The price of a chair.

The day we drove up from the overwhelming crush and chaos of Port au Prince to the town of Degand Haiti, it was like taking blissful step back in time — except that life isn’t quite so blissful for the people living here. Just 10 kilometers from Haiti’s capital of 1.2 million people, Degand is another world — a poor farming community with breathtaking ocean views, crisp clean air, and people who are spirited and hard-working.

The town seems idyllic and avocados grow in abundance here but the land is dry and rocky, and water is 4 to 5 kilometers away–which means girls usually walk about 3 hours a day hauling water. Degand was also hard-hit by the earthquake, with many families losing their homes, and many others taking in relatives from the city who were now homeless, too.

The long walk for water (this is just the beginning).

We were in Degand to celebrate the opening of the new Goat-Breeding Center built by Heifer International, in partnership with the community organizers of MOPLANDA — and it was a big day for the town.

My favorite part? The balloons read: "It's a boy!"(probably because all the "It's a goat!" balloons were sold out).

Heifer has been working in Degand since May of last year, starting with the gift of 25 goats to the neediest families, and the construction of 20 cisterns that are shared by 4-5 families each. The cisterns are expensive ($1500/apiece) but they have a transformative effect on the community. For one thing, girls can stop walking for water and start walking to school — and in Haiti, education is prized above all else. Families will sacrifice almost anything to get their children in school.The problem in Degand was that even with the gift of goats to a few families, the town had no way to pay its 6 schoolteachers their stipend of $40/month to teach. (Obviously, the government provides very little assistance with education, and 80% of Haitian schools are privately funded.) So Heifer helped the community build this commercial Goat Breeding Center as a community enterprise that will eventually house 60 goats, with proceeds of the sale of the animals going to support the school. It’s a different model for Heifer — a bigger investment, but with a far deeper impact on the overall economic viability of the community.

Degand's precious school

For the price of $5,000 to build the breeding center; 2 robust Boer bucks at $350/apiece; and 25 female goats at $60/apiece, Heifer has invested a total of about $7,200 in a quest to geometrically improve the quality of Degand’s goat stock, and enable the community to support its own school– as well as other projects it decides to undertake (like a Tool Bank where farmers can get loans to buy new tools). And with the sale of the school goats, Degand can pay its teachers …and even buy chairs for the children.

You know you’re in a different world when a simple school chair is a matter of  precious delight.

We loved visiting beautiful Degand and its people so much, we went back a week later and had a totally different but equally moving experience. But that’s tomorrow’s story…

Categories: Animals, Education, Haiti, Heifer International | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

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39 thoughts on “The price of a chair.

  1. Anonymous

    Your pictures continue to inspire. The one of the gentleman with the hat is one of my favorites yet. Amazing.

  2. Mollie Papan

    Betty,

    I can’t wait for your next post as I follow you around Haiti!

    Mollie

  3. LOVE the kids with the chairs (and the “it’s a goat” balloon comment–funny). I especially look forward to sharing your posts and all your photos with my daughters, Betty. THANK YOU.

    • Pattie — I love that you’re sharing these stories with your daughters! Make sure you see my MAPS that I just put on the navigation bar, because it’ll help you see where in the country I’m writing about (as of course, when I’m in the country, I’m always trying to figure out where I am .. and in Haiti, until somebody made a backward C out of their hand to mimic the shape of Haiti and showed me where everything was, I had NO idea of the geography. (I literally thought the DR was on the OTHER side of Haiti… duhhhhh!) p.s. The kids with the chairs is maybe my favorite photo of the whole trip!!

  4. Didi

    Funny aside on the balloons! Do the kids carry their own chair to school if they are fortunate enough to have one?

  5. Jeff

    Although I don’t post often, I read every entry in your blog and am inspired and touched by your first hand accounts. Of course, anything that has to do with educating children resonates with me, as I do believe education is key to the improvement in a child’s future quality of life. Thanks Betty for the time, sweat, and endurance you are spending to bring these stories to us. xoxo

    • Thanks SO much for your comment, Jeff – as I always love thinking that I am writing for you and you’ve always been such
      a loyal reader! I couldn’t agree with you more about the power of education and wish every family living in poverty (here and around the world) had access to a good education for their children. It’s a joy to write these stories, Jeff — honestly!!

  6. Smiles. You know I think your organization may just be my next charity. I love these stories. The cistern being 1500 dollars but so worth it, absolutely the best! These pictures show a lot more to Haiti than many have seen on news and other magazines. Is there still much unrest in the government?

    • I hope Heifer IS your next charity … I promise you won’t be disappointed!! The cisterns are incredible (you’ll see one in my next post) and they represent freedom from pointless labor of hauling water … so people can be so much more productive! I’m so glad you feel as if you’re seeing more of Haiti .. there is instability in the government with fights over the Prime Minister and a lack of cooperation in their “congress” so not much seems to get done (sound familiar??) but the Haitians I talked to seemed to be willing to give “Sweet Mickey” the new president a chance. The question is if he can be effective, get things accomplished, and gain the confidence of foreign governments so they will invest in the country, which is what is SO desperately needed!

