Like any developing nation after disaster, Haiti has progressed “piti piti” (little by little)

After living in Haiti for two years where I worked with World Concern, I returned to the U.S. a couple weeks ago. Aside from getting used to much colder weather and way too many cereal options at the grocery store, I have been attempting to answer, as best as possible, all kinds of questions about Haiti.

Destruction after the earthquake shook Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010.
Destruction after the earthquake shook Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010.

One of the most common questions has been how the country is doing since the 2010 earthquake—Haiti’s strongest in two centuries, claiming more than 230,000 lives. This tells me that perhaps not everyone has forgotten about Haiti and that fateful day on January 12, 2010.

However it’s a challenge to answer that question. It’s a big question and I feel a burden to answer accurately and completely, but at the same time I realize most people are not asking for a lecture.

As someone who has lived in Haiti, I can tell you that it is a wonderful place full of color and life. Most of all, it is my friends there and the dozens of others I’ve met through my work with World Concern that I remember. These faces are what stand out in my mind when someone asks how Haiti is doing and each face is a beautiful creation of God with a distinct story. Everyone has a story and each is unique. And with the stories of healing and restoration have come ones of difficulty and loss.

World Concern has been serving small business owners, like Emilienne, by providing loans and training since 1998.
World Concern has been serving small business owners, like Emilienne, by providing loans and training since 1998.

The recovery process and transition to long-term development has been slow and difficult at times, but positive things have happened in the past five years. But there are major chronic issues that persist which keep people from living healthy and productive lives. This is the reality. Is Haiti progressing? The answer, in my opinion, is yes. Does Haiti face challenges? Also yes.

There are more people coming to Haiti as tourists and the country’s image is slowly improving, roads are being rebuilt with many paved for the first time, and the number of homeless people has fallen to less than 100,000 out of the 1.5 million initially without a home following the earthquake.

A road under construction in Haiti.
A road under construction in Haiti.

And what about the struggles? Cholera, which was first introduced in Haiti in October 2010, is on the rise again, and the water and sanitation infrastructure needed to defeat it is missing. Too many families are not able to get enough food with 2.6 million people food insecure as of July and a political crisis looms as long overdue elections in the country are yet to be held. And Haiti remains vulnerable to drought, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.

The earthquake highlighted the need to focus on helping communities become better prepared and less vulnerable. This is an area that the government and many organizations, including World Concern, have chosen to invest in since 2010 which is encouraging. A community that is more able to cope with a crisis on their own is one that will be more protected and have less loss of life.

Volunteers take part in a disaster simulation to learn how to be prepared and respond in an emergency.
Volunteers take part in a disaster simulation to learn how to be prepared and respond in an emergency.

At World Concern we have worked to train local first responders, build community shelters, establish early warning systems, and introduce drought resistant seeds to farmers. Our goal is to see communities empowered, resilient and able to stand on their own. We’re grateful for significant progress in this area.

Haitian Creole, the national language of Haiti, has lots of proverbs or sayings—one thing that makes the language so rich and beautiful. There is a common proverb that says “Piti piti wazo fè nich,” which means “Little by little a bird makes its nest.”

So how is Haiti now? How has the country moved forward? Well, things are better and there is a lot of hope, but piti piti wazo fè nich.

A Goat is a Treasured Asset for Fania

Updated November 14, 2017

Have you seen the 2017 Global Gift Guide yet?  One of the more popular items are goats, and for good reason.  Read about a young girl in Haiti named Fania to find out why the gift of a goat means she’ll get to stay in school.

In the rural community of Mersan in southern Haiti there is a primary school called Ecole Mixte Bon Berger.  Since 2012 World Concern has partnered with this school by providing goats and husbandry training to students.  With a goat, students are able to earn an income by selling the goat’s offspring and using the money to pay for school tuition and other supplies.

One of these students in Mersan is named Fania Bien-Aime, a shy 14-year-old girl who has a smile that is hard to forget.  She lives a 15 minute walk from the school with her parents and six siblings.  “I always walk to school.  In the beginning it was difficult but now it is easy.”

Fania receives a goat in Haiti which allows her to continue her education
Fania with her goat

Fania received a goat from World Concern and participated in the training where she learned how to take care of her goat and how to maintain its health.

