Donor Stories

Kitchen Kuttings

Kitchen Kuttings, a specialty bulk food store in Elmira are pleased to offer Haitian vanilla for sale with all proceeds going to FIDA.

Kitchen Kuttings teams up with FIDA. If you’d like to enjoy fresh, pure, fragrant vanilla from Haiti, drop in at Kitchen Kuttings in Elmira. Partners Elmeda and Lydia Weber and Nancy Shantz are pleased to offer Haitian vanilla for sale. All proceeds are donated back to FIDA.

Kitchen Kuttings, a specialty shop located on the corner of Arthur and Church Streets, sells bulk foods, as well as homemade summer sausage, jams, jellies, preserves and pickles, and Canadian and imported cheeses.

“We are so excited to help out FIDA and it seems so personal because the vanilla is directly from Haiti,” says Elmeda. “It has been going really well and people have actually been coming in and asking for it. It makes me very happy that we can help feed families by doing this.

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In Their Footsteps

This past December I had the immense privilege of taking FIDA founders Jack and Anne Wall on a farewell visit to Haiti.

They are both in their eighties and desired, while still in reasonable health, to see “one more time” the people and the land where they spent the latter part of their working life.

They spent most of their week in and around the guest house that Anne had established as a means to support the activities of FIDA in Haiti. There was a constant stream of friends, former employees and craft vendors that came to sit and reminisce as well as sell their wares to Anne who closely inspected and applauded their handiwork.

Jack was able to travel to Haut St. Marc where he was welcomed by staff and affectionately embraced by cooperative leaders. It was December 13th. On this very day, 23 years ago, the first cooperative of St. Marc was formally established; an auspicious occasion that moved Jack immeasurably and prompted him to ask cooperative president Emates why he took this leap of faith in 1984. Emates answered, “Mister Jack, when I saw you come to start cooperatives in Haiti you were no longer a young man. You were sixty years old! I said to myself that there must be something to this cooperative idea for him to have so much passion and energy. And so I joined. Today I know I will be a member of the cooperative until I die.

We then visited the site of one of the newest cooperatives, Coopérative Jilbe. The vibrant yellow and green painted silo anchored lively community activity. Men were busy at work, capping the stream to divert water to the city below. Others were harvesting the peanut crop. Women and children gathered at the well, washing clothes and scrubbing laughing children in the gurgling spring. Flags of fresh laundry filled tiny family yards…

Such are the sights and sounds of a productive and healthy community in Haiti. They have been hard won; not just by Jack and Anne, who came to this country at an age when most are ready to retire, with nothing much more than commitment to a vision; or by the countless people who faithfully supported this mission. This beautiful little community exists today because its members chose to take a leap of faith, to address their social/cultural constraints and physical adversities and to take ownership. This is the foundation of true development: “Change must be in the hands of those that desire it,” says Jack. “If development is not owned by the people and managed by the people, it will surely fail.

This is a mantra that was oft repeated from my childhood through to adulthood. It is rooted in a vision that I today share with my father and mother along with thousand of men and women in Haiti who have sought to better their lives and their community by coming together as a productive agricultural cooperative.

Betsy Wall, Executive Director

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Perspectives on Life in Haiti

After spending seven months in Haiti, we have had the opportunity to experience a wide variety of life. Some things we expected; others were more surprising…

We expected to meet guests from an assortment of backgrounds and interests and have not been disappointed. The quality of people with their love for Haiti and diverse interests in assisting and coming alongside this society has brought a far richer level of conversation than we ever expected. We have not all had the same spiritual and philosophical beliefs, but we have connected as human beings and friends in the unique setting of Wall’s International Guest House in the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

The political scene carries both similarities and differences to Canada. There are various parties, candidates, speeches, blaming of one another. In Canada, that results in an election call at some point with so many weeks given in advance to prepare a campaign. Here, the campaign stretches on and on, the election day gets changed and changed again, there are assassination attempts and violence and a UN force to try to keep the peace and facilitate the process. One realizes the great benefit of simply having a process that gives its citizens the opportunity for free choice and the hope that something positive will have been accomplished by the end of the exercise. The long awaited election was finally held on February 7, but it still took over a week to declare the winner, amidst much controversy. The inauguration was delayed to to Senate elections, and people waited impatiently for their new President, Rene Preval, to officially take office on May 14.

Health issues are a concern in any country. Haitians seem to visit the doctor at a rate that at least equals that of a Canadian, but most likely far exceeds it. Even if one is experiencing the common cold here you are asked if you have been to the doctor. Medical care seems readily accessible in Port-au-Prince and not that costly for the average Haitian. When a pool accident necessitated stitches for a guest, staff walked him to the nearest medical facility, which was only a block away. There was no waiting and after having part of his head shaved and stitches and medication administered, the total bill amounted to less than $20 USD. Compare that to waits and costs in a Canadian hospital emergency ward and this system seems preferable.

