Tag Archives: rural

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.

julien with animals1

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.

 

The value of supporting local efforts

Marseille (left) and Jean (right) discuss with the other members in the background.

Marseille (left) and Jean (right) chat.  The other members are in the background.

In Haiti I am learning how crucial it is to work through existing channels, whether government or non-government partners, when implementing a project.  The sad reality is that in Haiti some (not all) projects fail to achieve the long term impact envisioned at the beginning.  This happens for a variety of reasons however one is that organizations and ministries often do not put the effort into understanding what channels or systems or initiatives already exist within a given community and then working through and alongside them.

Since Haiti is impoverished it may be tempting to assume that functioning channels do not exist but this just isn’t true!

One example is a local organization in the village of Lavaneau in south east Haiti.

I first visited Lavaneau in June 2012 on our initial trip to Haiti with World Concern before moving here permanently.  The community’s irrigation canal had been destroyed during hurricanes in 2008 and they were left to rely on rainfall for all their water needs.  World Concern offered materials and technical support but the organization was responsible for the construction and management of the canal that brought water down from the source and for four newly built water fountains.

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A couple weeks ago Martha and I had the opportunity to return to Lavaneau and were pleased to see the irrigation canal and four water fountains still serving the community.  But I was more pleased to see the quality of this local organization which World Concern worked with on the project and how they are still active, with no plans to slow down.

The organization is headed by a man named Jean Metelus.  He commands respect but is not intimidating.  When we arrived on this particular day he and other members of the organization, including the secretary, greeted us.

As we reached the canal and began chatting, Jean instructed the secretary to take notes of our meeting.

Organization members share about the project and their work.

Organization members share about the project and their work.

“The organization will celebrate its 23rd year of existence in 2014,” Jean shared.

Continuing he said, “Our organization has farmers, engineers, teachers, masons, pastors.  We work on projects in agriculture, small business, buildings.”

What tremendous human capital!  It was encouraging to hear the organization speak of the skills and resources that exist in the community and it was particularly impressive that these have been so clearly identified.  Although each community possesses certain strengths and resources, not all know exactly what those are and who has them within the community.

In addition to constructing a new irrigation canal that is 92 meters in length and four water points, the organization established a system for collecting fees which are used to help maintain this infrastructure and fund other projects in the community.

Farmers pay a small annual fee and in return can have access to two hours of water a week.  The water is disbursed by small gates that are built into the canal.  When a gate is lifted, water flows from the canal into the farmer’s field.  When we visited, some of the gates were not working properly but the organization says they plan to fix them.

The water collected at the four water points is free however a family can pay a fee of almost $2 a month if they want water piped directly to their home.

Girls collect water at one of the four water fountains

Girls collect water at one of the four water fountains

One thing that caught my eye was how clean the canal was.  I saw very little leaves or rubbish in the canal.  In Haiti canals are often used as dumping grounds.  I asked one community member about the cleanliness and he responded, “People are responsible for cleaning the section of canal in front of their house.”  This is an example of the far reaching impact this organization has had in the community.

When we were leaving Lavaneau I asked Marseille, World Concern’s project coordinator in south east Haiti, what it was about this organization that made it work.

“The strength of this organization is its history and that its members equally represent all 18 localites [small villages] within Lavaneau,” he said.  “Everyone in Lavaneau has a say.”

What do you think the outcome of this project would have been if World Concern came to Lavaneau and began work how they saw fit without consulting and working through this local organization?  At best the physical work would have been completed and may have lasted for a couple years before deteriorating.  At worst the project could have completely flopped early on leaving the community disempowered, disenchanted and still without consistent access to potable water.

I am not so naïve to believe that this local organization in Lavaneau is without flaw or that World Concern always does things well.  However I will say that World Concern in Haiti does understand the importance of community based action and the need for working through and supporting existing channels and Lavaneau is an example of this.

As we were preparing to leave Lavaneau one representative from the organization asked, “What do you think of our work?”

“It is good.  It is very good,” I said.

Driving through Lavaneau

Driving through Lavaneau

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.

[vimeo 70191128]

“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.”

Estimé grafting pic small1

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.

lina papaya pic small1

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.

