Cows, fudge & women in Haiti.

Our Heifer International trip to Petit Goave got off to a petit late start, because we overstayed at the town of Degand. Which meant by the time we pulled into the lush rural community of Petit Goave, the sun was getting low in the sky and we faced one last hurdle: a watery crossing.

Heave-ho!

Sona Chambers, ace Atlanta fundraiser and bon vivant, was in the front seat and cautioned Hervil Cherubin, Haiti Country Manger/driver extraordinaire, that the four-wheel drive wasn’t in gear. Dave Anderson, crackerjack international photographer and videographer, and I were in the back, minding our own business but secretly hoping for some action. We got our wish, as the minute we plowed hub-deep into the mud, it was pretty clear we were stuck solid. Pierre Ferrari, Heifer CEO in the car behind us, plunged in to the rescue and we were expeditiously pushed out by six farmers with a lot of muscle.

Dirty, muddy and happy, we traipsed into lovely Petit Goave where the community awaited us.  By now the light was seriously fading and the Heifer folks wanted to get us back on the road before nightfall. But since we were the late ones, we unanimously decided that all the beneficiaries should have a chance to speak, just as planned. And so they did.

Petit Goave is a beautiful place, blessed with plentiful water reminding me, once again, that water means life. This corner of Haiti, with its tradition of dairy cows, is also famous for the fudge (douce macoss in Creole) that I wrote about in my last post.With a candy industry nearby, the more milk Petit Goave farmers can produce, the more income they can generate from fudge-makers.

To take advantage of that opportunity, over the years, Heifer has given this community the gift of 50 cows & 2 bulls; 5,000 plantain plants; 600 buckets of bean seeds; 150 buckets of corn seed and 12,000 forage plants to feed the animals—as well as emergency food supplies after the earthquake. These gifts, which have been passed on to other families and thus multiplied, have made a profound difference in the life of the community, as we were reminded of by the people who stood to greet us.

How great does Emmanuel Jean's wife Jacque look after 9 children? (Dave Anderson photo)

Eddy Exantus, with 6 children, was able to send all of his kids  (not just the boys) to school with income from selling milk. Francois Revel, a bachelor, used his milk income to finish high school, then was trained by Heifer as a vet agent – giving him additional income while he keeps the community animals healthy. Emmanuel Jean has 9 children and been able to send them all to school, thanks to the milk money earned with his Heifer cow. And finally, a woman stepped up: Margareth Doscar, President of the Petit Goave Women’s Group and a single mother of 4.

Margareth Doscar photo by Dave Anderson.

Kimberly and I snapped to attention as she thanked us and wished us courage, then asked for more training in food processing and micro-loans to finance small businesses of the 45 women entrepreneurs in Petit Goave.

Kimberly, by Dave Anderson

As the light of female solidarity dawned on us (and the sun set for real) Kimberly asked for the wives of the men who’d spoken to come up & be recognized….and before you could say “Gloria Steinem,” there was huge laughter, people excitedly pushing shy wives and mothers to the front, and tales of romance, kids, and 30-year marriages in the air.

I struggled to take notes in the pitch-black and people held up cell phones to illuminate faces, while Pierre talked Kimberly (also shy) into addressing the women, who crowded around her in quiet thoughtfulness.

Petit Goave women. (Dave Anderson photo)

“Women have always been the backbone of society, and we know how hard you are working, and how difficult these times have been for you,” she said, as Hervil translated into Creole. “I want you to know that the women in America and all over the world care about you, we support you, and we haven’t forgotten you and your families.”

In the dark we could hear lowing and bellowing of the 50 beautiful cows that had been tied up in the clearing. A quarter moon rose over the horizon. As we walked back to the trucks, surrounded by the talking, laughing people of Petit Goave, it was a Heifer moment. One you’d never forget.

Categories: Agriculture, Animals, Haiti, Heifer International, Photography, Travel, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “Cows, fudge & women in Haiti.

  1. Love, love the last pic and who does not like a good cow pic:) Thanks for sharing!

  2. Ginger O'Neill

    Hi Betty,

    What a great Heifer moment and thanks for so beautifully and eloquently capturing it.

    Blessings on your head!

    Ginger

  3. Anonymous

    ah Betty, you made me weep (again). Such wonderful faces. I was almost there with you. Thank you for taking on this work – you were meant for it. Dorothy must be so proud of you. xoxo

    • Darling B — Where are you?? I miss you … and wish you could be with me on these journeys! It’s exactly your cup of tea: total hilarity, insane roads and car trips, unbelievably moving encounters with people whose lives you simply cannot believe and who are so courageous and resilient and inspiring in the midst of it … and then, of course, the food, the geography, the hotels …. you should come with me before the year is out!! I’m calling you tomorrow; we need to catch up!! xoxoxo b
      (p.s. Thanks so much for the Dorothy comment; that meant the world to me, as I’m sure Nan is up there bragging to everybody about Coastal Market as well!!!)

  4. Wow, I didn’t know about the fudge industry. Cows would be incredibly important for that. Hooray for Heifer.

    More than anything, however, seeing your vehicle stuck in the mud, I’m afraid brings back memories. Good God, how easy it is to forget what the roads are like until I see a photo like that. Then it all comes back.

    Great post, Betty, and that final photo is stunning!

    Hugs,
    Kathy

  5. Thanks, Kathryn — I couldn’t believe what a beautiful sky it was, and then — it was dark! The fudge “industry” is small and just in that one stretch of the country, but people love it, and I couldn’t help thinking there was room for lots of growth! Ahhhhh, those roads!

  6. My gosh, you must sleep soundly at night … and wake up aching ?

  7. You make me cry almost every time too! It’s a good thing I like to cry! Anyway, I think so many people have forgotten them though…I wish it wasn’t so. The more I read, the more I’d love to get involved. Not sure how, but perhaps the Universe will guide me!

    • Dear TS — I’m pretty sure the Universe IS guiding you so you’ll find a way!! Thanks for your lovely comment (and I like to cry, too .. ha!)

  8. Travel Spirit – same feeling! This piece was especially moving and I don’t know how you do it Betty. Every picture is a story and your writing is icing on the cake. The amazing resilience of these beautiful people – and yours too my friend!

    • Thanks, Ivette — and remember, you’re always invited along!! (so happy you like my photos … and Dave’s are so wonderful, especially!!) xoxox b

  9. Very nice and yes, water or river is life! I’m sure that mud spattered everywhere. Your pictures are so clear, very good. I was wondering if I could use one of your pictures or make a reference to it for an online journal, if not that’s okay. It was the beautiful smiling pic of the girl from Haiti building the new houses. Thanks.

  10. I’m happy to allow you to use the photo of the girl in Ivoire … and if you could give me a photo credit that would be great ( : …

    • Lauraglu thank you so much for your help. How would I add a custom baurokgcnd I really don’t know much about that kind of stuff. Any thing you can do to help would be great. Have you checked out my website.

  11. pixiealamode

    Great post. :) I’d love to go to Haiti someday.

    • I promise you will LOVE it … it’s just an incredible, mesmerizing, confounding, disturbing, unforgettable place. Go, Pixie, Go!!

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