Celebrating Christmas in Haiti was an event that we looked forward to as we were interested in the differences that would be visible from Canada. We were surprised to see faces of Santa Claus sold on the sidewalks along with vine creations in the shape of reindeer and even Christmas trees; they seemed out of place in this tropical setting. However, for the most part we were glad to see that Port-au-Prince wasn’t engrossed in all the commercial outward trappings of the season, but rather Christmas Eve and Christmas Day consisted of seeing many people walking to their churches for times of worship and reflection.

New Year’s Eve was the loudest night we’ve experienced in Haiti. It appears that Haitians love to celebrate with firecrackers and noise, and it was impossible to distinguish firecrackers from gunshots as they continued until the roosters began crowing. Parties with loud music are never an issue for bylaw control as the policemen like to station themselves nearby to enjoy the music along with the neighbourhood. The rights of would-be sleepers is not an issue in this city.

We overhead one guest talking to another on our rooftop, “What’s that smell?” One gets used to the smells in the city over time. It’s a mixture of rotting garbage, diesel fumes, smoke from burning garbage, which can occur any time within the city, urine from the lack of public restrooms, and animals that roam freely, including pigs, goats, dogs and chickens. That’s not to say there isn’t tremendous beauty in Haiti, it’s just that sometimes the most vivid images and sensations provide such contrast to life in Canada.

Those are just a few of the different elements one encounters in Haiti. We began by mentioning the relationships we’ve experienced at the guest house. We’ve learned that relationships and the way people treat one another are paramount to Haitians. We often want to accomplish a task. They want to connect and know they are acknowledged and valued as a person; to be treated with respect and dignity no matter what their economic or social position. With all that we see and experience in our year in Haiti, we hope this lesson is the one that will become the most ingrained in us.

by Waldo and Pam Pauls

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Commemorating Twenty Years of FIDA in Haiti

The following remarks are excerpted from an address Janet Bauman, FIDA/pcH Country Manager, Haiti, gave during FIDA’s twentieth anniversary fundraising banquet. The gala evening was held November 19, 2004 at Bingemans in Kitchener.

I want to explain what the vision and leadership Jack and Anne Wall have provided, both in Haiti and in Canada, have meant to me. One of the greatest gifts they have given to the organization was to inspire their daughter Betsy, now Executive Director, with the qualities to invest in the vision, to take up the torch of leadership, and to carry it forward.

Betsy, like Jack and Anne, easily grasps the concept of how to be a facilitator, how to stand out of the way personally in order to allow the true experts to emerge in doing this work of helping Haitians help themselves. They understand the principle of going to Haiti with a question on their lips instead of offering a solution formulated miles away in an entirely different country and context.

This posture, this approach, makes a world of difference in how we are received in Haiti. It also makes a world of difference to me. Jack, Anne and Betsy each share a deep appreciation for the citizens of their other country, Ayiti, as we say in Kreyòl.

I hope I can be like Jack and Anne when I reach the age of 60. Imagine, they took the sum of their life experiences and pioneered a new work in Haiti. What a bold move they made 20 years ago. We are here today to celebrate their efforts and their achievements.

Their respect for Haiti is obvious, visible, and it enables us to be effective. Respect is a word we use frequently in our daily work. When I look to hire new staff, I stress the importance of this approach. We train staff, such as our receptionist, to receive the farmers, who make the long trip from their fields in the mountains to visit our offices in the capital city as if they were receiving a dignitary from the government.

We believe our beneficiaries are the most important relationships we have and we want them to feel they are respected. I am sometimes late for meetings with the Canadian Embassy because of an unscheduled visit from cooperative leaders who got up at four o’clock in the morning, walked down the mountain, caught a tap-tap, and rode for hours to arrive at the pcH office unannounced. An important way to show respect in Haiti is to give of your time.

In Haiti the pcH staff are professionals who are highly devoted to helping their country to be healed and to be transformed. We work individual by individual, farmer by farmer, young girl by young boy to help discover ways they can help themselves.

We feel we have achieved our goal when we succeed in helping a woman realize she has the ability and resources within herself to transform her life. It may be a small revelation, such as the woman who just learned to read and write. She can sign her name on her marriage certificate instead fo stamping her thumb on the inkpad. This small act enables her to face her husband with self-worth instead of shame. Her comportment will change and she will no longer accept beatings from her husband.

Men also learn alternatives to violence when trying to resolve conflicts. Their children, therefore, will not enter the cycle of violence that is often the solution to the frustration an illiterate person experiences. Both men and women are learning new ways of cooperating and managing their frustrations. These small but permanent changes make a mighty difference in the lives of thousands of people that FIDA touches.

