Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Port Au Prince, Haiti - February 22, 2010

This is my first night in Port Au Prince, where the devastation for my reason coming occurred. But the longer I am here the more I realize that—earthquake or not—there’s been a desperate need for CTI and other NGOs like us all along. I have been doing most of my work over the past few days in the rural farming areas outside of the devastation where small technologies that save time and valuable crops have always been needed. Now with the influx to the regions of refugees from Port Au Prince they are all the more needed.

I have been working with an NGO that has been on the ground here in Haiti for years and thus knows the issues better than myself, Trees for the Future (www.plant-trees.org). They have connections with small communities through the rural mountain surrounding Port au Prince, that are planting trees in the hopes of restoring some of the soil that has been lost due to deforestation over the last 200 years. Along with planting trees for better soil, come needs to maintain more of the harvest to further pull themselves out of poverty.

I met with over 50 leaders of these communities over the last few days who all shared similar stories; they had walked long distances to pay someone to grind their maize, sorghum, millet or groundnuts and much of their harvest was lost in the process. If they did not have to travel, they would save food, time, and money. All of them expressed both hopes and doubts about me returning. Hope that I would bring the technologies that I said that we had, and doubt because so many NGOs have promised such things in the past.

They all expressed the same concerns about the current influx of aid into Haiti; that while immediate assistance is incredibly important to alleviate pain and suffering, there was no one coming to them to talk about ways to ensure a good harvest in three months. I think that we at CTI are in the right place and the right time. I hope that we can find partners in Haiti and other places to help us continue our work here.

A quick note, while the blog has been sporadic because of internet issues here the tweets have not. They do not offer the same in depth stories as the blog, but a constant reminder about CTI’s work. Please check them often and the CTI website for more.

Sam Usem
CTI Americas Committee Vice Chair

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Limonade, Haiti - February 15, 2010

By Sam Usem, CTI Volunteer, Haiti

It has been a few days that I have been here now. My first couple of days were spent ensuring the Meds & Food For Kids (mfkhaiti.org) had all of the support of CTI that they needed. Since then I have been establishing CTI within the existing NGO community, attending UN cluster and logistics meetings, and setting up sites to visit.

I have learned one thing for certain thus far. No matter what you have planned for you day in Haiti, it will change ten times over before it even begins. I have spent the last two days with Gabrielle, the country director of Sonje Ayiti (www.sonjeayiti.com) a non-profit based in Cap-Haitian that does everything from micro-financing and farming projects to immediate food aid and coordinating medical teams. On Monday I got to know the organization better and helped to ferry around medical teams while visiting different small subsistence farms along the drive. With limited resources at the moment one jumps at any chance they can for a free ride.

Today I spent the morning with the RAVAFAL women’s group in Limonade, about 8km east of Cap-Haitian. The co-op group has been making small chocolates for hot cocoa to sell in Haiti and is trying to begin an export business. When they hear through the grapevine about our grinders, it seemed to be a perfect fit. The Ewing III grinder has never been used for cocoa beans before, but the only way to know is to try. With about 15 women from the group in attendance we covered the maintenance on the grinder and then got right to work.

The grinder worked like magic, and before I knew it, the group had ground 10 kilos of cocoa beans. In the recipe includes nutmeg and cinnamon before they put the chocolate into a mold, freeze, and then into package it. The long term plans are to build a small factory based on CTI grinders and sell the hard cocoa candies to make hot chocolate in Haiti and the U.S.

After meeting with the co-op, I traveled to a few of the farming sites that Sonje Ayiti has in the community to see if other CTI technologies could be of use. They have over 60 acres that are owned by a co-op, and while at the moment they are only growing vegetables, grain is coming in the future and thus a place for CTI devices.
After returning to Cap-Haitian I visited the Meds & Food for Kids factory and helped load 1,000 kilos of Medika Mamba into the Sonje Ayiti truck to be taken to malnourished children in Leogane, an area just outside of Port Au Prince that hit hard by the quake.

In Haiti at the moment, most people are living second-by-second approaching each issue as they come up. While it is important to address these it is all the more important that we do not forget about the next couple of months. It is good to know that the day can start by building long term solutions and end by sending aid to where it is needed most. The rain has started and so I am off to my room, before another day of begins with the sun and changes as quickly as it moves.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Arrival in Cap Hatien - February 12, 2010

BY, Samuel Usem, CTI Volunteer, Haiti

For a while now I have thought of myself as somewhat of a seasoned traveler. Coming to expect that through the doors of each new international terminal the shock of the reality in front of me will be become less and less astounding. At some point in my life I began to see poverty through this lens as well. I have been asked for ‘one dollar’ by men without limbs, children without clothes and mothers with babes in their arms but each time they were alone. For some reason it seemed understandable in a way that an individual could be poor. Today however my conscience did not have this luxury.

