Showing posts from February, 2011

Millions of trees

"Without wood there is no life."

Desarmes, Haiti (February 18, 2011)

After 300 years of colonization, Haiti gained recognition of its sovereignty in 1804. But the price was high - the equivalent of $21 billion U.S. today - in reparations to France. It took over 100 years for Haiti to pay off that debt.

A large part of the debt was paid off by shipping timber to France. In 1492 when Columbus invaded Haiti, more than 75% of the land was covered by forests. In 1947 when the debt was finally paid, trees stood on only 25% of Haiti. Poor rural farmers have felled more trees to produce wood charcoal. Today, less than 2% of Haiti remains forested.

Mennonite Central Committee's program in the rural community of Desarmes centers on reforestation and education about the environment in primary schools. There are now 22 community tree nurseries producing 450,000 trees each year.

In the schools, children learn about composting, planting and protecting trees and ab…

Still dreaming . . .

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams... (Joel 2:28)

Port-au-Prince, Haiti (February 16, 2011)

Pere Simone is an 81-year-old Celesian priest in Port-au-Prince. He's been helping children on the street for as long as he's been a priest, over 50 years. From three locations, he runs a school for 120 young boys and girls, ages 10-13.

Pere just goes to the markets and invites children to come to the school. He asks them to give up their knives and other weapons first. He wants them to get an education even though he knows some of them will learn to read just enough so that they can read license plates to deliver drugs.

But he's taught three of Haiti's presidents, too, though he says "they all forgot me."

Pere's school, Timkatec, is one of Mennonite Central Committee's partners in Haiti. When I was in the school, I saw evidence of MCC's canned meat, comfor…