FIDA is twenty years old. I have had the privilege of working with FIDA for nearly five years. There have been challenges, sometimes they appeared larger than I could manage, but I always, always felt that in working together with my senior management team, we would find solutions together. This team includes Pierre Richard Pierre and Cassandre Jerome, who are here with me and Vincent Jean Elto, who we left back in Haiti to hold everything together. I have learned so much. I am richer and a different person today for having walked this road in Haiti.

In closing, I would like to share one small thing that I have learned from living in Haiti. I learned it while watching a cock fight in Fon Batis and I believe it sums up the indefatigable spirit of Haiti that I find so admirable: the winner is the one who doesn’t run away. The winner is the one who doesn’t give up. So, never give up!

I believe I am just one amongst thousands of people in Haiti who would like to extend their gratitude and thanks to you, Jack and Anne. These are people who have passed through Wall’s International Guest House, gone on a Haiti Adventure Tour, voiced a prayer, contributed financially. These are people who sit in a literacy class and can now read and write, a farmer who received a loan for crop planting, or who now makes more money because he knows how to plant cabbage or broccoli. We are from all walks of life.

Thank you for seeking me out, for intriguing me with your philosophy, and entrusting me to carry on your vision in Haiti.

by Janet Bauman, FIDA-pcH Country
Manager, Haiti

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The Woman Who Took Liberty

Aricia Fleurimond is famous. In the mountains of Cooperative Kounol near the village of Djot, Haiti, where she tends her crops, she is a hero — a woman who led a coup d’etat that ousted a corrupt cooperative president, a man.

Wearing a pair of men’s dusty loafers, Aricia stands four feet, five inches tall, hardly what I’d expected. Her blue skirt and red blouse have been laundered to an almost translucent thinness; her white purse is child-sized. Aricia doesn’t look like a revolutionary, but her language is passionate and beneath her calm exterior, a fire burns.

It’s unseasonably cool; Aricia and I and our translator shiver in the mountain air. Typical of Haitian hospitality, cooperative members have enthusiastically dragged rickety wooden chairs behind their silo for us. The small rectangular building constructed of cement blocks and roofed with tin provides shelter from the wind. Just beyond our feet, the narrow lip of land where we sit drops away sharply.

I am here as a representative of the Foundation for International Development Assistance. FIDA, Canada’s working arm of productive cooperatives Haiti (pcH), receives funding from the Canadian International Development Agency and helps to establish and support agricultural cooperatives in Haiti.

I begin by asking Aricia when she was born. French is the official language of Haiti’s urban educated and is not spoken or understood in rural villages; she replies in Creole. Our translator explains that it was in June 1958. At the age of six or seven, Aricia went to work in the gardens and fields with her father. Often the whole family went; Aricia, her three sisters and brother would labour until nightfall in the fields and their mother would cook meals there.

“I didn’t grow up well,” she says. “I stayed short. I didn’t eat well as a child; sometimes I ate just once a day. Sometimes I ate cornmeal twice a day.” Attending school was not an option for Aricia. “I always wanted to go to school and get an education. I looked at other girls who went away and got to leave the area, but my parents never had the means to let that happen.”

She felt tied down, restricted. And ashamed. At the age of fourteen or fifteen, she resigned herself to working in the fields. Little has changed since Aricia’s hardscrabble childhood. Women still slash weeds with machetes and gather them so the men can turn the soil. Then they plant seeds and two weeks after the crop has sprouted, they weed the fields. It takes about twenty women two days to plant a hectare. The challenges in these remote mountainous areas are formidable; electricity is not available and tractors cannot negotiate the terrain. Implements are picks and hoes. The few books that exist are written in French, not Creole. Learning occurs by oral repetition and education usually ends after grade five. Aricia works as part of a konbit, a team of workers who hire themselves out to prepare, till and plant each other’s land. She also owns farm land which is a requirement in order to be part of a cooperative.

I inquire about the size of the field Aricia works. She points. I don’t understand – we are surrounded by mountains; terraced down their steep sides are crops spreading out in every direction for miles. She points again and then makes a broad sweeping motion with her arm.

“Where is it?” I asked, puzzled.

“She works all of that,” our translator replies.

And this is when I weep. The garden plot I’d imagined Aricia tilling has suddenly been replaced with countless hectares of back-breaking labour. We are overlooking an endless expanse of pigeon peas, beans and corn; a very clear picture of Aricia’s existence emerges. She gazes into the distance and waits as I try to compose myself.

