Growing Hope for Haitians

Written by Plant With Purpose on November 1, 2010 in General

By Doug Satre, Director of Outreach and Development

Recently, I returned from my first trip to Haiti. I confess that I went with some trepidation. From everything I had read, very little had been accomplished in Haiti since the earthquake; a million people still live in camps waiting for more permanent shelter and streets are plagued by violence that the government is powerless to stop.

We were met at the airport without incident and were shepherded by our local staff into the mountains, to the region of Fonds Verettes. While not directly impacted by the earthquake, this area saw the influx of thousands of exiles from Port au Prince who were returning to their home villages because they had no place else to go.

As we pulled into the village, we were met with a choir, welcome banners, and clapping. This community had recently established a tree nursery of 15,000 trees and described their vision to replant the denuded slopes around their village, protecting their crops, raising their incomes, and keeping their children in school.

In the days that followed, we worshiped in church services, visited savings groups, and heard from dozens of farmers about what they were doing to improve their communities. They had planted over 200,000 trees since the earthquake and hundreds of them had been employed to build soil conservation barriers to protect their fields and homes from the coming hurricane season. All these activities reflect a growing sense of hopefulness in Fonds Verettes.

One person I met who really made an impact on me was a young man named Ronald. He was one of the leaders of a farmers group of 50 men and women who are growing thousands of trees and who are committed to transforming their community. He told us, “We want to plant trees everywhere around our community; we are dreaming of a forest! We know that if we can do this, the young men of our community will find hope and opportunity here, rather than having to look for work in the sugar can fields of the Dominican Republic, or food in Port au Prince.”

The next day, we drove down to Port au Prince and witnessed the devastation that still exists there. In the midst of all the broken buildings and makeshift camps, I met another young man, about Ronald’s age. He approached us to beg for something to eat, pulling up his shirt to show me how skinny he was. As I talked with him, I could not help but think of the contrast with the energetic and hopeful young man, Ronald, who I had met the day before.

Even today as I write this, there are fresh reports in the news of the desperate living conditions in Port au Prince. In the midst of those reports, one recommendation was especially striking: “Donor agencies should designate more resources for livelihood opportunities in rural areas outside of Port-au-Prince.” That is exactly how we choose to work, creating opportunity for those in the urban slums to live healthy lives in their home communities.

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