Development is about people not stuff

Since coming to Haiti, I have been consistently reminded of how important relationships are when working in community development.  Although we all would like there to be quick solutions to huge problems, this just is not the reality especially when dealing with people.  And development is all about people.  It seems obvious but it can be easy to forget when success is determined by numbers–canals repaired, latrines built and drought resistant seeds distributed.  Simply put development is about people not stuff and since it is about people, relationships are key.

La Plate Meeting13

The road to La Plate–treacherous in spots but plenty of beauty for your eyes to feast on.

Most of World Concern’s work is in rural areas throughout Haiti.  One of the perks (and joys) of my job is getting to travel and visit World Concern’s projects.  Not only does this give me a break from the computer and the busyness of the city, I also get to see firsthand how World Concern is investing in relationships and working to empower people.

When visiting a community, it is almost guaranteed that there will be a meeting with key leaders and others from the area to discuss the project and to get their input.  Such meetings often occur under a tree, in a church or school or inside someone’s home.  The hospitality is top notch.  In preparation, chairs may be neatly set up and organized or a handful of flowers placed in a jar on a table.  Attending are often local World Concern staff, pastors, teachers, farmers and elected community leaders called the Casec and Asec.  I have learned heaps during these meetings about all kinds of stuff: planting seasons, small town drama, weather, faith, struggles, joys, and even how to ‘properly’ eat a mango.  They are fascinating and crucial to the process of encouraging, strengthening and building the capacity of people in Haiti.  These meetings are also an important way that World Concern builds relationships.

La Plate Meeting9

The stunning high ceilings and interior of the Catholic Church in La Plate where we met with the community.

I have been wanting to share about these meetings for some time and the fruit they produce but honestly was having a hard time figuring out how to do it.  How do I show the impact of a two hour meeting?  The pictures alone don’t clearly tell the story.  And meetings don’t have a reputation for being fascinating or intriguing.  Well, on a recent trip to northwest Haiti I had an idea.  While we were sitting in a beautiful old church in the village of La Plate and listening to community members and the local civil protection committee talk about the hazards and risks they face and how a World Concern project was helping them become less vulnerable, I wished so badly that you could be there too to witness what was happening.  Although there are some pretty serious logistical barriers to making that happen, I wanted to try and bring the meeting to you.  So here is the ‘play-by-play’ of our day in La Plate and specifically our meeting with the community.

Oh, a little context–in La Plate World Concern (with funding from Tearfund UK) has built a canal that directs flood waters away from homes and prevents erosion, and is working to train and equip the local civil protection committee who is responsible for keeping the community safe.  On this trip we traveled with colleagues from World Concern as well as three Tearfund UK staff.

La Plate Meeting11

No confusion about where you are.  This sign greets you as you approach La Plate and is the last thing you see as you leave.  

Canal Mitigation_La Plate NW Haiti_Tearfund GRD_5-13

A portion of the canal built by World Concern and the community.  Water can now flow more easily across the road and into the ravine on the other side, making the road passable during the rainy season.

Sign_La Plate NW Haiti_Tearfund GRD_5-13

A local artist painted this plaque which explains how the mitigation project was realized by the local civil protection committee (CLPC) with the help of World Concern and Tearfund.  He even managed to fit in the World Concern logo (bottom left)!

 La Plate Meeting1

La Plate’s Catholic Church–a place of worship and gatherings.  One man guessed that the church was built in the 1950s.

La Plate Meeting2

There were about 18 people in attendance, not including World Concern and Tearfund staff.  Here, David from Tearfund introduces himself.  Most meetings I’ve been a part of in rural Haiti begin with introductions–which have been known to take awhile!

La Plate Meeting5

La Plate Meeting3

 

 

 

 

Starting with prayer (left) and then the World Concern project manager for the work in La Plate greets everyone and thanks them for their participation (right).

La Plate Meeting4

“The local committee’s function is to work in disaster to protect the population and help people,” explains Naissance Frantz, the Casec (elected leader) in La Plate.  

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“What’s going on in there?”

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“We receive many training and now we know lots of things to help the community.  We could write a book,” said one community member regarding the trainings about reducing risk given by World Concern.

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“The first priority is training; to know what is coming.  We now can do something to be protected,” shared another man.