“I know how to take care of the goat because I learned some things in the training,” she said.  “When it’s raining I have to shelter the goat but usually during the day it sits in the shade because the sun is too hot.”

Now her goat is in heat and Fania expects it to become pregnant shortly.  When working with communities, the ‘long view’ must be taken into consideration.  There may be solutions that would provide temporary assistance to Fania, however this lacks sustainability and requires a handout to be given repeatedly.  World Concern is interested instead in long term solutions.

A goat is a treasured asset in rural Haiti because it represents a steady income.  “Each year a goat can give between six and nine kids, and she may produce kids for up to 10 years,” explains Pierre Duclona, World Concern’s regional coordinator for southern Haiti.

While a goat and relevant training may not produce immediate results, it will provide students like Fania with a way to earn an income for years to come and give her new skills which she can carry into adulthood.

Fania will soon begin the 6th grade and is looking forward to returning to class after the summer break.

Fania and her friend

“The sciences and mathematics are the ones I like.  I like to study,” she shared.  “Education is important so I can help my parents and also for myself to feel good and help in society.”

“I would like to be a tailor but I can’t sew right now.  For now this is the profession that is in my head,” explained Fania.  “You can get money from this skill because when school begins, parents need to send their children’s uniforms to get sewed.”

receiving training for the goat Fania received in Haiti
Fania’s goat receives vaccines

With a goat and specific training, Fania is well-positioned to earn an income and therefore continue with her education which will give her opportunities to provide for herself and her family.  It is because of your generosity and partnership that we’re able to help keep girls like Fania in school!  Give the gift of a goat today.

 

Resilience For Life: Ages 0-100+

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in the United States in 2005, three-quarters of the people it killed were over 60.  This is unfortunately not an isolated incident.  Often, older people are the ones most affected by a disaster event.

Today, on the International Day for Disaster Reduction, the international community is coming together to recognize the critical role older people play in building more resilient communities by sharing their experience and knowledge.

At World Concern, we’re joining in this call to include older people in planning and preparedness activities while recognizing the value they bring to their families and communities.

We’re currently working with older people and their communities in eight countries to help reduce risk and save lives.  What does this look like?

Building more secure homes to protect families.

Shelter beneficiary Rozario
Photo credit: Medair
women with house
Photo credit: Medair

Improving sanitation through the construction of latrines to prevent the spread of water borne disease.

man with latrine1

Teaching communities about soil retention and reforestation to protect the land.

man in field1

Developing early warning systems and evacuation plans that include people of all ages.

wc sign in bangladesh

women in bangladesh

Strengthening infrastructure like flood water canals to keep water away from homes and people safe.

 

canal1

mother and daughter1

“The older person is often invisible in our communities until they show up in the mortality figures after a disaster event,” said head of the United Nations Disaster Reduction Office, Margareta Wahlström.

By working together towards the common goal of focusing on inclusiveness of people of all ages in disaster preparedness, we can ensure that no one is invisible and that everyone becomes resilient for life!

 

Introducing Bernard: Husband, Father, Humanitarian

Today is World Humanitarian Day—a day to remember those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service and celebrate the spirit of humanitarian work around the world.  We’re honored to introduce you today to some of the remarkable people who work for World Concern.  Head to our Facebook page and check out our World Humanitarian Day album to meet a few of these people.  Continue reading here to meet Bernard, one of our #HumanitarianHeroes in Haiti.

Bernard Rozier is a husband and father of two who lives in the city of Les Cayes in southern Haiti.  Since 2004 he has worked with World Concern as the Hope to Kids (HTK) Program Manager.  This program began in 1998 and provides students with a goat and husbandry training which allows them to earn an income and pay for school.

Bernard HTK Program Supervisor (L) & Duclona(R)_Gilgeau Haiti_6-13
Bernard (left), with Pierre Duclona, the World Concern Regional Coordinator for southern Haiti.

Bernard is a soft spoken person but is well respected and loved by the children he serves.  He would be the first person to tell you that he is not superhuman but simply a man who loves God and wants to do his work well each day.  Grab a cup of coffee and sit down with us as we ask Bernard a bit more about his life and work:

Why did you choose to work in this field?

