With a great group of Canadian and Haitian volunteers, I am seeing a dream come true. Growing up in Chilliwack, BC I had the privilege to meet some amazing "lady missionaries", as they were then called. Dorothy Williams, Kayy Gordon, Jackie Pullinger....these were heroines I actually got to shake hands with (before we had 'selfies'!) Theses bold women paved the way for girls like me - small town, no university education, big ideas, faith in a big God - to try to change the world.
Having lived all over Canada, my English husband, Jason, and I have put down our roots in Burlington, Ontario. We love being in this part of this beautiful country and seeing our daughters (Shantaya, born in Malawi 2004 and Divna, born in Haiti 2008) thrive and grow with happiness, freedom and joy.
I'd love to hear from you - and encourage you with the dreams God has put in your heart. You can send me a quick note or introduce yourself on Facebook (Nicola Mansell Topsom) or Instagram florianaweddingandfashions.
If you visit see Niagara Falls, I might see you at the Tim Horton's there - one of the best views on earth!
Abigail (my only sister, two years younger) lives in St John's, Newfoundland with her husband Jason and two young sons, Sterling and Henry. Abbi works at the Cancer Centre as a Radiation Therapist. As a busy mum, we are thrilled to have her give her time and energy to this project. Indeed, it was her idea to try it in Haiti!
Abbi will be focusing on our up cycle sewing project - we plan to set up widows and older orphans in their own home-based business, making items to sell from older or damaged gowns. Stay tuned for our Etsy account coming soon.
Abigail's first journey to the Floriana project and Haiti was a dream come true for both or us. What a joy to have my sister as a co-founder and support!
Nancy James met me on a Friday, visited with me the next day, and booked her visit to Floriana Haiti on the Monday. This soft spoken lady has a heart as big as her smile.
Nancy was an adventurous and thoughtful traveller - she rode on a motorbike taxi ("moto") like it hadn't been 25+ years since her last bike ride! Our Haitian team loved "Mom Nancy" right from the get to, and she has taken them and the project under her wise and loving wing.
Nancy is married to Rev. Orville James, the senior minister at Wellington Square United Church (Burlington, ON). They have three grown children and are soon to be grandparents for the first time!
Jazmin LaFrombaise and Moriah Sutherland were the two Canadians that joined our Floriana Haiti team to open the first store, March 2015.
Moriah is from Stony Plain, Alberta and this was her first visit to Haiti. Moriah works as an Emergency Responder and once lived on an acreage without running water for a year - she was a fantastic asset! Moriah tackled each new challenge with a willing attitude and great sense of humor - trying to translate "nails" into Kreyol, the translator thought she wanted a manicure, not construction supplies!
Jazmin works as a realtor in Spruce Grove, Alberta and had been on two previous visits with me. Jazmin found the perfect location for our project site and brought her wisdom, experience and work ethic to make the opening a wonderful accomplishment. Jazmin, Jesse and their new baby girl continue to be a great support to Floriana.
Caleb Antoine lives with his grandfather, mother and extended family on the west side of Port-au-Prince. His father was murdered in a political riot when Caleb was 2 years old. He is the second youngest of 10 children...the youngest was born a few months after their father was killed.
Caleb is making plans to open the second Floriana Wedding & Fashions store. Until we can raise funds for the deposit (landlords require a minimum 6 months rent in advance), Caleb travels by bus across the city to help Wadley (his cousin) and Roro.
If you join Caleb and his family on a Sunday visit to church in Carrefour, you'll have the joy of hearing him play drums in the band. Caleb is "calm, cool and collected" and we are blessed to have him as part of our team!
Odelin Brissault, RoRo to his friends and family, was the friend that Wadley chose when he had to pick somebody to launch this project with. RoRo and his extended family of 10 were earthquake refugees (January 2010). They lived in a tent...yes, an emergency shelter tent, for over two years. Finally, a more permanent house was built on the campsite.
RoRo is thoughtful, mature and incredibly reliable. Canadian sponsors helped him get his driver's licence and he is practicing to be our permanent driver. RoRo is working on a pilot project - a barber shop for grooms and customers. He works hard to support his family, including his little niece, Rodhencia (born June 2015).
Robyn and Tyler Gregory live their three fantastic kids in Spruce Grove, AB. Robyn came with me in June 2014 to scout out opportunities and potential project work and was such a help to all of us. She and Tyler continue to be major contributors to the Floriana project. Robyn's compassion and kindness has always brought joy to everyone around her.
Wadley Marcelin first helped a team I was with back in 2008. When he actually got his assigned job done in half a day (get the gates up and working on the church property - a task I was told "could not be finished" for nearly six months), I knew here was a handy guy. Wadley tells people he auditioned for the role of project manager for 7 years, and that's true!
Wadley met RoRo in an orphanage at the age of 12. Both of these young boys had living parents, desperate to give their sons an opportunity to learn English and receive medical care, nutrition and education. It was not all it was promised. That orphanage director is currently serving a life sentence in Florida. Wadley and Roro's experiences took them to Miami to testify in court against his evil actions.
Now Wadley, who has the nickname "Ti - Boss", (slang for Petite Boss), has a dream to care for orphans. He recently legally adopted his sister's child, Layhenka, after her birth father abandoned them. Ti-Boss is a man with a plan, and we are thankful that he continues to be trustworthy and motivated with all the responsibility of running Floriana in Haiti.
We look forward with great anticipation to see all of our team members' dreams come true!