Displaced Families from the D.R. Find Hope and a New Life in Haiti
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (June 15, 2016) - With eager anticipation, hundreds gathered last week for the inauguration of the new Guy Alexandre Village at Petite Riviere de l'Artibonite in Artibonite, Haiti. This community of 155 homes, built by generous donors of Food For The Poor, was in response to desperate pleas from families lingering in limbo due to the border crisis between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
"Last summer, we visited some of the families at the center of this border crisis in the town of Fond Bayard, Haiti. They had nowhere to go, no family, no job and no hope," said Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor. "We knew we had to do something to help, something long-term. Thanks to our donors, our board members, the government officials, the clergy, our staff members both in Haiti and Florida, this vision of a village is now a reality."
During last week's inauguration many who were returned to Haiti shared stories of their plight. One woman, Mileida, said she was born in Santo Domingo, but decided to go to Haiti with her mother last June. She said her mother, who was born in Haiti but lived in the D.R. for decades, had no proof of Dominican citizenship, so she was deported. Mileida said she did not want her mother to be alone, so she joined her and they both ended up in a makeshift camp in Fond Bayard. One year later, Mileida now proudly expresses her gratitude for a new beginning in a new country. "This house has changed my life," she said.
The border crisis situation is the result of a change in the Dominican Republic's Constitutional Court in 2013, which removed citizenship from anyone born after 1929 that didn't have one parent of Dominican blood. The country later decided that those affected could apply for a residency permit, with a deadline of Feb. 1, 2015, but many did not meet that deadline.
"By giving a home to those families from the Dominican Republic, Food For The Poor is helping them recover their dignity and start a new life," said Bishop Oge Beauvoir, Executive Director of Food For The Poor-Haiti. "What a blessing to do such humbling work."
Construction of the village began in late fall, after the Haitian government gave Food For The Poor approximately 76 acres in the mountains of Artibonite. The land was used to build homes for 100 families repatriated from the D.R. and for dozens of local Haitian families living in destitute conditions in the region. Last week, 155 pastel color houses dotting the hilltops were officially dedicated.
The new community consists of concrete block houses with flush toilets, showers and water cisterns. Each family received a solar-powered light kit, which is mounted to the roof of each home. The residents soon will receive training in micro-enterprise projects, such as beekeeping, animal husbandry, aquaculture and agriculture. Those who moved into the completed sections of the village last month have planted vegetables gardens and other plants, which are thriving in the fertile soil. Food For The Poor also will provide each family with fruit, shade and moringa trees.
At the heart of the village is a community center that will serve as a place of worship and as a professional training school with workshops. The village has five communal waste-water treatment systems, 20 solar-powered street lamps to provide light and safety. There's also a marketplace with open-air covered stalls for 50 vendors, an administration building with storage, and a livestock sales site, which includes a slaughtering and butchering area for the sale of the meat. A hen house with 850 egg-laying chickens and an enclosure for 140 goats also have been installed.
Since access to clean water is vital in the prevention of waterborne illnesses, Food For The Poor has established a community reservoir that can store 10,000 gallons of potable water that is accessible via three water kiosks located across the village. This particular system is served by a well with a submersible solar-powered pump. There are also four water wells with hand pumps. A water filtration unit, which can purify and chlorinate up to 10,000 gallons of water a day, also was provided by Water Mission.
"This particular project was uncharted territory for Food For The Poor. It is the first time this charity has taken on a project of this magnitude, but we realize that anything is possible when we work as a team to help as many as we can," said Mahfood. "Miracles can happen, lives can be saved, hope can be restored, and communities can be transformed."
Please click www.FoodForThePoor.org/artibonite to watch the inauguration of the village in Artibonite.
Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 95 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.
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