“First of all, as there is a lack of jobs in Haiti people do not always have a choice in choosing which field to work in, but I chose to work in this field as I always have a passion to work with kids and a passion for animals.  There is a custom in Haiti where people are afraid of animals like frogs, snakes, and spiders.   So animals create fear in the Haitian people and sometimes they kill them.   So as I work with the kids I teach them not to kill those animals because they all eat insects and therefore they help us to fight insects without using insecticides, which can be harmful if used on our vegetables.  I also teach them the importance of the goat milk as it is a good source a protein for kids.  So this field enables me to help educate the kids and I hope this will have a positive result in the future.”

What impact does the Hope to Kids project have on children in Haiti?

“The program teaches the children how to make a living with their work.  The care the children provide the goat will allow them to one day sell the offspring and make some income to meet their daily expenses and contribute with their parents to school expenses like buying books, uniform, pens, and other materials.  The goat we provide the students with is dependent upon them so the children will act as parents toward the goat, feeding them, leading them to water, and sheltering them.”

Goats Deworm Belts - Les Cayes_247

What motivates you to come to work each day?

“What motivates me to come to work each day is the hope that I bring for the kids by the goat I provide them and the joy I bring to them by playing with them.  When I visit the kids to give the goats shots and the goat cries, all the children are laughing so even the goat clinic brings joy to the kids too.”

Watching games

Do you have a hobby or activity you like doing outside of work?

“The activity I like to do outside of work is playing with kids and making them happy even for awhile. When some kids see me, they laugh so some of them call me ‘toy.’  I also sometimes act as a mentor for kids.”

What do you hope for the country of Haiti?

“What I hope for the country of Haiti is that all people, including the peasants, would have a source of revenue to respond to their daily needs.”4 - Goats, deworm, Les Cayes_065

Photo Essay: Disaster Simulation Prepares Communities for the Worst

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin

Imagine a hurricane has just swept across your rural village, toppling trees, blowing roofs off houses, and flooding streets.  As you rush to check on family and friends you discover a number of people who are trapped under fallen trees or stuck in a muddy ravine.  There are no emergency services and your village does not have a health clinic to treat even basic injuries.  What would you do?

This is a hypothetical situation, but it happens all the time in places where World Concern works.  We believe in helping vulnerable communities, like the one described above, become better prepared for future crises and disasters with the goal of saving lives.  We aim to replace feelings of fear and helplessness, with feelings of empowerment and confidence.

During the last week of July, World Concern coordinated a three day training on first aid, and search and rescue techniques for 24 community volunteers, or ‘brigadiers,’ in southern Haiti.  These volunteers are ordinary people who want to better serve their families and communities.  Here’s a look at this important training and some of the people we met.

Rope Tie for Blog Aug2014

Volunteers learn how to tie a variety of different knots that can be used to rescue a person or move an obstacle.

girls moving girl1

Ready…one, two, three!

girl on stretcher smiles1

Making their “victim” comfortable, yet secure. They are practicing maneuvering the victim out of a ravine.

team with stretcher1

Teamwork!  Working in coordination, two rescuers pull the stretcher and victim, while four others guide it.

rosemarie with rope1

“I chose to be a brigadier because there were a lot of people in my community that were affected by catastrophes,” shared Rosemarie (above) who is a mother and has been a volunteer in her community since 2010.  “There are many difficulties for the victims to recover after a catastrophe so I felt the responsibility and decided to be a volunteer to help my community.”

Baby CPR Fb Aug2014

Even basic first aid knowledge can save lives.  Many of these volunteers’ communities do not have a clinic or hospital so they are the first responders before help arrives or a medical facility can be reached.

girl on stretcher1

Volunteers learned how important it is to protect the head when transporting victims. Practice makes perfect!

carrying girl on stretcher1

And their off!

man in orange shirt1

“I was interested in becoming a brigadier because if someone has a need in my area, I want to help,” said Paul Joseph (orange shirt), a 34-year-old father of two.  “Everyone in my community knows who the brigadiers are and how we can help.”

