A few weeks before he asked her to marry him, Nick Stolberg promised to his soon to be wife Nikki that they would live abroad for at least a year.
“He agreed because he had already purchased the ring,” Nikki said during a phone call with The Reflector. “He thought by the time I was done with college I would be ready to settle down and have a normal life. He didn’t think he would have to fulfill that promise.”
More than eight years after moving from Ridgefield to Haiti, working at two orphanages and starting their own farm called “New Roots Haiti,” that promise Nick made to Nikki has turned into a lifelong commitment.
“I was very passionate about this when we started it; I’m a hundred times more passionate about it now. Just seeing how this farm has jump-started the economy and created sustainable jobs for these people has been really huge,” Nick said.
“My mission is to work with these men and women and help them become better parents, better spouses and better community members,” he added. “Alot of the people working for us are transitioning into leadership roles in the community and in the church, and I think that’s really awesome.”
New Roots Haiti is located in the village of Chiron, 45 miles away from the city of Cap Haitien. The Stolbergs have 13 full-time and eight part-time employees working on their 13-acre farm. They built a butcher shop at the end of 2017 and deliver chickens all over Cap Haitien.
Nikki has “seen an incredible change” in their village since New Roots opened. Parents are able to enroll their children in higher quality schools. People are starting their own small businesses with the money they earned from working on the farm. Providing this type of empowerment was what Nikki and Nick dreamed of while working at the Children of the Promise orphanage for the first five years they lived in Haiti. They saw so many desperate mothers who didn’t want to put their children up for adoption but didn’t have the means to take care of them.
“I’m a mom of four children and I can’t imagine not being able to provide for their needs or having to choose which one of them got to eat that day,” Nikki said. “Just giving these people the power to take that burden off of themselves so they can be the moms and dads they wish to be is just so amazing. I can’t imagine us doing anything else.
“We’ve been here for more than eight years. It’s just home,” she added. “We love what we’re doing. We love who we work with. Our crew is phenomenal and has become part of our family.”
The decision to move to Haiti didn’t sit well with Nick’s parents, Mark and Karen Stolberg, or Nikki’s mother, Kia Cole.
“My reaction to the news when Nick and Nikki told me they were selling or giving away everything they owed to move to Haiti was not what they had hoped for, and looking back, it was a very selfish reaction,” Cole recalled. “As a mother, I was fearful for them. But who am I to say where they should or should not go if that is where God has led them. So letting go and accepting their decision was many months in the making.”
After watching New Roots expand in its first two years, they know their son and daughter are making the right choice. Mark Stolberg said many of the older houses in Haiti were woven together with sticks and mud, but now there are new homes popping up that are made out of concrete blocks.
“The people have more hope. They’re actually making that kind of change,” Mark said. “And then that change provides them with a way of avoiding those situations where they would have to take their child to the orphanage. That’s exactly what (Nick and Nikki) wanted.”
“I could not be more proud of Nick and Nikki for their dedication to making a real difference in people lives,” Cole said. “It is a huge sacrifice to leave your family, friends, your jobs and comfortable way of living to go to a third world country, one of the poorest at that, to put others before yourselves. They have made more sacrifices and have had to go through so much, but continue to persevere, because serving others in where their heart is at.”
Nick never regrets the day he decided to embrace this adventure with Nikki.
“When we moved to Haiti, we sold our cars. We told our family a year, but I kind of knew in the back of my mind that it was going to be a lot longer,” Nick said. “It’s not just a one-year thing. If we really wanted to make a true impact in people’s lives, it needed to be a much longer commitment.”
Nikki is thankful for the support from back home. New Roots has received close to $50,000 in donations since their Giving Tuesday fundraiser started Nov. 27, 2018. Those donations have come from members of the Ridgefield Church of the Nazarene and people all over the United States and Canada.
“You’re never too small to make a difference. We’re just two kids from Ridgefield,” Nikki said. “Thank you to everybody for believing in us and this crazy vision and helping it come to life. It takes a village. We couldn’t do it without each and every person that’s alongside us.”