Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Remember Haiti

Americas committee Vice chair Sam Usem and photography/marketing volunteer Craig Condon are in Haiti for the next two weeks. They are starting up in Cap-Haitien in the north meeting with multiple CTI partners for the week. During the second week they will be traveling west to St. Louis de Nord and then down to Port au Prince before heading back to snowy Minnesota. Along the way Sam will be focused on collecting information and expanding CTI's operations in the country and Craig will be shooting photo and video so that they can share CTI's success stories with all of our supporters. 

Greetings from Cap-Haitien in the north of Haiti. Craig and I arrived here on Sunday minus all of our luggage from states. Our checked bags were lost in the states and once we got to Haiti, the small puddle jumper that we took up to the north was too small to carry our carry ons (kind of ironic). But such is life. We figure that the worst of our luck is behind us and we are looking forward to a very fruitful trip.

We are staying with one of our partner organizations in the country, Sonje Ayiti which means “Remember Haiti” in creole. Sonje Ayiti works in and around Limonade on economic development projects that range from goat farming to horticultural farming and cocoa/fruit processing. Their projects touch all of the citizens in Limonade in some way either through creating jobs, providing goods to sell/buy in the community or through their micro-lending program which jump starts small business enterprise that both create jobs and food.

CTI is involved with two major projects through Sonje Ayiti. The first is consulting on future farm plans. CTI's extensive knowledge about which crops are both profitable financially and nutritionally has helped to guide Sonje Ayiti as it choose which direction to take its farm in. The other project is helping to build a cocoa factory that is owned by the RAFAVAL women’s co-op which is supported by Sonje Ayiti. Immediately following the earthquake, CTI donated two Ewing III grinders to the co-op which allowed them to instantly ramp up production. The new revenues paid for much needed supplies for all of the victims of the quake that had moved to Limonade from Port Au Prince.

Now it has been over a year and we are looking to move this from a start-up project to a full on business that will employing close to 50 people in Limonade and also purchases product from local farmers. Gabrielle Vincent and I are up late tonight working on a grant proposal to do just that, and we will be submitting the proposal to USAID officials in Haiti tomorrow. We also spent time this afternoon visiting with Mr. Moise Jean Charles, who is a Senator of the Northern District. Just like back home, things don't get done unless you know the right people and this is why we partner with organizations on the ground.

After meeting with USAID officials tomorrow morning we will visit the Sonje Ayiti farm and then interview members of the RAFAVAL women’s coop to see how the grinders have helped their households and the economy in Limonade. Stay tuned for more.

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