“I think with the training we’ve done, when accidents happen now we can give first aid to people so they can live,” he continued.

preparing for simulation1In the final day of training, the volunteers participated in a emergency simulation, putting to the test everything they learned throughout the week.  In the simulation, some volunteers played the role of a “victim” and their injury or condition was written on a piece of paper which was placed on their body.  The rescuers had to find the victims, determine what condition they were in, and decide the best way to ensure their safety.  Here, volunteers are prepped and given tools for the simulation.

man with hurt leg1

After carefully removing the brush from on top of the victim, volunteers evaluate this man who hurt his leg.

helping victim walk1

After deciding that the victim could be transported, the team placed on a brace on his leg and helped him to the “medical station.”

simulation with rosemarie1

Rosemarie was another victim in the simulation.  Here a volunteer tries to revive her and another gives instructions.  Hang in there Rosemarie!

carrying girl on stretcher2

Thanks to some great CPR and delicate care, it appears Rosemarie will make it and is on her way to the medical station.

rosemarie portrait1“It is important for more people to know (about first aid and search and rescue) because when more people know, we will have less victims too,” said Rosemarie.  “If more people know, we will have less people die.  Less victims.”

man with vest 2

The victims were all found, treated and carried to the medical station.  Great job everyone!

Now these volunteers have the skills and knowledge needed to be active participants in their community when a crisis or disaster comes.  These are important and significant investments in communities and will help reduce vulnerability and save lives.  For more information on our disaster risk reduction work, click here.

Photo Essay: One-of-a-kind Latrines

Our day began with a little mystery.  We were driving along a rural bumpy road in the Northwest of Haiti and were stopped by a man waving us in the direction of a house just up the road.  We stopped by the house and when we got out, we saw these cement cylinders. What are those?!

Desroulins, Latrines Nursery_004

Come to find out, they are toilet seats!  We were spending a couple of days visiting two communities that World Concern partnered with to build latrines.  That was when I realized I did not know very much about latrines and I was going to learn a lot today–Latrine 101: outside the classroom.

Desroulins, Latrines Nursery_006Meet Pastor Marc.  He’s the guy who built those two toilet seats.  Aside from being a pastor, he is a mason and was the local supervisor for all the latrines built in the community of Desroulins.  He explained that each family that received a latrine gave wood, water, rocks, and gravel for it.  The rest of the supplies and the labor was provided by World Concern.

UNICEF estimates that only 17% of people who live in rural Haiti use improved sanitation facilities.  Latrines are one kind of an improved sanitation facility.  Without proper facilities the only other option for people is to defecate outside.  This practice spreads water borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, polio, and diarrhea.

“It’s a big problem in this area,” said Pastor Marc, when asked about open defecation in Desroulins.

We saw several latrines, but I wanted to take you along to see two of them that stood out as unique and different than any I had seen before.

Beauchamps, Latrines Nursery_015We approached this gate in a nearby community named Beauchamps.  The gate sat open as an unspoken welcome for us to walk up the hill and I could see the shiny latrine behind the tree in the distance.

Beauchamps, Latrines Nursery_003Meet Mr. Thomas.  He came out to greet us with a firm handshake and was pleased to show us his new latrine.  He has ten children, five of whom still live here with him.
Beauchamps, Latrines Nursery_007

These may well be the shiniest latrines you will ever see.  But they are more than shiny.  They are healthy.  The general point is to keep people’s waste confined in the pit so it is not getting into their garden, water source, or anywhere else human waste should not be. These latrines are designed specifically to do just that:

  •  The cement pit keeps all the waste in one place and prevents leakage into soil.
  • Each pit is slightly raised so that rainwater will not collect in it.
  • The white PVC pipe provides ventilation to keep out those unpleasant smells as well as flies who can carry disease.
  • The tin walls go all the way to the floor and the doors completely close to keep rats and other animals out too.

Beauchamps, Latrines Nursery_013

But one thing about this latrine was unique.  Most are placed behind the houses but this one was out in front, sitting on the hill for all to see.  “Now that’s a throne with a view,” I thought, but that was not what they had in mind.

When we asked Mr. Thomas about it he said, “It’s marketing.”  When people see the beautiful latrine, they will ask who built it and the mason who did the work (who is a resident of that community) might get some more business in the future.  It made sense.  I just hadn’t thought of it like that before.  This was a latrine and a rural billboard.  Jobs in this part of Haiti are hard to come by.  This was a clever way to attract customers so the local mason could continue to earn a living.

Beauchamps, Latrines Nursery_068

The second latrine I wanted to take you to see is behind the house of Mr. and Mrs. Roland and their five children.  Walking over, it looked just like all the others, but once we opened the door, we saw its innovative design feature.

