Tag Archives: Haiti

Like any developing nation after disaster, Haiti has progressed “piti piti” (little by little)

After living in Haiti for two years where Martha and I worked with World Concern, I returned to the U.S. a couple weeks ago.  Aside from getting used to much colder weather and way too many cereal options at the grocery store, I have been attempting to answer, as best as possible, all kinds of questions about Haiti.

Destruction after the earthquake shook Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010.

One of the most common questions has been how the country is doing since the 2010 earthquake—Haiti’s strongest in two centuries, claiming more than 230,000 lives. This tells me that perhaps not everyone has forgotten about Haiti and that fateful day on January 12, 2010.

And break.  This is a teaser:)  To hear more about how Haiti is progressing and what challenges remain, check out the rest of this post on the World Concern blog where it was originally posted a couple days ago.  We want to direct attention to the main World Concern blog as we transition out so you can become familiar with the site and all that it has to offer.  It is a great way to keep up with what is happening around the world and in Haiti.  Thanks for clicking and reading!

Giving thanks always and continually

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Oh fall. If you were only with me in Haiti. Taken in Colorado in October.

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States and although today is like any other day for us in Haiti, I can’t help but reflect on the whole giving thanks thing.    All in all I have a lot to be thankful for—food to eat, a roof over my head, a loving wife, genuine community, and good health for starters.

This isn’t always true but in general I wonder if it is easier to pick out what we’re thankful for when we’re encouraged to do so on one particular day.

But what about the other 364 days of the year?

This is what I’m asking myself this morning—how am I doing with giving thanks with a grateful heart on all the non-Thanksgiving days?  And if I could add up the moments when I expressed my gratitude on these other 364 days, how many of those would have been during a moment when all is well and in order compared to the chaotic or discouraging moments?

A friend of ours recently wrote about remaining thankful despite the valleys we sometimes find ourselves in.  I found her words encouraging and relevant to the questions I’ve been asking.  She shared the following verse:

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Always.  Continually.  All circumstances.  Give thanks not just on one day and not just haphazardly either but do it well, do it often, and do it with rejoicing.

What a beautiful and hopeful calling.  I’m choosing to trust that today on Thanksgiving and on all the other days of the year, God will give me the strength and grace necessary to live out this calling through Christ Jesus.

I’m also encouraged by people here in Haiti like Manoucha.  We recently visited this young woman who has faced tough challenges yet still manages to keep moving forward.

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Manoucha shows off her beautiful smile.

We met her for the first time in the summer of 2013 after she received a goat through World Concern’s Hope to Kids program.  The program is meant to provide students with a goat—and therefore a source of income—which can help them pay for school and meet their basic needs.

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Manoucha walks from her church to her home in the seaside village of Crabier, Haiti.

Manoucha is a little old for her grade at school.  As a 20-year-old she is in the same grade as her 16-year-old sister, Dieunike, because health issues in past years have kept her out of school and at home.

“Now I am well but sometimes I still get sick which means I cannot go to school or work,” Manoucha said.

It hasn’t been an easy road however she was able to begin school this year on time, for the second year in a row, and is now only two years away from graduating high school!

“I choose to keep giving effort at school so that I can one day help my family,” she said.  “I want to study to become a nurse because I like this.  Then if someone in my family is sick I can help them.”

Manoucha is already finding ways to help her family.  Her goat has given offspring and she gave one of the kids to her sister Dieunike so she can also benefit.   The gift of one goat has a multiplying effect within this family.  It is encouraging to see Manoucha continue to persevere despite her challenges.

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Manoucha with her sisters Dieunika (middle) and Nadine (far right) outside their house.

 

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Dieunika and her goat.

The call to “rejoice always” in 1 Thessalonians is for all of us whatever season of life we find ourselves in. This is an important reminder for me today but also for tomorrow and all the other tomorrows in this next year and I hope it gives you hope as well.

Happy Thanksgiving to our American friends and family.

They say a photo is worth a thousand words

One of the ways Martha and I communicate the impact of World Concern’s work in Haiti is through photography.  Actually Martha does all the photography.  My work begins when we get back from the field and I try to put into words what we experienced and learned from people.  As Martha takes photos, I carry the bags, provide moral support and try to chat up the people we are taking photos of to make them feel more at ease.  I suppose you could call me the photographer’s assistant.

