Betsy’s Return to Haiti

A message from Betsy Wall, Executive Director in Port au Prince on Thursday March 18, 2010

Greetings to you all from the tent city at Wall’s International Guest House! Although I have yet to see how it withstood the torrential downpour that is just easing up, it is at least still standing. We all are thinking of the thousands upon thousands who are hovering under sheets and tarps, enduring drenching chill rather than risk sleeping  in their home (if they still have one). The fear has not diminished. Streets are closed off in the evening as people are preparing “for bed” in the streets. There is a proverb that goes, “sleep is the little brother to death”. It has become scriptural.

I am seeing a desperation that I have not quite experienced in all of my decades in Haiti. Young men follow me, to open a door, to roll down a window, to tell me my sweater is caught in the door and plead for a dollar or two for this one second of “service”.  It was my first tremor of sadness.

I expected that it would first hit me at the guest house but there was no time. The 21 guests, a medical team from Alabama, continually thanked me for “letting them” be here. Of course, it is not me to be thanked but for me to be thankful that they are choosing to stay in such a situation but they are overjoyed… it is so much more than they had anticipated. They are eager to chat and to learn, as this is their first trip to Haiti. They are inquisitive and ask many questions: “What can we as Christians do for Haiti?”. I tell them in one word… “AGRICULTURE”. They were intrigued and pressed me to show them what a co-operative looks like. So today we went to St. Marc. It was a great day and I believe they are inspired to make such a difference in Haiti.

Yesterday, I spent time at the pcH yard office. It is really quite impressive. The pictures do not do it justice. It was a wonderful meeting. The staff was jubilant; less to see me and more because of all the activity that is going on. They were so thankful for the laptop and the cameras, although they could use three more computers, as the ones brought in January are under the rubble. Pierre Richard, his face shining like a happy child, speaks of the energy and motivation of the evaluation team in Duchity as well as the eagerness of the leaders and members of that community to participate in the assessment activities. We will be travelling there on Wednesday and returning with the team on Friday. I am very much looking forward to this. Of note is that the recent health survey developed last fall (for Fon Batis) is being incorporated into the assessment.

They are also very excited about the partnership with Oxfam Quebec, who is giving us office space at no cost for one year. In addition, Oxfam will continue to support agricultural inputs for one year, such as seeds, goats and chickens; and have provided training to pcH and farmers on raising goats. We will distribute these to Fon Batis, Delis and Breli. The following have been received and distributed lately: 28 household kits, 28 boxes of water, 300 bache (tarps), 2,222 hygiene packs, 300 mattresses, 600 food kits, and 300 sheets.

Oxfam has also accepted the two proposals for soil protection and irrigation for small vegetable gardens. The value of these projects is $250,000. They must be executed within 6 months. Launch is expected by or before April 15. We look forward to the implementation of these plans.

Agronome Yves Charles joined us to report on his visit to Zoranger, a new area past Titayen. We used some seed (200 marmit beans, 400 marmit pitimi, 200 marmit corn, 15,000 root manioc/cassava) received from Oxfam Quebec to help about 250 farmers. They are not a cooperative yet but they are so very eager to have training. Pierre Richard then emphasized that ALL cooperatives are pleading for training. We estimate that it costs $6,000 per cooperative for six months of training and follow up. Activities would include training for all committees as well as for general board members, business plan development, accountability, etc.

To add to the exciting news of the group in Zoranger was the announcement of a new model of cooperative in Fon Batis to manage agricultural tools.  It started with a little committee of 10 people and now there are 197 members! They have made money already by renting out the tools (about 40,000 GDE after five months). The growth in membership, as well as return, is an astonishing precedent.

Tomorrow we will be meeting with Dr. Yuri Zelenski and Dr. Jean Claude Cadet at University Hospital to discuss possible alliances in health care/agricultural production. In the afternoon, we will be meeting with representatives of Light of The World Ministries about the “food for orphans”. No real weekend plans yet. Normally I spend the weekend organizing sections of the guest house. I did this yesterday morning…organizing mattresses, etc and moving on to the large container where all manner of things are stored in typical Haitian fashion. I am sure I sweated off five pounds!

It has been very hot although the downpour has cooled us all off a bit…except for the spiritual fervour whipped up by this evening’s prayer meeting. A number of us are still up and there is a “riddle party” going on. I am not good with riddles.

Good night to you all.


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