After spending four days in Haiti, the Sewanee-Haiti Institute team recognized that the most significant and influential aspect of the project is collaboration. Working together, combining effort and thought for a common goal, it’s what makes the project strong, supported, and effective.
Deb, Dixon, Pradip, Charlotte, and Linnea landed in Port au Prince, Haiti airport mid-afternoon on Thursday. We met up with Zo, the infamous, larger than life driver and made our way up the winding road to Cange. We passed the barrack-like housing project, not yet finished or inhabited after three years of “completion”. The houses, painted in bright, warm colors that mirrored the colors of the setting sun, were stark reminders that without consideration, seemingly good-initiatives can be ineffective.
Once arriving in Cange, we quickly got to work, meeting with Gillaine to discuss the project and to mull over ideas for spring break. Many ideas were considered – how to raise funds for nurseries in other villages, how to support those working on the project, how to incorporate CFFL students over spring break, etc. One of our best ideas was a logo, Rasta Chloroplast, a rasta-themed character that resembled a chloroplast, to educate Sewanee students about the process of sequestering carbon.
The next morning, the team hunkered down and spent almost six hours brain-storming about the project and mostly what to do over spring break. The big question was whether or not Bois Jolie and another village, Blanchard, would trade coffee seedlings for fig banan seedlings and vice versa. Another question was, if possible, should we start another nursery in Blanchard? We remembered the sweet fruits of our labor last year, the nursery in Bois Jolie…
We could experience such satisfaction and participate in such collaboration as last year with another village, close by to Cange, called Blanchard. With our partners, we determined that here we would construct a nursery, in partnership with Zanmi Agrikol.
With Cassandra and Marie Flore, we determined that over spring break, in both Bois Jolie and Blanchard, Sewanee students and our friend, Bruce, a retired dentist, will have a mobile dental clinic. This clinic will reach patients with abscesses in dire need of teeth extractions.
Later that day, we met with Gillaine, Marie Flore, Maxo, Bosquet, and Reginald. We went over the standardization of the project (constructing a nursery and accepting families into the program), the budget, and how to move forward. It was established that each nursery needs to have an employed supervisor or a “technician”; in May, with the help of Sewanee interns, the coffee seedlings will be moved to each family, and in the nursery, fruit/shade trees will be planted; and that over spring break, coffee planting and maintenance training sessions will be held for both Sewanee students and the Haitian farmers.
It was a great trip. We were able to buckle down and focus on the project. Something that is so hard to do when distracted by the busy pace of our lives.