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The photographer’s assistant (left) who will remember to get a photo of the photographer next time.

Visual communication is becoming more and more important to capture people’s attention in our fast-paced and digitized world.  Did you know photo posts on Facebook get 38% more interaction than those without a photo?  This trend is true on social media but also in print or elsewhere on the web.  Basically people respond positively to photography and other forms of visual expression.

So for an organization like World Concern who has a cause to promote and a story to tell, high-quality and thoughtful visual communication is really important.  This is a primary reason why Martha and I are here in Haiti—to use our skills in communication to move people to a place of empathy and then action.

Perhaps you’re wondering what we do with all the photos we (err, Martha) take.  They are used in reports to partners, on social media, in marketing materials like a brochure, and sometimes even a calendar!

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This summer Martha entered a few photos in a contest run by one of our partners, USAID/OFDA for their 2015 USAID/OFDA Disaster Risk Reduction Calendar [PDF].  I was confident at least one would be chosen (a little bias and overly confident perhaps) but neither of us expected for two of her photos to be chosen!  Check out the cover (also above) and the month of March to see how World Concern is involved in Disaster Risk Reduction.  These calendars will be distributed to partners, staff and USAID colleagues around the world.  This is fantastic exposure for World Concern and our work in Haiti.

Another recent example of what Martha’s photography is used for can be seen in World Concern’s 2014 Global Gift Guide.  This booklet is a primary way that World Concern raises money each year.  Martha’s photo of a girl named Encise, who we first met in 2012 but most recently visited in July, is being used as the cover photo for this year’s Global Gift Guide!  If have contributed to our work in Haiti financially or have given a gift to World Concern before you may find a copy on your doorstep shortly.  See if you can spot any other photos from Haiti in it.

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Martha and I have the privilege of traveling throughout Haiti to see firsthand these important projects and meet the people World Concern is working alongside.   We realize many others do not have that chance, so we’re grateful when our photos or stories or anything else we produce for that matter can be used to educate, encourage and inspire others to action.

A Vet Clinic to Remember a Giant

A group shot at the end of the day of everyone who participated in the vet clinic.

A group shot at the end of the day of everyone who participated in the vet clinic.

There are some people who seem larger than life itself.  Somehow these special individuals are able to fit more into one lifetime than many of us could in several.  Sometimes it’s their zeal for life or pure genius or professional accomplishments.  For Dr. Keith Flanagan, who was known as “Dr. Keith” to many, it was the way he tirelessly spent himself for others over the course of his 26 years of service in Haiti.

I never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Keith.  He passed away suddenly a year ago when Martha and I were new to Haiti and still meeting people.  I wish I had.  However we have had the joy of getting to know his wife Jan who is still in Haiti and attends our church.

Dr. Keith served in Haiti with Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM) which is a sister organization to World Concern.  CVM sends out veterinary professionals to serve in the U.S. and beyond.  Dr. Keith was a vet and was involved in everything from helping the government do vaccination campaigns to training folks in rural areas to become vet agents.

Hold on!  Cows don't like shots either.

Hold on! Cows don’t like shots either.

This past week marked the one year anniversary since Dr. Keith’s death.  To celebrate his life, a vet clinic was organized by the other CVM missionaries in Haiti and Haitian friends who were impacted by him.  Martha and I had the opportunity to travel with the group and document what we saw through photo, video, and interviews so Dr. Keith’s family and the CVM family could remember this special day.

Our good friend and CVM missionary, Rhoda, also participated in the vet clinic.  Here, she and Martha stop for a photo.

Our good friend and CVM missionary, Rhoda, also participated in the vet clinic. Here, she and Martha stop for a photo.

People in the village of Cabaye, one of the three villages part of the vet clinic, gather with their animals.

People in the village of Cabaye, one of the three villages part of the vet clinic, gather with their animals.

The clinic was held in three villages surrounding the town of La Chapelle, a three hour drive from Port-au-Prince.  This was an area that Dr. Keith invested in heavily during his ministry in Haiti.  Around 40 people, many of them community vet agents who were trained by Dr. Keith, came and volunteered their time for the day.  Three groups were formed (one for each village) and a cooler with vaccines and other medicines was given to each group.