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When asked what resources the community has Petit-frére Christian, the Asec (another elected leader) in La Plate responded, ““We have water, land, people, rocks.  People can climb the trees to make charcoal, we have teachers, farmers, small business owners, health workers.”  It was powerful to hear the community share their strengths and what resources they possess.   

La Plate Meeting12

A house near the church where we met.  You’ll notice a solar panel leaning up against a small chair.  We learned that this is how many people in La Plate charge their mobile phones.  It costs 2 Haitian Gourdes, about 5 cents, for a full charge.

La Plate Meeting10

A couple car fulls of people visiting La Plate drew a lot of attention!  After our meeting finished we got a quick tour of the village before leaving.

Mountain View_La Plate NW Haiti_Tearfund GRD_5-13

A common Haitian proverb says, “Dèyè mòn, gen mòn.”  Behind the mountain, there are mountains.

Our visit to La Plate reminded me that development is about investing in people and then allowing them to make their own decisions about how to improve their lives.  In La Plate we saw how these investments are paying off as the local civil protection committee is now better prepared to identify risks and take steps to reduce their vulnerability to natural disaster.  No model or strategy or organization is perfect but I can say that World Concern’s desire to build relationships with communities and help them succeed is genuine and effective. 

Food insecurity and the silent crisis in Haiti

Quietly, a crisis is brewing in Haiti.  You likely have not heard about it.  It rarely makes headlines or even surfaces in mainstream media.  It currently affects 6.7 million people, or about two thirds of the country’s population.  And it is getting worse.

fastfoodAt the center of this crisis is one of humanity’s most basic needs—food.  In Haiti, as of March of this year, 6.7 million people face food insecurity.  Simply put, food insecurity refers to a limited supply of food and the inability to access it.  This means families in Haiti, already stretched financially, are forced to make hard decisions.  Where will we get food today?  How much food can we afford?  Will we eat two meals, one, or even none today?  Can I afford my children’s school fees when there are more pressing needs?  These are questions no one should have to ask and wrestle with on a daily basis.

Why is Haiti on the verge of a food crisis?  Like many things in Haiti, there is not one answer.  However a series of brutal storms and droughts in the past year has been a big player.  There is a brilliant infographic published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) that provides an overview of the natural disasters Haiti has faced since May 2012 and how these events have exacerbated the food situation.

Haiti-hurricane-sandy---Web

The destruction Tropical Storm Isaac and ‘Superstorm Sandy’ left behind in 2012 meant combined agricultural losses totaling $174 million.  This is an incredible amount of money when you consider that the average Haitian only earns $700 per year.  There is no safety net in Haiti, aside from the support one has from their family and others in the community.  Though Haitian culture is very communal and it is almost expected that you will help out someone when they are in trouble, there is only so much support that can be given.

For poor farmers, the most valuable thing they have is the land they work.  Their entire income may be dependent upon a successful harvest.  Following Hurricane Sandy, 70% of Haiti’s crops were destroyed.  This means a loss of income for many farmers and less food available on the market, which drives up prices.  These two outcomes, due to a rough year of consecutive natural disasters, are why so many people are currently facing food insecurity.  

Even in normal conditions, Haitians spend a huge portion of their income on food.  Rural households spend almost 60% of their income on food and the poorest groups spend more than 70%.  Compare that to the average American who spends 11% of their income on food.  It doesn’t take much to imagine how drastically different your life would be if it took the majority of your income just to feed yourself.

The cost of living here in Haiti is actually quite high and is not something widely known.  It has definitely surprised Martha and I since we moved here to work with World Concern.  To put things in perspective, currently our monthly food budget is the same as it was in Seattle (and we’re not buying imported wines and cheeses).  We often eat rice twice a day because it is cheap, a good filler, and we like it.  Martha and I have the resources to feed ourselves even if the cost steadily rises.  Unfortunately, this is not true for many in Haiti especially as food insecurity worsens.

So what can be done?

A priority must be to get farmers producing again.  Productive farmers mean increased income for families and also a needed boost to local production.  This is why supporting farmers and helping them become successful is important and positively impacts both farmers and consumers alike.

