This is an excerpt from an essay written by Easton Farber about his trip to Haiti with KORE Foundation. Easton paints a picture of the poverty in Haiti that shattered every expectation he had before the trip.
I had never seen such blue water. Staring out the window as the plane descended, I remember thinking that these beaches were going to be so much better than Jacksonville Beach where I grew up. A trip to the Caribbean may be just what I needed…
The summer before my junior year I took a trip to Haiti with my mom and grandfather. My grandfather is the Founder of a non-profit called KORE Foundation working in Haiti to provide sustainable solutions to extreme poverty, so I had heard a lot about Haiti. Although “sustainable solutions” didn’t mean much to me at the time, I thought I knew what “extreme poverty” meant, but really I had no idea. From the minute we landed in Port-au-Prince, my senses were overloaded with the chaos, the sounds, the smells and the streets that were filled with so many people. It took us 3 hours to get to the campus located just 16 miles west of the airport. It was overwhelming. People were still living in tent cities as a result of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010. It was miles and miles of hopelessness. I learned a lot about extreme poverty just during the ride from the airport. I wasn’t sure how much more I wanted to see. This wasn’t the Caribbean I saw from the plane! It was a lot to process and it was about to get worse.
Shortly after arriving to the campus, we headed back out to visit an orphanage that is a part of KORE’s protein intervention feeding program. For $6.25 a month, chicken is purchased from KORE farmers and donated to schools and orphanages to feed kids. The orphanage where we were going had been receiving chicken from KORE, but the team had some concerns about the man who was running the place. My mom is the Director of KORE and she explained to me that 80% of the children in orphanages in Haiti have living parents. They are not true orphans. Their parents just can’t afford to care for them so they are often sent to these places with the hope that they will receive food and an education. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case.
The man in charge is called Pastor. He is definitely not a pastor but this title works well with the many well-intentioned mission teams coming through with aid and donations. Keeping the children close to starvation and filthy also works to move Americans to open their wallets even more. The children were all sitting on wooden benches under this huge blue and yellow tent. I have a little brother so I know that when you get a group of boys together they can be quite noisy. There were 91 kids sitting on these benches barely making a sound. We brought some food for the kids but we had to be sure to open the snacks and hand them to the children to make sure they were eating them. Otherwise, everything we brought would be collected as soon as we left and sold at the local market. What I saw there made me sad and angry. The chicken donations obviously meet a critical need for hungry, malnourished kids, and since it is purchased from Haitian farmers it is helping the local economy. Most importantly it gets KORE staff into places like these orphanages to intervene on behalf of these children. It was a tough place to see and I couldn’t imagine having to live there. Did I mention I was overwhelmed?
It was getting late in the day but we had one more stop before heading back to our campus. This is when everything changed for me. We stopped by to meet one of the chicken farmers that worked with KORE Foundation. Her name is Magdalee and she is one of KORE’s most successful farmers. We were able to hear how this chicken coop business had changed her life. Before she started raising chicken, she worked odd jobs and begged for handouts to help feed her family. Now she has expanded her business and is able to pay for her four children to go to school. I remember looking at her as she smiled proudly showing us her business. She never wanted to beg. She wanted to work and she wanted to provide for her family. She just needed an opportunity in a country where few opportunities exist. I could see the pride in her face and she posed to take a picture with her children in their colorful school uniforms. I saw the hope she had for her children’s future. That’s when it hit me:
Living in extreme poverty is just about survival. It’s about making it through the night. You don’t dream about your future when you are living in extreme poverty and you certainly don’t have hope. I had been in Haiti for just a day and I had felt hopeless. I now had a better understanding of extreme poverty so now I wanted to know what the “sustainable solutions” were.
Easton’s story will be continued on a future blog.