Vaccines and medicines iced and ready to go.

Vaccines and medicines iced and ready to go.

Driving from La Chapelle to Cabaye.

Driving from La Chapelle to Cabaye.

We went out with one of the three groups and met all kinds of people who knew Dr. Keith.  One elderly man we met named Julien is a vet agent and was trained by Dr. Keith in 1990.  He remembered three separate trainings, each nine days long, that Dr. Keith gave on taking care of pigs, cattle and horses.  Julien still earns an income from his work as a vet agent, giving vaccines and doing castrations.

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It was really surreal to run into this man named Julien in a tiny village in rural Haiti and hear him say that because of Dr. Keith’s investment in him over 20 years ago, he’s still able to care for his animals and provide for his family by taking care of others’.  After speaking to a number of people like Julien throughout the day, it was clear that Dr. Keith had a significant impact on many people’s lives.

Wiltherne, a godchild of Dr. Keith and vet agent, doing great work!

Wiltherne, a vet agent trained by Dr. Keith, doing great work!

Dr. Keith was obviously a skilled veterinarian and a true professional.  It’s also obvious that he took genuine interest in people and sincerely loved them like Jesus would, whatever their story or background.  Both his skill and heart for others made him an effective vessel for Christ in Haiti for many years.

A time of reflection and sharing after lunch.

A time of reflection and sharing after lunch.

Here’s a short overview video Martha made of our day in La Chapelle.

 

What Would You Do?

Music and songs are one of the languages that really ‘speak’ to me, make me think about life, and move me. Just yesterday I heard a song whose tune seemed familiar (probably because it was a hit single when I was in high school). I stopped to really listen to the words this time. I have to be honest that the whole song is not the most wholesome story but it got me thinking and made a good point. The chorus says:

What would you do if your son was at home,
Cryin’ all alone on the bedroom floor
Cause he’s hungry and the only way to feed him is to
Sleep with a man for a little bit of money?
And his daddy’s gone, in and out of lock down,
I ain’t got a job now, he’s just smokin’ rock now.
So for you this is just a good time
But for me this is what I call life.

What would you do?! We don’t know the whole story of this woman but my mind was already going through questions and scenarios. Surely there’s got to be another option than selling your body to make a little money?!

But then I realized that maybe the point of the song is not the moral or ethical dilemma here. My mind quickly drifted to stories of people here in Haiti that left me wondering what I would do in their shoes.

What would you do if you were pregnant and discovered you have HIV which your husband passed to you? And if you say something you’re convinced he will leave, taking with him the security of an income.

What would you do if you were arrested and put in prison for stealing a goat but seven years later you are still in prison untried?

What would you do if you and your five children were suddenly left with no roof on your house after a hurricane and your limited income kept you from being able to repair it?

At first glance, I just see an HIV positive woman, a prisoner, and a victim. I might even see a promiscuous woman, a bad guy, and a lazy person. But once I meet them and talk to them, I begin to see the humanity behind each face and situation. I begin to see that things often aren’t as simple as they may have seemed when I was looking in from the ‘outside’. There is more than meets the eye—especially my judgmental eye.

I don’t mean to excuse bad decisions. I know that I have made plenty and experienced both consequences and grace. Life seems to be this intertwining of both personal decisions and things that we cannot control.

But bad decision or not, everybody has a story. The more I meet people who are different than me, the more I realize that no situation, no problem, no injustice has a simple solution.

Wendy and her husband visited us in Haiti last November and were able to meet some of the people World Concern works with in the South. At the end of their visit Wendy graciously shared some of her thoughts:

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Development isn’t simple. That’s why at World Concern we believe in taking the time to listen to people’s stories. That’s why we engage with the community and local leaders when planning what to do. That’s why we rely on experts in the field. Most of all, that’s why we must rely on God to keep us humble, to keep us engaged, and to give us wisdom on how to serve his children—whether HIV positive, prisoner, or victim.

