Hope Takes Root in Haiti

To celebrate Haiti’s Labor Day, more than 1,500 people planted more than 25,000 trees high up in the mountains of Mahotière, which is just south of Port-au-Prince. Now Mahotière, the farm community where the trees were planted, has a strong head start to combat the heavy deforestation, soil erosion and hunger that have become the area’s reality. Food For The Poor donated the trees, and staff oversaw the well-choreographed tree planting by the community on the mountain slopes.

The peaceful scene, though labor-intensive for the Haitian farmers, showed an immense amount of dignity and hope for these fruit trees to bless the entire community with plenty to sustain their families and extra that they can sell.

Food For The Poor is completing construction of 40 new homes for the families of Mahotière. For their labor, those planting the trees received boots, sneakers and a hot meal. Cows and donkeys also were distributed to some families in the community.

“It feels great! I am very happy to be a part of a project to improve the area and make it nicer and safer. It will be more and more beautiful,” said Roger Henri, 45, a farmer who participated in the planting. Henri is particularly looking forward to sampling the avocados, peaches and coffee. Henri was also very pleased by the community effort. “The only one who could bring us together more would be God.”

The group also received T-shirts and banners reading “We Can Have a More Beautiful Life Tomorrow By Planting Trees Today,” and teams identified by matching colored bandanas worked as a group to plant on pre-determined slopes around Mahotière. A landslide the previous year was the impetus for the project to protect the endangered farming terraces from soil erosion caused by deforestation.

The 25,000 trees came from a project Food For The Poor has begun to fight hunger in Haiti. The organization had contracted a nursery to grow 15,000 trees, most of which were fruit trees. The contractor exceeded expectations and was able to grow more than 25,000 trees. These trees included peach, mango, avocado, orange, grapefruit, apple and several varieties of shade trees. Strawberries and coffee also were planted.

“We were amazed to see the nursery exceed everyone’s expectations by growing 10,000 more trees than we were hoping for,” said Food For The Poor President/CEO Robin Mahfood. “To see these people working with their hands to feed the children and the families in their own country, compared to the overwhelming amount of pictures of disaster and calamity in Haiti, is to see God at work. After some rain and careful cultivation, the fruit these trees will bear, literally the fruit of these villager’s labor, will feed thousands. This is a true miracle in the rebuilding process.”

A Catholic priest in Mahotière, Fr. Occide Jean, organized the community and will continue to oversee the care, and produce distribution from the trees. Although the earthquake did not directly impact Mahotière, the local residents did lose many relatives and loved-ones in the city, and still felt the loss of the nation.

“After the earthquake, there was a complete loss of hope,” said Fr. Jean. “This is a rebirth. Reforestation is going to help the land to be renourished, which will renourish the people. Haiti is an agricultural country. Everything starts with successful agriculture. With that we can avoid the exodus from the country to the slums in the city.”

Food For The Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian agency 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 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.

Aimee Vignola
Public Relations
(954) 427.2222, ext. 6079