The women of Haiti live daily with the reality of abuse and vulnerability yet some of the stories that emerge from this land of bewildering contradictions are ones of resilience, faith, creativity and pride. They are stories like Aricia’s that paint shining pictures of hope upon dark pages.

When Aricia heard about pcH, she was intrigued. Three years ago she invested twenty-five gourdes, about five Haitian dollars, or seventy-five cents Canadian, the amount required to become a member of her cooperative.

“I’m the kind of person who likes to ask questions,” she says coyly. “When they took my gourdes, I asked them what they were going to do with my money. I was a bother to them and after a good long time, I saw they weren’t doing anything, so I took my money out.”

At a general assembly meeting, she dared to question the president of Cooperative Victorieuse about the mismanagement of funds. It was a bold move, especially for a woman; in a lawless country like Haiti, to challenge someone in a position of authority can mean risking one’s life.

The president was the cooperative’s most educated and important individual; because of his powerful position he gave unfair advantage to his family members, buying only their seed and crops at the exclusion of other members. Those in Aricia’s cooperative did as they were told, however, Aricia is not a typical member. When the president did not provide her with satisfactory answers, she continued to challenge him over the weeks and months, refusing to back down.

“He squirmed. I wouldn’t give up. And then, no one voted him in again,” she says with a hint of triumph in her voice.

After Aricia had exposed the president’s unethical practices, she went on to become a member of the surveillance committee, an accomplishment of which she’s modest. The surveillance committee is one of the three management committees in a cooperative structure and is the most critical as it holds administration accountable to the membership. “I’m going to tell you why I joined the leadership,” she explains. “It’s because I wanted to know what was going on in our cooperative. They say things with their mouths  and I wanted to be part of the surveillance committee and see if what they were saying was true. I found there were problems and things weren’t always going the way they said; the president was taking more than his share of the credit and serving only himself. We did have elections and we saw that some members did get credit and some did get to sell their crops to the cooperative, but many didn’t.”

Before joining the cooperative, Aricia could recognize simple numbers and write her name, but now she can write a letter to her brother who lives in the village of Cabaret and she can read. As a member, Aricia participated in literacy classes, learning mathematics and how to read and write by using books created by pcH staff. These materials are written in Creole and use phrases, language, scenarios and role-playing relevant to everyday life. Through other educational courses offered in her cooperative, Aricia learned about reforestation, agricultural techniques, conflict resolution, how to compost, increase crop yields, and take inventory of a silo. She continues her studies, nurturing the expectation that her eight children will graduate from school; her eldest is about to finish high school.

Aricia acknowledges the role of women is extremely difficult yet she no longer accepts the view that all men are ‘chiefs’; with education and training, she believes the future for the women of Haiti will change.

“I’ve heard people preaching in church that men have authority over women and can beat them. But in the cooperative meetings we begin to understand that this is not so,” she says.

Aricia’s hands are folded neatly on her purse; they are rough with dirty broken nails. She sits across from me, a tiny figure on a battered wooden chair at the edge of a mountain. Tendrils corkscrew from beneath a kerchief tied over her head. My insides are still trembling; in these surreal hours among the clouds, a sister has laid bare her soul to me with generosity and honesty. Mesi anpil, Aricia. Anpil, anpil. Thank you so very, very much.

I ask her what she would like to say to the women of Haiti. She takes her time answering. If we don’t leave now, we’ll be descending treacherous roads at nightfall, but I don’t rush her. I want to hear every word of her hard-earned insight.

“I would tell women you are people like all people and I would wish them to be courageous,” she finally replies, looking out over the fields. “I would tell them you deserve the same wages as men to do the same work. I would ask them to understand they have the same rights as men. pcH is an organization that helps women to open their eyes. I would like pcH to grow and do more of its work.”

She gets up as I gather my things and prepare to go. I’m unable to articulate how moved I am by her story, how honoured I am to have witnessed her fiercely beautiful spirit, how proud I feel of her accomplishments. Despite all that separates us, we share a breathtaking victory.

“Bon couraj, Aricia,” I say. She grins impishly and then quips, “Bye-bye.” Everyone standing around us bursts into laughter.

I watch her as we leave. The sky has already begun to draw sheer smoky drapes across the mountains. Dwarfed by this vast background, Aricia stands beside the silo and waves. A cold wind snaps her skirt around thin legs and tugs at her blouse. And then I realize something grand. In 1803, while Haiti was still under French rule, the rebel slave, Jean Jacques Dessalines, took the blue, white and red flag of France, ripped out the white, and stitched together the red and blue. Aricia is wearing the colour’s of Haiti’s flag. Yo pay bay libete. Se pran pou ou pran l. Liberty is not given to you. Take, you must take it.

by Rachel Wallace-Oberle

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Where There is no Vision, the People Perish

It has taken most of my adult life to appreciate the enormity of this prophecy. I was raised, after all, by a father who was a man of vision in every sense of the word. When I began my role with FIDA nearly four years ago, I knew that I was accepting to be the caretaker of the vision. What I didn’t know was how the vision would consume me. Nor did I know how the flame of the vision would be fanned.