Happy International DRR Day

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Today we celebrate the International Day for Disaster Reduction.  I have to say that before coming to World Concern, I was not really aware of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and the magnitude of its importance.  I knew that prevention was important but I often only thought of it within the realm of health.   The more I see and hear about DRR and the devastating impact of hurricanes and other disasters, the more I believe that we can no longer be a people of reaction.  We have to think ahead–imagine the unimaginable.  Not for the sake of freaking ourselves out and burdening ourselves with worry but for the sake of being prepared and preventing unnecessary loss.

“Every time something very dramatic happens we hear people say, ‘Oh we could not have imagined that this would happen.’  So I would say really the first thing that we have to do is to start imagining what can happen.  To actually acknowledge that this may happen to me as well.” 1

– Margareta Wahlstrom
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction

DRR is one of World Concern’s largest focuses here in Haiti.  Community meetings, trainings, building canals.  Yes, it’s nowhere near as glamorous as digging wells or giving goats to young children so they can go to school (both of which are very important to development), but sometimes we need to take off our “I-only-see-glamorous-development glasses” and ask ourselves what is important.

So what does DRR actually look like?  Take a look at some ways World Concern is working to decrease the risks and improve preparedness vulnerable communities in Northwest Haiti.

11-DRR Training for Staff_NW Haiti_CIDRR Presentation Photos_2013Knowledge is power safety   Community Mobilizers are trained in topics related to DRR as well as water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).  They then go into the communities to hold trainings in order to raise awareness and increase preparedness among the vulnerable population.

16A-Canal Construction Djerilon_NW Haiti_CIDRR Presentation Photos_2013Canals to prevent flooding   This canal in the community of Jerilon, which is located in the city of Port-de-Paix, is one of several being constructed in Northwest Haiti to prevent flooding in surrounding homes.   They are carefully built at the right capacity and strength to handle heavy rains during rainy season and hurricanes.

Loading Materials_NW Haiti_CIDRR_8-13__26A shelter during natural disaster   Roofing materials are loaded into a truck headed for Northwest Haiti.  There, schools and church buildings are renovated to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes to ensure the whole community has a safe shelter to go to during the next natural disaster.

SchoolsPreparedness in schools   We are working with schools in five different communities in the city of Port-de-Paix to create emergency plans that they can use in the case of disaster.  Administrators and teachers are also given training in disaster management.

Xavier Alix farmer_NW Haiti_CEDRA_5-13Agricultural security   In 2012, drought caused $20 billion dollars of economic loss in the Americas.  Yes, billion.  Drought resistant seeds which require less water can help farmers like Xavier Alix feed his family despite changing weather patterns.

So Happy International Day for Disaster Reduction!  Thanks for taking the time to be informed and consider imagining the unimaginable.

Want to dig deeper?

*  I would recommend this 5-minute video based on the 2013 Global Assessment Report for Disaster Risk Reduction.  It touches on some of the different issues in DRR across the world today.

*  This is not just an issue affecting Haiti.  It must be considered in the US too.  This Guardian article talks of urban areas like New York, Boston, and Miami and the dangerous combination of their high risk of flooding and low preparedness.  “Inaction, could lead to losses in excess of $1 trillion a year [across the world].”

Out of Chaos, Light

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cha·os  noun  /ˈkāäs/

complete confusion and disorder : a state in which behavior and events are not controlled by anything

Confusion and disorder were some of the many words coming to mind this past week as I read the tragic headlines coming out of Nairobi, Kenya.  The Westgate shopping mall was sieged by militants from the radical group al-Shabaab, resulting in dozens of deaths and leaving at least 170 injured.  The firsthand accounts that have emerged are absolutely chilling and paint a picture of utter chaos.  As the attack finally comes to end, the process of grieving will undoubtedly begin.

Following such an evil act, I find myself looking for answers to make sense of it all.  Why?  What was the motivation?  How can this happen despite all the technology and surveillance and security measures available to us in the 21st century?  Was this preventable?  Although I was not affected personally by the attack, it is heart wrenching to see such senseless violence carried out against innocent people.

Thankfully there have been no mass shootings in Haiti recently on par with what happened in Nairobi this past week.  However even this week, I have asked some of these same difficult questions as I learned of tragedies here related to sickness, injustice and spiritual warfare.  It seems that both at a collective (macro) and personal (micro) level, chaos is very present.