It began with a multitude of young men who all jump at the chance to push your baggage through the door, young women who shove each other out of the way to graciously open the door for you and children that clamor over one another offering to pull your bags. I refuse each one, knowing I can’t possibly hand out charity to all whom expect it for such deeds, and try my best to hang onto my bags. I make it within 5 feet of the car but soon the mass of hands overwhelms me and they begin to pick up my bags to put them the truck with the hope that I will give them money not because I said I will but because now all they have is hope. Behind the throng of able bodied locals are those that do not have the energy to push and shove. They stare forward with glossy eyes that seem to wonder; if begging is too hard then what is left in a country that seems to offer little more at the moment. This is the poverty that immediately slaps you in the face as quickly as your eyes can take it in; forcing you to confront the reality of a humanity that includes this.

Only a couple of a hundred kilometers to the south, in Port Au Prince, is carnage that is beyond imaginable. The image of pancaked buildings with limbs stuck between the layers has been seared into all of our minds. We hear tales of bodies upon bodies that makes up a collection of faces with no names and cannot begin to imagine the reason for this horror. Yet we can take some solace in the fact that we did not create this earthquake. Earthquakes, tsunamis and the like occur on this tiny planet of ours by no fault of our own and we do our best to help in the immediacy after their occurrence. But Haiti’s other woes, those that existed before the quake, require us to recognize our shared humanity and our conscientiousness to aiding our fellow man.

I have to come to Haiti as a CTI volunteer to take partial responsibility of that fact. To help lay the groundwork of a future Haiti where its people do not have to look upon begging as a skill. This future can only be realized if we begin to understand that some aid must have an end goal. In Port au Prince there is a place for disaster relief and immediate medical and food aid, but here in the north it is important that we not forget that lasting sustainable aid is crucial to Haiti’s future. We cannot let the immediacy of this outpouring of aid go without shedding a light on the sustainable and lasting development that must happen if aid organizations are to ever leave this country.

Over the next two weeks I will work at building on existing relationships and creating new ones with those organization and individuals that share CTI’s vision of a world in which everyone has access to food and water, the basic building blocks of not only our economy but our humanity. The real work, as it always seems to, begins tomorrow.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

CTI Responds to Crisis in Haiti

“I‘ll take that grinder with me to Haiti tomorrow,” Janeil Owen, Executive Director of NW Haiti Christian Mission, told Nancy Wagner, Development Associate at CTI, on January 22, just 10 days after the devastating earthquake.  Nancy and the grinder were in Ft. Lauderdale introducing CTI to a group of 50 nonprofit organizations who are recipients of the food packets produced by Feed My Starving Children (FMSC).  Owen told Nancy that he had hungry kids to feed but their FMSC food was in Port au Prince and would not make it to his mission in the far NW corner of HaitiThe mission did, however, have on hand bags upon bags of corn but no way to grind it.  Needless to say, the CTI grinder went to NW Haiti the next day and was put to work immediately. 

CTI is not a “relief organization” in the normal sense, but the situation in Haiti has created a need for unique strategies to enable close to 3 million people throughout Haiti to be fed now and in the months and years to come.  Our Omega VI grinders are running at Meds & Food for Kids in Cap Haitien (northern Haiti) in order to produce large quantities of Medika Mamba, a peanut butter based ready-to-use therapeutic food, providing emergency nutrition for children and pregnant women.  A request just came in from another group that works in northern Haiti-they would like a grinder to process millet.  Another group said they could use several grinders to help feed the kids they serve.

Clearly, our post harvest technologies can make a difference in Haiti.  We would like to be able to offer grinders to any nonprofit organization in Haiti that could use them.  The immediate need is great and the long term need will be greater still.  In Port au Prince, government and aid officials are reporting a reverse migration of close to 500,000 people from the city to rural communities and outlying cities.  CTI can play a vital role in healing Haiti as we can deliver the technologies necessary to provide ongoing support as a sustainable solutions provider.

CTI has sent volunteer Sam Usem to Haiti to provide grinders and training to relief organizations and to reach out to organizations that may have a need for manually operated food processing equipment.

If you would like to make a donation toward this effort, please read the special message on our website, or call the office at 651-632-3912.