Who is responsible for vision anyway? Who or what is shaping our world, our community? Are we following vision or are we influencing vision? I have often feared the answer.

And then I think of Haiti.

If ever there is a people that appear to be perishing it would seem to be Haitians. Many of us have believed, and rightly so, that Haiti is in need of vision. What is less correct is that it is our job to install the vision. It isn’t. Nor should it be.

At the first orientation of each Adventure Tour, we encourage each participant to “be still and listen.” As exhausting as this can be, I hope we never tire of listening, because there is much to be learned.

One morning last spring, I was a listener in a meeting of cooperative leaders in Fon Batis. They were discussing the economic future of their community. They were preparing for the time when FIDA/pcH would have a less prominent role. How was the next generation of cooperative members going to be prepared?

It soon became startlingly clear that if action was not taken soon to educate the 14-17 year old population (for whom there exists no education), the future of the cooperative movement would be questionable. Their vision of a healthy, productive community would be in jeopardy. They wasted no time. A project was drafted on their behalf. It is called “Education for the Emergence of a Democratic Society through Cooperatives.” The community refers to it as coop pepinere, the coop nursery, as it is nurturing its children in the way of the cooperative. The project begins immediately. It will affect 2,372 children.

However, the community did not stop there. This past November, the second edition of the Flanbokop was published. It is their version of a local newspaper written entirely in Kreyòl (there are very few publications written in Kreyòl for the newly literate to read). The image is of a flaming torch held by many hands. The articles feature stories, testimonies, important information and local news. For example, each issue lists the market price of produce from Fon Batis compared to produce of other regions.

Vision is a powerful thing. It can be dangerous if it is controlled by a few. We are responsible for the world we live in. If ours is a vision for a more peaceable kingdom here on earth, then we must act responsibly to create it and nurture it.

by Betsy Wall

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Fathers and Daughters in Haiti

Teresa Radke

Deciding to go: It’s Christmas 2001 at the Radke house. Dad’s upcoming trip to Haiti comes up in conversation. He’s already excited and mentions there’s still room on the tour. Going with my dad crosses my mind. It is more than a passing thought. This one doesn’t go away.

I have only travelled in Canada and the USA. I’ve never been to an island or anywhere overseas, but I have dreams of going. Travelling in a third world country would be a totally different experience, especially with my dad. This would be really special, I think. A once in a lifetime opportunity. I mention the idea to my mom. What does she think?

My Dad was ecstatic when he returned from his first trip. I recall this easily; reviewing his pictures and listening to him describe his adventures. I was to learn that I had not totally understood the magnitude of his trip. Pictures don’t tell the whole story. My decision was made.

As the time for leaving draws close, I begin to wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. I think I can handle this but can I really? The orientation session gives us very real and pertinent information to consider. Some express concern with the travel advisory issued by the Canadian government. But I feel assured. I know my dad. If safety was a question, there’s no way my father would allow his daughter to come along!

Wherever we travel in Haiti, the importance of family becomes more and more apparent. As introductions are made, eyes light up when they are told that a relation has come with a family member who has been to Haiti. It is an affirmation of the power and respect of relationships. This goes a long way in Haiti and becomes increasingly apparent during the tour. The relationships present on this trip are under development too. A new understanding begins; children with parents and parents with children.

My dad likes to teach people how to do things. I see this first hand when he talks about composting, planting tomato seeds or looking at crops. Even with a language barrier, there is still communication.

The enthusiasm in these moments is contagious and being able to witness it is exciting. These are memories and moments that are shaping our days in Haiti.

I am struck by the number of parent-child relations on this Adventure Tour. There are three father-daughter combinations as well as a mother-daughter relationship. I think of the father on this trip whose daughter is much too young to travel with him. However, we know she too will be infuenced as she hears the adventures of her father and learns from him. Family ties are strong on this particular tour and common themes become apparent. For example, each daughter on the tour is the eldest in her family and similar behaviour patterns are very much in evidence.

The experience of family and relationship went well beyond the group. They were present around every bend of the road, in vehicles we passed, in homes we were welcomed into, in every marketplace we toured and in every community and cooperative we visited. It is a father-daughter experience that will nourish me for years to come.

