A rough draft of my last day in Haiti…

My last day in the countryside of Haiti was one of the best, because I spent the whole day in the company of Ewaldy. (Well, to be honest, the start of the day was a bit rocky when we had to use a twisted wire hanger & a wad of Ewaldy’s bubblegum to pry open the car door after I cleverly locked the keys in the Heifer truck.)

Ewaldy Estil is the Northern Regional Coordinator and has been working for Heifer International since June 2000. As he puts it, it’s not a job, it’s his life mission. When he’s not running Heifer projects (and even when he is) he belts out gospel and reggae music (you should hear his awesome original “Passing on the Gift” song!) and despite the fact that he travels nonstop and keeps ridiculously long hours, he never stops smiling.

Ewaldy and I were driving from the town of Hinche in the Central Plateau up to Cap Haitien through some beautiful farmland, on the way to the small town of Milot where I was going to watch a Heifer training session in action.

Paul Dieudem, Heifer trainer

When we drove into Milot, the men of the village were under a tree listening to Paul Dieulem, a farmer from nearby DonDon that Heifer has trained and hired to take Milot farmers through the arduous process of turning a team of 2 cows into draft animals. It’s a 20-day course that covers everything from raising forage crops for feed to making yokes; learning to tie the animals together; teaching the animals to move in tandem and follow commands; training them to carry a load by dragging a big log behind them; and perfecting the strenuous work of plowing with that team. (I felt like I was re-reading Little House on the Prairie!)

At the end of 20 days, each farmer will have a team of cattle that can do the work of 20 men –and part of the income they raise plowing other people’s fields will repay the cost of the cattle (about $1000 per cow) to pass on the gift to other farmers in the community. I watched them practice yoking, and I can tell you, it’s no small endeavor to tie two 800-pound animals together! When one farmer asked why they had to repay the gift of cows, Ewaldy had a spirited conversation about Heifer’s philosophy of no free hand-outs & community responsibility that had the whole group laughing and arguing and shouting the other farmer down. (I was secretly waiting for Ewaldy to break into song.)

Heifer has also been working in Milot to train women in food processing, so they can earn an income making jelly and liqueurs from the passion fruit, grapefruit and sour oranges that grow in abundance here. At first I was slightly shocked that making liqueur would qualify as an enterprise, until I remembered that Denver’s favorite mayor and now Governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper started as a microbrewer of artisanal beer, so I’m thinking this is just the first step on the road to women taking political office in Haiti!

Madame Laurent Pauline has been one of the most successful small entrepreneurs, and she now sells about 30 small bottles of liqueur every week for 50 Haitian gourds (@$1.22) apiece. (Passion fruit is the most popular flavor because it’s considered a bit of an aphrodisiac, as Pauline laughingly relates.) This income helps her send her five children to school, while her husband is learning to work with the draft animals to earn more money.

Nothing left for me!

Twenty women of Milot were trained by Heifer and have built a network of licensed food processors who are planning to establish a revolving fund for micro-loans to help other women get the trainings and start their own businesses. I’m sure that there is a lot of potential for growth as Pauline definitely has the gift of salesmanship and plans to make her own labels, expand her line to include coffee & cacao liqueurs, and sell, sell, sell. I was dying to taste her product, but as it was Carnaval celebration week, she was plumb sold-out. (By the way, Haitians do not drink frequently, and at the size and potency of the bottles Pauline sells, there’s not much chance of serious inebriation.)

By the time we reached Cap Haitien that night, I was eager to sleep in a real hotel (our Hinche hotel had left a bit to be desired) and to release Ewaldy from the chore of driving me around so he could get back to his wife and two little children. I was flying back to Port-au-Prince the next day, and then heading home to Atlanta, and I was feeling sad to be leaving Haiti.

All these beautiful people and places – how could I stop wondering what would happen to them?

Micheraina from Maniche is on my mind...

Then I realized that they were in good hands with Ewaldy and crew. And I would be coming back (I will, no matter what!). And that as much as I’ve loved Haiti, I’ll probably love Peru just as dearly. (I’m leaving tonight!)

So.. the journey continues. I hope you’ll come along!

The oddly placed bathroom cabinet in one of the more interesting hotels we stayed in... always an adventure!

Categories: Haiti, Heifer International, Hunger, Photography, Travel, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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22 thoughts on “A rough draft of my last day in Haiti…

  1. Martha Radatz

    Yes, I’ll definitely be coming along. My family & I lived in Cuzco, Peru for 5 years, a number of years ago, and I’ve never been back—until now. So I’m more than ready, and looking forward to it!
    Thanks for the beautiful window into Haiti.

    • Martha, you are so welcome, and I’ll have to take special care to get Cuzco right for you!! I’m spending 3 nights in the community with families about 5 hours drive up in the Andes from Cuzco so I really can’t wait! Thanks for the sweet comment!!