Beauchamps, Latrines Nursery_069

It had an adult-sized seat and a child-sized seat!  Perfect for all her children.

Beauchamps, Latrines Nursery_072B

Mrs. Roland pointed out an old pit across their small corn field that used to be their latrine.  They had built one by digging a hole and putting boards across it but without the proper design or resources, it had collapsed into the ground.  Their new two seated latrine is durable, not to mention more sanitary against the spread of disease.

“I used to take care of my needs outside in the garden but now I don’t have to,” said Mrs. Roland.

Desroulins, Latrines Nursery_015

The problem of poor sanitation still exists in rural Haiti but whether it be with a latrine on a hill or one with a child-sized seat, we’re working to change that one family at a time.

Remembering January 12, 2010

Four years ago today the ground in and around Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti, shook powerfully.  Lasting approximately 30 seconds, the 7.0 magnitude earthquake would take the lives of approximately 220,000 people and change the lives of those who survived forever.

January 12, 2010 is a day that remains etched in the minds of many Haitians.  It is hard to find someone who was not affected by the goudou goudou—the colloquial name for the earthquake in Haitian Creole, which refers to the sound the tremors made.  As a colleague of mine in Haiti once said, “We were all victims of the earthquake.”

30 seconds of trembling was enough to pancake this school building
30 seconds of trembling was enough to pancake this school building

While this tragedy has obviously caused immense pain and suffering there are stories of fortitude, sacrifice and healing from the past four years.  Although we cannot mention every one, here are three from the World Concern family that remind us that all is not lost.

Elias and Louis in the doorway of their house
Elias and Louis in the doorway of their house

Elias and Louis
Elias and Louis are a couple in their late fifties who are both retired teachers and have a large family of twelve.  Following the earthquake World Concern helped them rebuild their home.  “It is a gift from God,” said Elias. “After the earthquake, first God saved us, then World Concern helped us. God bless you.”  Read full story here.

Jonathan handing over the check to Dave Eller, World Concern President at the time
Jonathan handing over the check to Dave Eller, World Concern President at the time

Jonathan’s compassion

After seeing the devastation caused by the earthquake on television, Jonathan, then a six year old in kindergarten, wanted to help.  When his mom suggested donating money, he dumped out all $6.37 from his piggy bank to contribute to the relief effort.  Then he and hundreds of classmates from school went on to raise an additional $3,641.  “I hope this money goes to replace stuff to make new homes,” said Jonathan.  Read full story here.

 

 

Berlin Smile
Jean Berlin and his contagious smile

Saved to serve people
Former World Concern staff member Jean Berlin narrowly escaped the earthquake as the school building he was teaching in collapsed soon after he walked outside.  He is convinced that he was spared for a reason.  “Jesus saved me to serve people,” he said.  Read full story here.

God has showed us that he is faithful and continues to heal and transform amidst an awful and incomprehensible disaster.  Today we remember and honor the lives that were lost and those who survived and continue to move forward one day at a time.

The road ahead for Haiti is long and challenges remain.  However Haiti has brighter days to come and World Concern is committed to walking on this road as long as it takes.  Please continue to pray for Haiti in this new year and thank you for your partnership.

The Community That Rebuilt Itself

Driving east out of Jacmel in south east Haiti, the paved road hugs the coast offering stunning views of the blue water beyond.  The view inland is equally impressive as rugged, green covered mountains look down on you.

This region is one of my favorites in Haiti and it was nice to be back.  On this particular day we were heading to the village of Figue to see firsthand how this community took the lead in a recent project.

Figue is located high up in these formidable mountains and several kilometers from the paved road along the coast.  To get there we followed a gravel road that steadily narrowed as we climbed.  The journey alone to some of the rural areas World Concern works is an adventure in itself.

Eventually the gravel disappeared and the road’s surface became rocky and soggy from the rain that falls each afternoon this time of year.

Robert, keeping everyone laughing.
Robert, keeping everyone laughing.

At one point Robert, our driver on the trip, stopped the truck and got out to lock the differentials and turn on the four wheel drive.

“Okay now we are ready,” he said.