Glen Radke

It was not long after I announced to my family that I would be taking a second trip to Haiti that my eldest daughter, Teresa, announced that she would like to join me! She decided this without any arm-twisting from me. This gave me a great deal of satisfaction that she truely wanted to accompany her father on such a trip. The trip was to affirm many things about her. Teresa is very organized. She was packed and ready to go long before her dad. I tend to be a bit of a last-minute type. I was to learn a few lessons from her! My daughter is also very attentive to her surroundings. She interacts well. Her youthful look, pale skin and blonde hair made her a natural attraction for Haitian children. She also emerged as a remindful daughter, reminding me that she is not a teenager anymore, that I don’t need to be so protective. She reminded me to wear sunblock and to remember my passport. The parenting roles often seemed to get reversed!

All the daughters on the trip took great pleasure in oohing and aahing in response to their father’s puns or dull jokes. We dads enjoyed the attention and knew how to ‘pour it on.’

Of special pleasure to me as the father of my daughter was her interest in Haiti in light of her career in research and development at Parmalat Products. She was ever so eager to visit a Haitian grocery store. Armed with a camera, she headed straight for the dairy section, snapping pictures of her company’s products that had made onto a shelf in Haiti. I was as proud of her as she was of her work.

I know she wants to visit Haiti again, but without her dad! I wonder what she means by that?

Sarah Cardey

I am blessed. When I think of my family, I can only think I am blesed. This was not only a father-daughter Haiti trip, this was a mother-daughter trip as well. It was taking a step in the evolution of our relationship, in the journey that is the parent-child relationship.

What has been the impact of seeing, witnessing Haiti as a family? I see in my father the desire to take what he has seen and change this world. He spends more time simply being, thinking, contemplating. He takes an active interest in developing countries, speaking about his experiences to all who  will listen. My mother sees the connections between her experience in Haiti and her work, her interactions with the people around her. They have become more aware of the way they walk in this world. Through this, we have grown closer; it has become a journey as a family. Even my little sister has been swept into the fray!

When I close my eyes, I remember the moments with my parents in Haiti. I can only think of the joy I took in their presence, and watching them react. They were reading my thoughts, joy and compassion in a place that has become such a significant place in my life. They afforded me the opportunity to see with fresh eyes. More than anything, they reinforced my absolute belief that they are two of the strongest, most precious people in my life.

Ray Cardey

For me, this was really a parent-daughter experience since Sarah’s mother, Gloria, also came.

With that proviso, we experienced the week as confirming our impressions of our daughter as a very capable young lady. Once again, we were impressed with her integrity and her commitment to developing country issues. It was gratifying to see her in an environment in which she feels so much at home.

When we were Sarah’s age, we certainly would not have been able to handle the many demands of this trip, acting as a translator and skillfully handling a group of adults, including our parents! Because of her presence, we experienced Haiti and the work of FIDA in a more immediate way. The Haitians and FIDA workers we met were not just wonderful people, they were also Sarah’s colleagues and friends, about whom she had already shared stories with us.

We felt privileged to be able to see Haiti through her eyes and to understand her in this way.

Betsy Wall

This was not my first father-daughter trip to Haiti. The first was some 30 or so years ago, a graduation present to visit ‘the pearl of the Antilles,’ as my father exulted with a spirit that has certainly not diminished in time. It has taken me 30 years to appreciate Haiti and its people and to choose to work side-by-side with the mission envisioned by my father. I have become a better person in doing so. He has given me a great gift and I thank him for his inspiration. I feel truely blessed to have such an inheritance.

Jack Wall

Taking one’s daughter to Haiti is in itself an opportunity. In my case, it is not only one that revisits a relationship, but also a country that has been a part of my life for many years. Haiti has become a life-altering experience for me and I believe it has become so for my eldest daughter. Witnessing great need and the tremendous imbalances in our world can do that to you. It can also bring people together, to respond with a common energy for a common cause. When this happens, one feels a sense of satisfaction and true joy. It is a wonderful affirmation of a vision born of faith; it will carry on.

FIDALife Newsletter

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When we are witness…

The last evening before each Adventure Tour departs for home is spent on a second floor balcony, where we can see the evening sky and feel the cooler breeze of the day. We gather here often during the week to chat about the day’s events; what we saw, what we feel and the effect these things have on us. The last evening we spend together in Haiti isn’t just marked by a summation of our 7 day experience but more importantly, by the question, “what will we do with what we have seen and heard?”

Each visitor to Haiti is assured of an impactful experience. We see. We listen. We feel. We are being witness to. Now what?

This question affects me deeply as a Christian. Moreover, as a Christian, involved in Haiti, this question is a daily preoccupation. What do I do with what I see and hear? How do I respond responsibly, intelligently and compassionately? Some of the answers were closer to me than I had once thought.

