A Letter from Cindy Corell, serving in Haiti
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And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
It’s simple, isn’t it? Gardens are spaces where we grow nutritious, life-giving food. When I was growing up, my father loved to prepare, plant, and harvest from our huge garden. I did not.
To me, it was work, and the only time I went there voluntarily was when the tomatoes were ripe, still warm from the sun, and I ate them right there in the garden.
I tell that story to my friends in Haiti, and they are perplexed. “But Cindy,” said Lormè Previlus, “the garden is your life.”
In the fall of 2013, I was with Mark Hare, a mission co-worker who then was coordinating a project that promoted yard gardens in rural areas. We arrived in the mountain community of Bayonnais to work with Viljean Louis, coordinator of the organization, Peasant Movement of Bayonnais. More than 100 people arrived for the meeting, most seated on a few chairs, walls or the ground. Mark and Viljean explained how the project works, how community members would elect leaders and undergo intensive training. They then would return to their homes to create gardens and share what they had learned with neighbors.
It could be life changing, Viljean said. Gardens planted close to homes would bring not only nutritious food, but dignity and a step out of poverty for members of the community. He took on the air of a preacher, walking among his community members sitting in the house where we met:
“God didn’t start the world in a bank,” he explained. “No, God started the world in a garden.”
In Haiti today, the gardens that bring life to the families who tend them are needed more than ever. Nearly one in four people in Haiti is critically hungry.
Fear of violence, including a rising number of kidnappings, robberies, and murders, along with political instability, severe loss of purchasing power, and now, a new surge of COVID-19, keep people closer to their homes. Unable to get out to make money or visit area markets, those without gardens face severe hunger.
Community leaders say people are losing hope.
In recent letters to you, faithful and generous supporters of our ministry there, I’ve told you about this need. And you have responded!
FONDAMA, our network of farmer organizations with which I serve, was able to provide resources, including an agricultural technician to help families in two hard-hit regions build new gardens. It is a project designed for sustainability. All materials are inexpensive or even free. Families are encouraged to save seeds for the next planting season and to help neighbors create their own gardens.
Network leaders designated communities in Dofine and Kenscoff to kick off the program. Agricultural technician Herve Delisma worked with those communities to prepare gardens in December. He visited regularly to support the gardeners for a growing season. With the project completed, the gardeners are now able to continue their gardens. Other projects will begin soon with the support of our agricultural technician in other regions of the country.
Sadly, the government of Haiti has failed to help its people. Conditions continue to deteriorate, and the needs for gardens and guidance are growing.
“Fear, despair, mismanagement, the issue of climate change discourages people from being able to work the land,” said Doudou Pierre Festile, coordinator of the Peasant Movement of Acul. “It is the most hungry rural world.”
Making the already untenable situation worse, rural families are hosting relatives who have left the capital city because of the violence, said Rose Edith Germain Raymonvil, coordinator of Hands United for Liberation and Advancement of the Community in Port-de-Pais. “This situation worsens the poor living conditions of many peasants because, in addition to life, that was already very difficult,” she said.
Though I am not in Haiti because of the pandemic, these stories bring great pain. I am so grateful to each of you who has generously and faithfully supported our ministry in Haiti. It continues, in spite of the great difficulties. We yearn for the day that a reckoning will come: for the day when gardeners seek the sacred spaces of growing plentiful food, enough to live, and enough to share.
I also want you to know that I will be available to visit with you virtually as I begin Interpretation Assignment from June through October. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible online. As we hold the people of Haiti in our hearts, I would love to share more stories about our friends there and consider ways to be better connected.
Again, I am ever so very grateful for all your support – prayerfully and financially – and for your encouragement in this service.
I keep this image in my heart, that of Isaiah 51:3, in which the prophet describes a rebuilding and an abundance that inspires songs of joy.
The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD.
Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving, and the sound of singing.
Please join me in praying that it may be so.
To help fund Yard Gardens in Haiti, please use this link to give online https://www.presbyterianmission.org/donate/h000014/. When giving online, write “FONDAMA gardens” in the box that states: “Comments/Instructions/Name of local congregation.”
If you prefer to send in a check, please write “FONDAMA gardens” in the memo line and mail it to:
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700
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Tags: COVID-19, dofine, farmer organizations, fondama, Genesis 1, Hands United for Liberation and Advancement of the Community in Port-de-Pais, Isaiah 51:3, Kenscoff, Matthew 25, the Peasant Movement of Acul, the Peasant Movement of Bayonnais, yard gardens in Haiti
Tags: Cindy Corell
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