So how can we deal with and respond to and overcome tragedy and pain and confusion and unanswered questions and heartache and darkness in our world?

The natural solution to darkness is light and I love how God uses this imagery throughout His redemptive story, beginning with creation.

The first two verses of the book of Genesis read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

Our pastor in Haiti has been teaching on this theme of light and explained recently that the Hebrew word translated as formless in this passage actually means chaos.  In the beginning the earth was in chaos.

And what was God’s answer to chaos?  Light.

Verses three and four say, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.”

Light brought form and stability and hope and goodness into a previously dark and chaotic place.

And this light and its life giving nature is available to us today through Jesus Christ.

Jesus said himself, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

So how can we deal with and respond to and overcome the difficulties and darkness in our world?  By turning to the author of life, the only one who can bring light to chaos.

Do questions and uncertainties remain?  Yes.

Does pain and grief disappear immediately?  No.

Honestly I still struggle with trying to understand tragedies like Westgate and also the everyday tragedies that we hear of in Haiti.  However I take comfort in knowing that there is an answer to all the chaos.

Note:  I should say that thankfully, all World Concern staff members in Nairobi have been accounted for and are safe.  This is certainly a difficult time for many people in Nairobi, but as our friend and colleague Kelly Ranck who is based in Nairobi recently wrote in a beautiful blog post, “Kenya will rise again!”  I encourage you to read more by clicking here.  

Photo Essay: Honoring our staff in Haiti

Today, August 19, is World Humanitarian Day.  According to the United Nations (UN), World Humanitarian Day is “a day to commemorate all people who have lost their lives in humanitarian service and to celebrate the spirit of people helping people that motivates this work.”  It was on August 19, 2003 that 22 aid workers were killed by a bomb in the UN headquarters in Baghdad.  So today we remember those who lost their lives and give thanks for all those who are serving each day.

At World Concern, Martha and I get to work with some incredible people.  Worldwide World Concern has approximately 1,000 staff members serving in some of the harshest environments. Call us bias, but we are especially blown away by World Concern’s staff in Haiti.  Our colleagues in Haiti are doctors, accountants, mechanics, engineers, agronomists, and business professionals. They are committed to doing their work faithfully and with excellence.  They also love Jesus and want to see people transformed spiritually as well as physically.  We have witnessed this firsthand since moving here in January.  To celebrate the World Concern staff in Haiti we wanted to share some photos with you of the people we have the pleasure of working with.  It is because of their dedication and hard work that many lives are impacted across Haiti.  On the World Concern blog today there is also a great post about a young man named Jean Berlin who Martha and I got to interview earlier this year.  His story is incredible.  I encourage you to check it out here!

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Microcredit in the late 1990s

One project Martha and I are currently working on is creating a booklet highlighting World Concern’s work in Haiti over the past 30 plus years.  This means doing some serious digging through old reports and files looking for important dates, photos and milestones in our organizations history in Haiti.  It is tedious work but definitely has its benefits.  One such benefit is finding fascinating details about projects we implemented 5, 10 and 20 years ago.  While looking through a report today from December 1998 through May 1999, I found the story of a woman named Mrs. Joseph Duclehomme.  This woman was part of World Concern’s microcredit program and shared about her experience.   

Her story read like this:

“My name is Mrs. Joseph Duclehomme.  I have three children and I am a member of the village bank ‘Bank Tet Ansanm’ (Head Together).  This is my first loan in the association.  I borrowed 1,500 gourdes ($100) from World Concern Haiti for six months.  My principal activities are buying basic food from a market and selling it to another local market.  After each market trip, I make a little profit and save some money to pay my loan.  I have already reimbursed five months capital and interest.  Next month I will pay my last installment.  Thanks to this loan, I can now pay for tuition for my children.  Before the loan, I paid about 50 – 100 gourdes a month for a tithe for my church.  Since I got the loan, I now pay around 100 – 150 gourdes a month.  I love my church because this is the place where I meet God every week.  I hope to see World Concern supporting more women in this locality because there are so many needs.”

And this is just one of many stories I have stumbled upon so far while doing research.