World Concern’s food security project is one way we are attempting to support rural farmers.  In 2013 alone, this project aims to improve food security for 2,000 people.  This is a really cool project and one that I am happy to share about.  World Concern leases three hectares of land in three different departments and uses the space as an outdoor classroom.  Here, local smallholder farmers are taught how to produce high quality seed that they can use season after season.  Other trainings geared towards youth interns, the next generation of farmers, teach best practices.  Another important piece of this project is the introduction of mechanized equipment to local farmers.  Many farmers in Haiti work the land manually which is tedious and difficult work.  The project uses small tractors to help farmers increase productivity.

Row of okra at World Concern's agricultural training center (outdoor classroom) in southern Haiti.

Row of okra at World Concern’s agricultural training center (outdoor classroom) in southern Haiti.

Youth interns at the training center enjoying some watermelon.

Youth interns at the training center enjoying some watermelon.

A training about how to protect the soil and prevent erosion.

A training about how to protect the soil and prevent erosion.

Getting some hands on experience.

Getting some hands on experience.

 

One of the project's tractor hard at work.  The tractor's are used to help local farmers during planting.

One of the project’s tractors hard at work. The tractors are used to help local farmers during planting.

Food insecurity remains a real threat to families in Haiti.  This is a big issue and cannot be dealt with quickly.  However it is exciting to see World Concern take important steps to support rural farmers and strengthen their capacity to become productive.

This is definitely a silent crisis.  My goal is to, at the very least; make people aware of the current situation and how it is affecting millions of people in Haiti.  So please check out the links you see throughout this post and become informed.  Even do a little research on your own if you feel compelled.  In order to effectively engage we must understand what is going on and why.  Thanks for reading!

 

Thoughts on a week in Haiti

It’s hard to believe it has been almost a week already since Martha and I left Haiti.  We hope you were able to read our posts throughout the week.  If not, just keep scrolling and you will see them!  Now that we are back in Seattle and have had a little time to process our week in Haiti, I wanted to share some thoughts.

Thank you to those of you who were praying for us and thinking of us.  It really does help on those long days!  Where to begin?  Overall, it was a very affirming trip.  I totally agreed with Martha when she said, “Being there makes it feel much more real and tangible.  It doesn’t feel as far off or surreal anymore.”  We both just felt this peace all week about living in Haiti and being a part of World Concern’s work there.

The structure of the trip was the best way I think to be introduced to a new place.  We were traveling with a handful of other World Concern Seattle staff, which provided us with great travel companions.  A couple of our travel partners had been to Haiti before, so we enjoyed hearing stories leading up to our arrival at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port au Prince.  The week’s events were already planned for the group and us, so it was nice to not worry about details and just soak everything up.

The World Concern Haiti staff was just amazing.  Our new colleagues exceeded our expectations as hosts and guides.  We are so excited to work alongside these talented people.  Naturally, Martha and I were curious about lots of things we saw.  We had lots of questions!  The staff was gracious and taught us a lot about the country and World Concern.

I learned that one of the primary forms of transportation in Haiti is the tap-tap.  I had heard about the infamous tap-taps before leaving Seattle.  In a PBS Frontline episode I watched about tap-taps, they mentioned that tap-tap owners might spend hundreds of U.S. dollars on the exterior paint job in order to attract would-be customers.  Interesting strategy, but it totally works.  There were a number of more “flashy” tap-taps I saw that I would have gotten on long before I gave one of the more “simple” a try.  If you only have a few seconds to decide which tap-tap to jump on, lots of color goes a long ways!  We did not get a chance to ride a tap-tap on this trip, but I’m looking forward to doing so when we return.

After spending a couple days in Port au Prince, we traveled to some rural areas in southern Haiti where World Concern works.  The three days we had in the south was just awesome.  It is one thing to hear about our projects and partnerships with communities, but to actually see these places and meet the individuals being impacted makes it very real.  We visited World Concern’s agricultural training center near the city of Les Cayes.  World Concern leases a little over one hectare of arable land and uses it as an ‘outdoor classroom’ for area farmers.  Farmers are taught new techniques and learn how to best utilize good seed.  So far, the training center has equipped 50 area farmers.  In rural Haiti, agriculture is the primary source of income, so it was encouraging to see how World Concern is involved in supporting farmers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are eager to get back to Haiti and begin our work there!  There is so much more I could say, but I better stop for now.  Keep checking back for more pictures and updates on our week in Haiti.  Thanks for being a part of great community development in Haiti!

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