Looking ahead I could see what he was referring to.  There was a particularly steep section that was incredibly narrow (can the truck even fit through that?) and the road dramatically dropped off on the passenger side (which is where I was sitting).

With my heart pounding in my chest, Robert expertly navigated the difficult section, as he has many times before, and then laughed out loud as a way to lighten the situation and celebrate his small victory.  At this point all of us couldn’t help but laugh too.

We continued on and soon reached the village of Figue which is surrounded by dense vegetation and rugged terrain.  There are 125 families in Figue with “five people per family minimum” as one man said.

In 2012 Figue suffered tremendously due to a harsh hurricane season.  In addition to crop loss, the village’s only church was completely destroyed.

Pastor Bonnet shares about his church
Pastor Bonnet shares about his church

“The wind was so strong during Hurricane Sandy,” explained Pastor Samuel Bonnet.  “The church was flattened.”

Pastor Bonnet has pastored the church in Figue for 32 years and his father pastored before him.  Although no one knew exactly when the church began, it’s obvious it has been serving Figue for some time and World Concern wanted to see that legacy continue.

While World Concern provided the materials and some technical support, it was the community of Figue who rebuilt their church.

“We built it!”  They chimed in unison when asked about their church.  It was clear that the community possessed a high level of ownership which is a beautiful thing to witness.

The new church building is an eye-catcher.  Not because it is flashy; in fact it is quite simple.  However it is the obvious strength of the structure that grabs your attention.  The old church was made of rock and dirt.  The new church is built with cement, ensuring it will serve its’ 200+ members well for years to come.

Inside the newly built (and well painted) church.
Inside the newly built (and well painted) church.

In addition to a new church, Figue now has access to consistent potable water thanks to the construction of a new water system.  Similar to the construction of the church, World Concern provided materials and technical support but the system was entirely built and managed by the community.

The primary water source is a spring a steep 10 minute walk from the main road passing through Figue.  Once the source was capped, piping was installed to carry the water down the hill to a reservoir.  This reservoir holds the water and once it reaches capacity, the water is piped further down the hill to a fountain on the main road.

64-year-old Amedene Tibo, a widow and mother of seven, has lived in Figue her entire life.  “Although the source was only a 10 minute walk from the road the path was bad and if you are carrying water you will fall,” she said.

Mrs. Tibo posing at the water system's reservoir.
Mrs. Tibo posing at the water system’s reservoir.

She is not joking.  After scrambling to reach the reservoir a few of us continued further up the hill to the actual source.  Even for a young person such as me, it was no easy trek.  The path itself is not clear and I was constantly slipping on the wet rocks that littered the ground (even though I was wearing low top hiking shoes with good traction).

Thankfully that difficult walk is not needed anymore.

As I sat listening to different people share about the water system and what a blessing it is I thought to myself, “What if it breaks?”  All too often systems such as this one end up rusting away as soon as something breaks if there is not a pre-determined plan established beforehand.

When there was a break in the chatter I asked that very question.

This fountain provides access to water to those in Figue and other nearby communities.
This fountain provides access to water to those in Figue and other nearby communities.

“If there is a problem with the system each family has agreed to give a little money so we can repair it,” explained Frednel Rimny, president of the local water management committee.

It was encouraging to hear that the committee understood the importance of creating a plan and had put one in place.

The progress in Figue and the community’s hard work should be celebrated.  A safe place to worship for the village’s church goers and a new water system are wonderful contributions that will certainly bless the people of Figue for quite some time.

This doesn’t mean Figue and other rural communities don’t face more challenges.  Poverty is complex and multi-dimensional.  This theme came up often in our discussions with our travel companions.  We’re learning that not everything can be “fixed” or perfected; and that’s okay.  Instead it’s about walking with people and helping them move forward one step at a time.  This is a slow process but one that World Concern is committed to living out.

 

Goats and Girls Education: A “Baton” For Life

girls goats haiti1Although we’ve been taught that there is no “silver bullet” to combating poverty, education may be an exception.  The impact education can have in the lives of children—especially girls—is overwhelming.

–  One extra year of school boosts a girl’s future wages by 10-20 percent.

–  A girl who completes basic education is three times less likely to contract HIV.

–  Education drastically reduces child marriage. On average, a girl with 7 years of education will marry 4 years later and have 2.2 fewer children.