Women_Credit Training_WC Project Report Dec 1998 - May 1999

So this picture looks super old thanks to the poor resolution and lack of color (since it was scanned with a black & white scanner) but it is actually from the same report as the story above in 1999. Here, women are being trained in business management before receiving their first loan with World Concern.

 Beginning in 1989, World Concern Haiti began offering small loans to low income small business owners.  This program continues to this day and currently provides services to over 5,000 clients across the country.  Many merchants in Haiti are women.  In Haiti women are the backbone of the economy.  Therefore supporting them in their income generating activities is very important to ensuring that families in Haiti are able to meet their basic needs.

It is encouraging to see how World Concern has been impacting people in Haiti for quite some time, and especially women through microcredit.

Farming in Southern Haiti: The Uphill Battle

“Many people rely on their crops so when a hurricane comes it can take that away.  If you lose your crops, you have lost everything,” said Jean Sylvio Bernard, a World Concern supported farmer in southern Haiti.

Everything. 

His words have been ringing in my head ever since our conversation in late June.

I have been thinking about what exactly to share from our visit with Jean Sylvio and the other two farmers Martha and I met.  The more time I spend in Haiti and the more people I meet, the more serious I take my role as communicator and story-teller.  It can be intimidating to be the one responsible for sharing about this place and its’ people.  I am realizing this is no small task and requires much thought and genuine reflection.  Basically I want to get the story ‘right.’  The people of Haiti deserve it.

With that said, what I have decided to share is not as much about these farmers’ lack of wealth but about their vulnerability.  Poverty is much more complex than we would like to admit.  It is convenient to think of poverty in strictly economic terms but often times there is something deeper than simply a lack of money.  After our chat with Jean Sylvio and the others, their vulnerability is what stood out the most, not their financial situation.

In addition to meeting Jean Sylvio, we also had the opportunity to meet his brother Estimé Bernard and a neighbor named Lina Fidele.  All three are middle aged and have been farming in the area for 20 years.  They each are husbands and fathers, and all but Lina have grandchildren.  These men are considered ‘small’ farmers in Haiti, meaning they have a very small amount of land to work.  It depends on the season but common crops include tomatoes, beans, rice, okra, and corn.  Lots of corn.

3 Farmers at WC farm_Charlette Haiti_6-13

Estimé, Jean Sylvio and Lina (left to right) strike a pose for us at World Concern’s training center.

It should also be said that each of these men were familiar with World Concern long before the current project they are involved with.  Jean Sylvio had previously participated in an animal raising project and Estimé received a cow at some point.  This highlights how long World Concern has been working in these communities.

Pierre Duclona, World Concern’s regional coordinator for southern Haiti told me, “Although projects change, we try and work with the same people because relationships are important and we want to see long term change in people’s lives.”

We met the men at the World Concern agricultural training center near Charlette, a short drive outside of Les Cayes (the big town in southern Haiti and home to World Concern’s regional office).  I say ‘center’ because that is the easiest way to describe it; although it is basically a farm that has been turned into an outdoor classroom of sorts.  World Concern leases around 4 acres of land and uses it to conduct training’s for area farmers on a variety of topics—land conservation, tree grafting, reusing seeds, and preparing land for planting.  Here is a simple video of the land World Concern leases and uses to train farmers.  Currently papaya, peppers, watermelon, squash, and eggplant are growing here.

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“We received corn seeds and were trained on how to best plant,” shared Lina.  “We also learned about grafting and I’ve practiced that.  I have grafted mango and it is successful so far.”

Estimé also benefited from the tree grafting training.  “The grafting is something new.  Now I have a grafted mango tree at home growing,” he said.  “Grafting is important because it improves the quality of the mango.”

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Estimé proudly tells us about his newly grafted mango tree.  A branch from a mango tree that is healthy and produces a variety quickly is connected to a normal variety.  The result is a mango tree that produces fruit quickly and at a high quality. 

A technician is employed by World Concern to conduct the trainings and manage the farm.  The food that is grown here is sold and the money used to cover some program costs.  This is one way that World Concern is attempting to incorporate sustainability into its’ programs.

This support and training for farmers in southern Haiti is crucial because of the challenges they face.

