please redirect them to one of their primary caregivers for comfort and support. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself what kind of behavior you would expect from someone visiting your house that did not know your kids prior to them arriving.
EXPECTATIONS AND DAILY ROUTINE
Each volunteer is here to work and serve in the current needs of COTP. The current status of COTP at the time you volunteer will have a large impact on what your duties will be. While coming to serve at COTP, we expect our volunteers to do the work that is assigned to him or her for the duration of their stay.
With the switch in our model of care, volunteer involvement with the children will look differently than in the past. There are more guidelines as a volunteer you will need to follow.
Each volunteer has varying experiences. Before coming to Haiti, make sure to be in contact with the VC. Share what skills and talents you are bringing down. We love when we can find projects that fit your skills well. When this happens, your experience is significantly more valuable and you will feel like you spent your time well.
Monday through Friday
**If you are a group leader, you will work along with the VC on a weekly schedule for the group prior to your trip.
Individuals coming will normally not receive a schedule other than what is provided in this handbook. If you are coming by yourself, you will be working independently or with other volunteers who may be here at the same time.
You will find out quickly after landing in Haiti that Haitian culture is much different than North American culture. Haitians are relational people. They are joyful amongst great struggles. Here are some pointers before volunteering.
Please do not give out cash to small children or those who ask on or outside of our campus. This causes longer-term issues with our volunteers who come after you. If you are concerned about the need in which someone needed help, please talk to a long-term staff about it and we can decide together how to handle the situation.
You are a guest in this country, therefore your way of doing something may be different than the norm in Haiti. When in Haiti, do as the Haitians do. You are here to serve, not to push your western knowledge onto workers.
Greet people! Like we said before, Haitians are relational people. When you walk into a room or are working on a work project with someone, greet them with a smile and say “bonjou” or “bonswa” (good morning, good afternoon). If you encounter someone and don’t greet them it will be perceived as rude.
Dating and social behavior is culturally different in Haiti. What you think is simply being friendly and light flirting, can quickly get out of hand. People may misinterpret your intentions or you theirs. If one of our employees or someone else approaches you in a flirty manner please let our VC know and we can be aware of the situation. Dating is absolutely not allowed between short-term volunteers and our Haitian staff or community members.
Do not make any promises you can’t keep. Haitians take your word very seriously. If you tell someone to bring you something, they will do so and will find you. So do not say you want something when you have no intentions of buying it or keeping it. Also, if you take a photo of a nanny or worker, many times they will ask for the photo. Unless you have full intentions of mailing the photo back to COTP once you return home, do not say yes.
Haitians know their country is poor. Don’t go on about how much garbage there is or pollution or other problems you see. They already see those things. Be respective of their country and save those conversations for another time.
The majority of our staff only speaks Creole. A few of staff speak English. Many Haitian staff understand more English than they let on, so be aware of that. Always be careful what you say because someone may understand you. This should be a general rule for anywhere, not just in at COTP. Try your best to learn phrases in Creole to help you communicate with the staff. If you do not understand someone, try to find someone who speaks Creole & English to help you. There is a binder in the volunteer house with some helpful Creole lesson available at anytime.
Here are a few phrases to work on before you come:
Bonjou/bonswa - good morning/good afternoon
Ale - go Koman ou rele? - What is your name?
Mesi - thank you M’ rele… - My name is…
Bibon - bottle M’ap vini - I’m coming back, I’m coming
Chita - sit zanmi - friend
Manje - eat, food pa komprann - do not understand
Vini - come kontan - happy
Sivouple - please fatigue - tired
Mache - walk Sispann - stop (an action)
Souri - smile Jwe - play
COTP has many constant needs that can easily be met through volunteers filling up their suitcases. Before zipping up your travel bag, e-mail the volunteer coordinator in Haiti and check if there are current needs that would be easy for you to bring down.
Also, many people mean well and bring things they think we need and can use. But, if we don’t, or have too many or don’t know other people or institutions that can use those things they can go to waste. If you have things you think you should bring to give us--please ask first! We’d much rather have you fill your bags taking up precious cargo space with things we actually need!
Haiti will not be what you expect it to be. It will be what it is. The people you stay with will not be what you expect them to be. They will be who God made them to be - imperfect people that need His help just as much as you do.
Anyone who serves at COTP is a reflection of the organization. In many ways, you will be the face of the organization to the kids, workers, and anyone you meet while in Haiti; no matter how long or short your stay. Each word and act has an impact on those we serve in Haiti. You will be asked to do and not do several things during your time at COTP. Our requests and guidelines are based on years of work in Haiti. Unfortunately, many are based on mistakes we and those working with us have made in the past. We have seen and had to repair the negative impacts of seemingly innocent decisions. For example, giving cash to kids outside our gate. Our guidelines seek to keep volunteers safe and protect the relationships of our long term staff with the local community, we cannot ask you enough to strictly adhere to these guidelines.
Often our definition of helping needs to change drastically if we want to make any long-term difference in a place like Haiti. Remembering that your definition and the definition of the organization you are working with may not line-up is an important thing. Remembering that the organization has probably changed its definition many times based on in- country experience is an even more important thing.
Still interested in volunteering? Fill out the application, sign the waiver and send to email@example.com.
If you have questions concerning the first steps in the application process or have a question about putting a team together to come serve, please email us and give us a day or two to respond.
Children of the Promise Staff