I have known writer Urie Bender for most of my adult life. I have come to respect his keen observation of life and his provocative candor, both as a conversationalist and as a writer. If I thought he was the writer of choice to document FIDA’s activities in Haiti, I became absolutely convinced when I read his book, The Witness: Message, Method, Motivation.

Written some 37 years ago, when he was barely in his 40s, I found myself in a cover-to-cover breathless read. “… life conveys a message. Actions communicate. The messenger becomes the message. The word must be made flesh in our lives. An effective witness implies relationship and accepting to walk a long road. An effective witness implies a willingness to share, to search, to seek relationships of mutual regard, carefully built through acquaintance, acceptance and dialogue… honest dialogue.”

To be an effective witness is no small task. Indeed, much is required of us daily when we commit to being a true witness. It is an awesome challenge and one that I fully embrace.

I see this kind of witness in my parents. I see it in my coworkers here at FIDA. I see it in Janet, Pierre Richard, Cassandre and all our fellow workers in Haiti.

As for my fellow travellers? Your witness has translated into articles and pictures, storytelling and sharing, financial support and personal relationships here in Haiti and here in Canada. You have shared your transformation and, in turn, have enabled the transformation of others.

This is true witness. This is witness that listens and responds.

Editorial by Betsy Wall, Executive Director

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Three Fond Baptiste Cooperatives Meet New Credit Criteria

March is planting season in Fond Baptiste. Every farmer needs credit to purchase seeds and to pay labour to prepare the acres and acres of land which are tilled by pick and shovel. In many cases, groups of men form a ‘konbit’ and travel to various farmer’s lands helping each other. The new pcH Credit Protocol helps identify the most needy planters, as we can only respond to a limited number of credit requests. The rest must wait for next season.

Our Country Manager in Haiti, Janet Bauman, writes, “It is so exciting to be able to help farmers grow more food. Their sense of hope is such a great encouragement to us. This is the first time that Fond Baptiste farmers are receiving loans in order to plant more fields.”

The pcH credit programme equips farmers in Fond Baptiste with the resources they need to expand their farming but demand high levels of accountability for the money loaned. It is credit that is sorely needed-outside of city centres, credit isn’t easy to access in Haiti. In rural communities, the only access to credit for peasants is from a local landowner who demands unjust interest rates that can be as high as 600%. There is no hope whatsoever of farmers repaying these loans, and the desperate peasant is bound by this debt forever. Loans from pcH, which average 1,000 gourdes ($40 USD / $60 CAD) per farmer, are made to the cooperative at an interest rate of 10%. The cooperatives will reloan the money at 24%, with the profits going to the cooperative both as a benefit to the cooperative and to cover any bad loans. pcH sets rates that are both profitable for the cooperative and reasonable for the peasant. The loan capital fund is revolving and interest earned is turned back into available capital.

pcH, unlike direct aid programmes, demands accountability from the cooperatives and their members. Accountability in a loan programme means that it doesn’t become a handout, poisoning the community and creating a dangerous cycle of dependency.

How accountability is ensured

Before requesting credit, a cooperative must abide by rules that are governed by the international cooperative community. Each cooperative must:

• be registered or be in the process of registering with Haiti’s National Cooperative Council
• have held a General Assembly and proper elections in the last year
• be in good standing with pcH on past loans
• must demonstrate that they are able to repay the loan

To request credit, the cooperative submits a small business plan to pcH. Credit is available, and needed, for two main reasons: as capital credit for cooperatives to make speculation purchases of grain after harvest and as agricultural credit to lend to cooperative members in order to pay for labour to prepare the land and/or harvesting the crop.

The pcH Credit Committee (made up of the Finance Administrator, the Agriculture Coordinator, the Member Skills Coordinator and the Country Manager) reviews each application and meets with the cooperative to discuss their proposal. The Committee makes a final decision based on its ability to fulfill the request.

If the request is approved, and each party is clear on their roles and responsibilities, pcH and the cooperative sign a contract. This is a moment of great joy for everyone. “We at pcH rejoice that we are able to lend, proud that they have met the rigorous criteria and the cooperatives, in turn, are thrilled to have access to credit.”

For the cooperative member, accountability means they must meet several criteria to be eligible for a loan. The member:

• cannot borrow more than five times the value of their cooperative shares
• must have a garden in the cooperative area
• must practice soil preservation and environmental techniques such as composting
• must use soil conservation and agriculture techniques employed by the cooperative
• must sign a contract (which encourages participation in literacy classes)
• must agree to pay a penalty if they are late in repaying their loan

The cooperative can expect support from pcH, just as pcH can expect full accountability for the loan. The cooperative must leave their books open to scrutiny and demonstrate that the loan has been used for its intended purpose. However, they receive support, training and advice from the pcH Agricultural Technician, the ADEVKO (Agents of Development Kooperativ) and field monitors. If the cooperative is late in repaying their loan, they will be subject to penalties from the pcH Credit Committee.