If statistics are not convincing, listen to girls themselves.  I’ve found that in Haiti girls yearn to attend school and know full well the value of an education.

“School is important because you need to learn things so you can have an occupation,” said 12-year-old Rocheka who lives in the small coastal village of Crabier in southern Haiti.

rocheka small1
Rocheka with her goat

So what’s with the goats we talk so much about? And what do goats have to with education?  Well I’m glad you asked.

In rural parts of Haiti World Concern has found that the gift of a goat can help keep girls in school for the long run.  Here’s how:

In partnership with schools and churches, World Concern gives a female goat to a young girl who also receives basic goat husbandry training so she knows how to take care of her goat.  Once the goat has babies (called kids; funny but totally legit), the first kid is given back to the program so another child can benefit.  Then all other kids that the female goat gives birth to can be sold by the girl to pay for school fees and other related costs such as books, materials and uniforms.

This way the girl is given a skill (goat-raising) and she is able to contribute towards her education, reducing dependency and making her an active participant instead of a passive receiver.

There are three primary advantages to the ‘goat model’:

1.    Life lessons.  When a goat is initially given to a girl, she also receives basic goat husbandry training.  The training focuses on how to feed the goat and keep it healthy.  A goat is an asset in rural Haiti and represents an important source of income that girls can use to pay for school fees and other necessities.  It’s important from the beginning to give girls the skills they need to take care of the goat.  The goat husbandry knowledge they gain during the training is something they can use for years to come, even after they finish school.  Since a goat requires consistent attention, girls learn important life lessons such as responsibility, discipline and ownership.  Aside from the initial training, World Concern staff returns each month to teach girls and other students about additional tips and techniques for raising their goat.

2.    “Multiplying effect.”  When a goat is given, its impact goes beyond the girl who initially received the goat.  The first kid that goat produces is returned to the program so it can be given to another child.  This is one reason that our goat program in Haiti has existed since 1998 and continues to this day.  The gift of a goat has a significant impact in the life of a girl but it also is a gift that multiplies over time, impacting other children as well.

3.    The gift that (literally) keeps giving. “Each year a goat will give between six and nine kids, and she typically can produce kids for up to 10 years,” explains Pierre, World Concern’s regional coordinator for southern Haiti.  The kids that a goat produces represent income for a young girl so she can attend school and most importantly stay in school.  All goats, minus the first, are hers to sell.  Enabling a girl to earn an income and pay for school lightens the financial burden on her family and allows the family’s precious resources to be spent on other critical needs.

World Concern provides vaccinations to goats in the program as well as on-going veterinary care.  This ensures that the investment of a goat will truly benefit a girl long term.

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Rocheka (second from left) and friends outside their church in Crabier.

Rocheka is one of many girls in Haiti who are able to stay in school thanks to the gift of a goat.  Rocheka is a soft spoken yet determined and bright girl who has big dreams.

“After I finish secondary school, I would like to be a nurse so I can take care of children because many children suffer from disease,” she shared.

Youslie is a 7-year-old girl who lives in the village of Guilgeau and is currently in the second grade.

“In school I like to read stories,” she said.

Youslie recently received her goat and is enjoying taking care of it.

“I feed the goat twice a day things like corn and corn husk,” said Youslie.  “Once the goat has babies I will drink the milk.”

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Youslie (left) and her friend Belony in Guilgeau.

In Haitian Creole, the language spoken by all Haitians, the word baton is significant.  Translated directly it means ‘stick’ or ‘baton’ however it has a deeper meaning.  A baton can also be a skill or ability that a person possesses which will help them succeed in life.  This meaning is often used in reference to education.

Following earning a certificate from a trade school or graduating from high school, someone may say, “Now I have a baton I can use to fight in life.”  With a baton, a person is given a tool which will help them in their pursuit of a more healthy and productive life.

In Haiti, girls face many challenges which leave them vulnerable—generational poverty, limited financial resources and lack of opportunity.  At World Concern, we want to give girls a baton that will help carry them through some of these challenges.  Education is one baton that has a long-term impact on the life of a young girl.

Girls like Rocheka and Youslie are the future of Haiti.  Helping them stay in school is an investment in their life but also has an impact on their family, community and country.

Help us impact more girls in Haiti by giving the gift of a goat today!