Like most farmers in southern Haiti the men we met have no irrigation and rely only on rainfall which is becoming more and more unpredictable due to climate change.  Lack of access to high quality seeds and knowledge of how to reuse seeds year after year is another challenge.  Insects can be devastating for crops.  The majority of farmers lack the resources to purchase pesticides to kill off the pesky creatures.  Therefore, crops in Haiti are almost entirely ‘organic’ by default (a plus I suppose).

Also, without proper mechanization these farmers are often forced to work their land by hand which is slow, tedious and less efficient.  World Concern staff in the south estimated that 80-90% of farmers in Haiti still farm manually.  And inefficiency means that less land is plowed and prepared for planting which effects the amount of food produced and therefore the income of the farmer.

“I mostly only eat what I harvest because often it is not enough to sell,” commented Lina.

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Lina reaches for a papaya at the training center as he explains the growing process. These men are sharp and know the land well.

And it doesn’t end there.  Possibly the biggest threat these farmers face is to severe weather; namely hurricanes.  In 2012 two hurricanes, Isaac and Sandy, wreaked havoc on farmers across Haiti including in the south.  Following Sandy approximately 70% of all crops in the country were destroyed.

“Almost every farmer was impacted at that time.  Everyone has lost some of their crop which means you and your children may become hungry,” said Estimé.

“The hurricane destroyed so much.  I lost much of my corn because the water was so high.  The corn became spoiled,” piped in Lina.  “Every year [italics my own] the hurricanes come and often your crops will be destroyed.”

“This has repercussion on kids’ education too because when you have no crops you have no money and cannot pay school fees,” explained Jean Sylvio.

Jean Sylvio Bernard_Charlette Haiti_6-13

One of our light moments with Jean Sylvio. Perhaps the biggest smile in all of southern Haiti right here.

Jean Sylvio’s words that I shared at the beginning of this post summarize what all this means best; “If you have lost your crops you have lost everything.”

Aside from family and friends, there is no safety net in Haiti.  No crop insurance, no subsidies and limited alternative employment opportunities (especially outside heavily centralized Port-au-Prince).

They are vulnerable.

These men are fighting an uphill battle.  It is both equally frustrating and hopeful to know that it doesn’t have to be this way.

There is a river near Charlotte that will perhaps one day provide irrigation for these farmers if resources become available and if there is willingness on the part of the community to maintain and manage it (I think there would be).

Trainings given by World Concern to Jean Sylvio, Estimé and Lina helped them understand how to reuse seeds from year to year instead of buying new ones each season.

“Now I know how to conserve the seeds and how to protect the seed and cover it, and how to take care of the seed,” stated a confident Estimé.

Estimé Bernard with kenep (fruit)_Charlette Haiti_6-13

Estimé shows off a fruit he is growing called kenèp in Haitian Creole or quenêpe in French. Kenèp is a rare tropical fruit that grows all over Haiti. It is usually sweet and a bit sour at the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A World Concern tractor is shared among area farmers, allowing them to plow faster and more efficiently.  This is especially helpful and welcomed by the farmers we spoke with.  If there is some money, a farmer may rent oxen to help plow but this is not always possible.

“If you use oxen it will take four days to plow the land but with the tractor it may only take one day,” shared Lina.

“The tractor service is good but more tractors are needed to satisfy the needs of farmers in the area,” added Jean Sylvio.  “This area has fertile land and people are busy working but we need resources.”

Jean Sylvio peppers small1

Jean Sylvio letting us know all about peppers at the training center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food insecurity is a very real concern right now in rural Haiti due to a disastrous hurricane season in 2012.  The UN estimates that 1.5 million people are not able to access enough food.

For Jean Sylvio, Estimé and Lina there are always uncertainties however they are hopeful for a good harvest this summer thanks to support from World Concern and recent rain.

“I want to thank World Concern for the work it is doing.  If other organizations helped farmers like World Concern does, then they can move forward,” said Estimé as we were finishing our visit.

I wish I could say that these men and their families are no longer vulnerable, but they are.  Their situation cannot be improved overnight.  However I can say that World Concern is working diligently to strengthen and equip them.  This is encouraging.  World Concern has been serving farmers in Haiti for over 15 years and is committed to doing so for many more to come.