What is the impact?

Credit, for urban Canadians, often means student loans, mortgages and car payments. Canadian farmers would find it nearly impossible to manage their farms profitably without credit. Likewise pcH offers a basic necessity to Haitian farmers. While a $40 US loan to a farmer in Fond Baptiste may seem small in comparison, it enables them to significantly expand their farms while maintaining their self-respect and freedom. By not giving a handout, we are making a statement of faith in them as cooperative members, as business owners and as people. We are acting on the belief that they have the will and the ability to succeed. Reasonably priced credit also means freedom: a loan at 24% can be paid off, while a loan at 600% means a lifetime of indebtedness. Reasonable interest rates beget economic growth; inflated interest rates beget a lifetime of economic disability.

Spring 2002 Newsletter

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The Power Within Us: How are we seen and heard in Haiti?

We had just arrived in the airport, cleared customs, and were standing and absorbing our new surroundings, waiting for our bags to come through the wall on a conveyor, when a Haitian man approached several of us white foreigners. He was a slim man wearing a light cotton shirt, and dark slacks, common dress in Haiti. He requested to see our leader. Betsy Wall, FIDA’s Executive Director, was travelling with us and happened to be standing in our midst when this man approached us. We directed him towards her and he introduced himself to her and they had a brief conversation.

Later, we learned that the man was a pastor of several churches and was hoping to secure some financial support. He had come wanting to help us with our bags and through this act of service was hoping to spark a relationship. One which would meet our need as compassionate and sympathetic foreigners to be helpful and to make a difference and meet his need for financial backing. However, since our interests were already invested with FIDA, we politely informed the man that we were not able to respond to his appeal.

Usually unauthorized persons are not allowed to enter the airport, but in this instance some official must have turned a blind eye in order to allow this man access to the baggage area. In Haiti, knowing the right people is very important. A sense of powerlessness can be overcome by having the right connections with those who have power. And as we soon learned through the encounter with the pastor in the airport and in many similar occurrences, we are often looked upon as people with power.

It may seem strange to some of us to think of ourselves as people who are perceived as having power. But as they say, money is power, and since in Haiti we are perceived as having money, we also have power. You can’t travel too far in Haiti without having someone come up to you and beg for money. When you enter a market area, you will draw many a look and many a call for you to come and buy something. Helpful people will approach you wanting to show you around and help you find what you’re looking for, in return for a tip. Local souvenir dealers will set up their wares outside your lodging and compete with one another for your business with competition, on occasion turning violent.

In some instances this attention we receive as foreigners may not be appreciated, but at other times we must confess it feels nice to be perceived as important. It feels good to be looked to as someone who has the power to make a difference, as someone who is identified as being the ‘right connection.’ And all this is possible simply because we have wealth (many Haitians believe that we in Canada simply pick our money from a money tree whenever we need to purchase something). However, as we know all too well, power can sidetrack, derail and even cause our best intentions and efforts to crash if we are not careful.

Jesus once caught his disciples arguing over who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of God. As Jesus’ disciples, they had tasted of the power that came with being associated with Jesus and they liked what they tasted. However, Jesus warns them about becoming like the rulers of their day, who abuse their power. Instead he told them, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last.”

I think as foreigners, even though we have sincere and admirable intentions, we need to be very mindful of the power that we are perceived as having, simply due to our wealth. And we need to be careful that we do not model values and attitudes which communicate that power and wealth are the goal and purpose of living. Instead we need to model that greatness is achieved by becoming ‘last’ and ‘the servant of all.’ If we do not take this to heart, then I think we are not only at personal risk of being corrupted by power, but we are at risk of compromising our efforts to bring freedom to people’s lives. Instead of helping them become all that they can be, we risk enslaving them. Enslaving them to a dependence on our money and the pursuit of wealth and power as the goal of life.

I believe FIDA/pcH is trying to take to heart these words. Through the ‘participatory management’ approach, Haitians are given the opportunity to participate. They are given ownership and the power to make their own decisions in the best interest of their communities. FIDA does not seek the power to have control or the authoritative final word, rather we seek to empower and invest others with authority. And by doing this we seek to model a willingness to be a servant to each other and to those we work with. Our staff in Haiti continue to preach that we do not have the power to change their circumstances. We can facilitate but ultimately the power is in themselves to better their circumstances. They have the power to obtain greatness; not greatness that comes from power or wealth but greatness that comes by being the last and being the servant of all. This is the message that we of FIDA/pcH embody and communicate in Haiti. It is a message that must be spoken and heard.

A Reflection by Ron Weber

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