  2. Don’t you love it when you begin to use the word “hotel” euphemistically?! I’m falling more and more in love with Heifer as I read your blog. I know how sad it felt for us to leave Haiti, but, like you, we will go back. Hope you have a safe trip to Peru. Can’t wait to hear about your adventures there!
    Happy Heifering!

    • I’m so glad to hear that you’re feeling the Heifer love! Honestly, that was an amazing day and I really loved seeing the trainings really being done — we stayed there for about 4 hours and it was pretty amazing to think that these big animals could be transformed into such a powerful working unit in 20 days. That kind of plowing is HARD work (look at the arms on these farmers!!) but when they can earn a good income from helping their neighbors be more productive farmers… it’s a total win/win! (And how great is Madame Pauline??) xooxo b

  3. I love the photo of the lady with the mule and produce and especially of little Micheraina from Maniche! Have a safe flight…can’t wait to hear about Peru!

    p.s. like the widget on the side that tells us where you’ll be.

    • I snapped that beautiful carrot lady with my i-phone, hanging out the car… but I love her face so much!
      And baby Micheraina was definitely in the running for Haiti’s Next Top Model — she never stopped smiling and laughing! But her parents had already sent their 4 year old daughter away to Port au Prince so she could go to school, and it broke my heart to think they’d have to send Miss M away at such a young age, (and at great expense) just to get an education. What a terrible choice to have to make! So, yeah, I do keep thinking of her and her beautiful little family in Maniche.

  4. Beautiful photos Betty. Like Travel Spirit I also adore the photo of the woman with the carrots on the mule and Micheraina from Maniche! And the mirror so high up also wins a prize. And Ewaldy Estil’s beautiful smile.

    Synchronicity… the main article in today’s L.A. Times Travel section is on Peru.

  5. Thanks for all of the posts Betty, it was privilege to travel with you in Haiti as we both got to meet the amazing Haitian people. I am so humbled that you so thoughtfully honored Heifer staff. They work so hard and in such difficult conditions everyday and the wonder of it is they do it with a huge smile and humor. I was able to synch Ewaldy’s POG (passing on the gift) song with a variety of images from Haiti in my presentation to the board last week. it was a heart touching hit!!!
    Travel safe to Peru, hi to Alfredo and his team-they are also amazing. They work hard and dance, get ready.

    • Can we all hear Ewaldy’s POG song??

    • Pierre — I have the highest possible regard for the Heifer staff I met in Uganda, Guatemala and Haiti and know the work Heifer does would not be possible without their incredible dedication, spirit and belief in the Heifer model. I really cannot believe how hard they work … it’s exhausting trying to keep up! LOVED being with you and Kimberly in Haiti .. and hope we get to travel together again … you, my friend, are another energizer!!!

  6. Ginger O'Neill

    Dearest Betty,

    I am truly humbled by the industry of these beautiful and loving people. Your pictures are remarkable and the hope runneth over in the good hands of all that manage, work and receive from Heifer.

    Thanks for so eloquently sharing the profound engine and deeds of Heifer International!



  7. etexbill

    I too love Ewaldy’s smile. Great photos!

  8. a1nunn

    To know you are making a difference in this world is a wonderful thing.

    Your posts should be part of syndicated reports in weekly newspapers. Can you imagine the groundswell of support for Heifer that could bring !

  9. Deb Morrow Palmer

    I have truly enjoyed seeing Haiti through you. I love your style of writing, and the pictures are priceless. What beautiful people you have met. It feels hopeful to read about enthusiastic people learning and changing their world. I absolutely love the whole “pass it forward” concept, Heifer International implements.

    • Thanks, Deb – and believe me, I wasn’t faking it. I LOVED Haiti so much!! Now I’m in Peru (at 13,100 feet — yikes!) and you can’t believe
      how beautiful the people are here, too! Heifer has some amazing projects with alpaca and llama here and of course, the Passing on the Gift concept is in full force .. touching over 58,000 families in the rural indigenous areas of this country. Can’t wait to post!! I really appreciate your comments so much!!

  10. pat shropshire

    And I,too, am sad to leaave Haiti, which, before your blog, I imagined to be a country of devastation and destitution. Now I picture beauty in the people and the countryside. Thank you.

  11. I love the way that you write about the local heroes like Ewaldy and Mr. Dieulem. They sound like stella people. It’s wonderful to hear that the women are also managing to set up their own production lines too.

    Que todo vaya bien en Peru! 🙂 Can’t wait for your posts to ‘transport me’ to the other side of the world! 🙂

  12. Hi Betty, I am back with a new working computer and happy to read more about the great work you and the Heifer Project partners are doing in Haiti.

    What a great smile Micheraina has, and I am glad you all were able to overcome the locked keys in the vehicle obstacle. Yuck.

  13. Here’s a YouTube video of Ewaldy’s song with photos from Heifer Haiti: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkoJ7lPrPXE&feature=youtu.be.

    • Thanks, Jason … how great is this?? We played it in the car on our wild rides throughout the country … THANKS for Sharing (& Caring) .. a Heifer in-joke! -Betty

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