  7. Ginger O'Neill

    Oh Betty,

    I am speechless. The gorgeous scenery is spectacular and the people so beautiful that it is hard to believe their strenuous daily task of eking out a livelihood. If only more American families put the time and toil into assuring their children’s education. Rick Santorum would get no cheers from these folks about how snobbish it is to want the best education available for your offspring which is future for all countries.

    Ginger

    • Completely, totally agree, Ginger. And it’s very poignant to me to see what enormous effort people put into making sure their children have an education and hopefully a better future. One family I visited had sent their 4 year old daughter to Port au Prince to live with his sister, and desperately missed her, but that was the only way she could go to school — so off she went. And you could tell they were having to struggle to get enough to eat, but they were paying for her school. I wish so badly that these governments would support education — it would take so much stress off families’ backs!!

    • Thank you Krishna sir,We really aprpiceate for your kind information regarding our beloved village. It has been always fantastic to hear news about our village in such a way,especially, in development sector. I am very much proud of you that you have been serving for our village for such a long prior of time.When I saw your face it remind me of my school age and all those stupid things that i used to do at that time. It just feels like yesterday, I feel young again like a boy. I do hope you also feel the same as me, don’t you sir? I have no doubt you have a huge connection with the school and village both emotionally and physically. I know you love the place same as any other villagers. Only one thing is different with compare to other is that you have been contributing with your highly respected qualification, dedication and honestly almost whole of your life.My heartfelt thanks to you for your hard work and showing such an enthusiasm towards our village and as well as school.We are very lucky to have such a generous teacher and proud of you.Your sincerelyEx student Arjun badmas danda ghar.PS it would be better if you could publish your e mail add so we can contact you personally in future.

  8. Your posts are so inspiring! Thanks! And…as usual…I love the photos!!

  9. How great that Heifer’s project will help the community maintain their school. Isn’t it amazing to see little girls here or in PAP perfectly dressed and pressed and on their way to school? It never ceased to overwhelm me, especially, seeing kids coming out of the camps like that.

    Great title, Betty!

    Hugs,
    Kathy

    • Kathryn — I so totally agree about the profoundly touching way that the people and especially children are turned out in these immaculate, pressed clothes for school – when they don’t have running water or washing machines or any other thing that should even make that possible! I think it speaks volumes for the importance they place on education & going to school … and the pride they have, which is what has helped them survive such unbearable poverty and tragedy! I LOVED Haiti and can’t wait to go back!!!

  10. Martha Radatz

    Oh, I loved the children carrying their chairs to school. As an educator, it made me want to chuck everything, pick up MY chair and go teach there—if I only knew (I’m assuming) French! I guess I’ll just purchase a goat instead. I love what Heifer is doing there. Thanks for sharing this.

    Martha

    • Martha — you should!! They would probably let you teach in English, they are so desperate for teachers!! But .. if you want to buy a goat, go on my Team Heifer page & go for it … love it!!! And yeah, the Heifer project in Degand is SO worthy of support and such a big step out in faith.. I really loved writing about it!

  11. What a beautiful smile on that little boy! And I love the movement of the schoolgirl’s skirts swishing back and forth :)

    • That little boy just sat there and grinned at us for about 10 straight minutes. What a beauty, right?? Thanks for your comment!!

  12. Betty, We in the 1st world have so much, we appreciate nothing. If we “need” something, we go get it. Of course, those things we need aren’t needed at all but merely wanted …

    Does the imbalance of the world make your heart ache ?

    • Darling Sybil — YES the inbalance of the world makes my heart ache and break, and then it bewilders me that people who have so much don’t feel the responsibility and the DUTY to help others who have so little. But oddly, when I am in these countries and places that really do suffer from such poverty and hunger, I don’t feel despair and it is not overwhelming — I feel blown away by the people’s courage, resilience, happiness in the face of such difficulty, resourcefulness, optimism, and hope. So, honestly it is a joy to be there .. and a privilege to be able to tell the stories as best I can. I feel as if I can make people really see what it’s like, and how much hope there is, and all the things that are being done that can really make a difference – well, then, there is NO way they won’t want to be a part of that.

  13. Great post! Beautiful images.

  14. thanks for sharing.. I love the boy with the big smile. :D

  15. He was really a charmer — in every way!!

  16. Betty,
    You are doing such an amazing job capturing the beauty of these people – and their stories. Thank you and thanks to Heifer Intl for this wonderful work!
    Lucy

  17. Ah Betty, another post to make me stand up and cheer. The path you walk illuminates the path for others.

  18. All God’s creatures! Your posts and your work, like a good book, make me THINK.

    And avocado trees… yum!

  19. Your photos tell an amazing story. It should be compulsory for our kids to see the photo of the school children carrying their prized new chairs.

    • Renee, CMW, and Rosie … THANK you for your sweet comments !!! It keeps me going when I’m on the road and wondering what I’m doing out here …. xoxoxo b

  20. Anonymous

    Your photos are awesome (:

  21. Amber Moreland

    Your photos are awesome (:

  22. Pingback: SOCIAL GOOD SUNDAYS: Cows R Us with Heifer International | Thirdeyemom

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