Man Harnesses Sun's Power to Feed Haiti's Poor

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Jan. 4, 2010) – An Illinois man recently teamed up with Food For The Poor to donate solar ovens to 50 impoverished families in Haiti, putting a dent in Haiti’s massive deforestation problem. James Dobbs packed up his family and personally delivered the ovens to a village in Thomazeau, which is about an hour outside of Port-au-Prince, on Thanksgiving Day.

Food For The Poor staff members and volunteers assembled the solar ovens alongside the Dobbs family. The international relief and development agency supplied the food to cook and feed the large group of hungry people lining up for a meal.

The group watched, waited and learned (with the help of a translator) how the solar ovens function. An engraver was on site inscribing each family’s last name onto their new oven. For a population living on less than $2 a day and no electricity, these appliances could assist in slowing down deforestation.

Using solar power means less dependency on charcoal, and fewer trees being cut down to produce it. An estimated 20 million trees are chopped down each year in Haiti. Dobbs hopes the use of the ovens catches on, so he can continue distributing them and make a meaningful impact on one of the nation’s major environmental problems.

“With what I’m doing,” said James Dobbs, “I can go to bed at night and I know exactly the names, faces, the people whose lives are better for what we did.” 

It took two and a half hours for the first meals to be served. But this was record time for the families. None of them has electricity. They are accustomed to painstakingly searching for food, and anything they can find to burn in order to build a bonfire. With these ovens they no longer have to search for scraps to burn; the sun provides the fuel. The solar ovens come with a built in thermometer and while it was 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside, it became 200 degrees inside the oven, allowing the food to cook thoroughly.

Through months of fundraising efforts and paying for most of them himself, Dobbs bought the solar ovens from a shop in Minnesota that granted him a deal on the price. By day, Dobbs works with mortgages and investments, but, he says, his passion is helping others in developing countries. And if the idea of using solar power in Haiti multiplies, his legacy would include making a contribution to slow deforestation and doing his part to help with global climate change issues.

Now, the 54-year-old wants to inspire his children to do the same. His wife, Janice, has accompanied him on several trips to Haiti. For the first time, James and Janice brought along their 17-year-old daughter, Jordan, 16-year-old son, Jack, and their teenaged niece.

“It was an eye-opening experience for them,” said Dobbs. “I think they are still trying to grasp it all and make sense of everything they saw there.”

Dobbs says he’ll continue working with Food For The Poor to bring help to those who need us in Haiti.  “They [Food For The Poor] allowed me to have an idea and work with them to develop, and produce it. Without them it couldn’t have happened.”

“We are grateful to the Dobbs,” said Angel Aloma, Executive Director of Food For The Poor. “We encourage all of our donors and welcome their suggestions for solutions. Anyone who wants to see with their own eyes how much need there is, and how a little bit of money from here can go a long way in a country like Haiti, we encourage anyone who wants to help to come with us. The trip will be life changing, and they’ll never see the world the same way again.”

Dobbs is already planning his next trip to Haiti, when he will decide whether to continue raising money for more solar ovens.

“If this works,” he said, “if I go down there and see these ladies using their ovens and find they are helping, then we could use some more. Either way, I’ll continue to be a witness for them.”

Food For The Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the United States, 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.

Contact:

Aimee Vignola
Public Relations
(954) 427-2222, ext. 6079