Bon Samaritain, an Episcopal school in the L’Acul Parish of the Diocese of Haiti, has the only secondary school program in the area and it receives no support from the Haitian government or the Diocese. Students must complete secondary school (7th-9th grades) in order to obtain a certificate of graduation, equivalent to a high-school diploma in the US. Many primary schools in the L’Acul region, and Bon Samaritain itself, operate with some support from US partners. Many families are unable to afford the annual cost for schooling, and few families from the rural villages in the L’Acul Parish choose to send their children to the nearest government supported school in Gros-Morne. Father Wildaine and his family have established a scholarship program to help defray expenses for some students at Bon Samaritain. The cost is $1,000 per student per year and this stipend covers tuition, dormitory fees, books, food, uniforms, and a backpack. The scholarship assistance also includes pay for cooks, custodians and live-in chaperones for the women’s dorm. The merit-based scholarships are awarded by Bon Samaritain’s Selection Committee based on the student’s financial need, his or her grades in the 5th and 6th levels, and the score received on the annual state-sponsored proficiency exam. Additional consideration is given to gender, as the current proportion of male students is higher than female (~80%:20%). Secondary and higher education opportunities are widely recognized by L’Acul families as their brightest hope for the future.
Most families in the rural L’Acul section rely on open springs and streams for drinking water. Water quality tests conducted by Two Mules in 2018 at the spring-fed source of water for the Notre Dame School and the village of Molas indicated high levels of coliform bacteria confirming that the water is unsafe for consumption. These results are underscored by incidence of illnesses and fatalities from cholera and other water-borne diseases. Two Mules is working to partner with organizations such as the Rotary Club and CAWST to implement significant improvements in water purification and hygiene. The recent installation of a chlorination system in the village of Chermaitre is an important achievement demonstrating the effectiveness of the partnership program between Rotary and the Vassar Haiti Project.
The Méina Foundation headed by Andre Wildaine is offering classes for adults from Chermaitre, Molas, Gros-Morne, Fierville and neighboring villages. These classes include adult literacy and instruction in valuable skills such as sewing and embroidering. Many of the participants in these classes are women who are eager to contribute to their family’s finances. Class size is 20 students per class and the course duration is 24 weeks. The cost of tuition ($500), books, and supplies is often beyond the means of families, and Two Mules is working to assist prospective students.
The COVID-19 pandemic has spread to Haiti, Gros-Morne and the L’Acul basin. Like the rest of the world, people need masks, clean water, washing basins, and hand sanitizer to slow the spread of the virus. Health care workers, PPE and other resources are needed. To assist Two Mules in providing these resources for families in the L’Acul basin, please follow the link below.
Small farms in L’Acul lack sufficient funds to finance their crops, or start and maintain business operations. The produce derived from family farms is critical, with small margins of surplus produced for cash sales or exchange. With access to capital severely restricted, family farms and small businesses are exposed to high levels of risk, as weather, disease and political unrest can result in significant shortages of food needed for basic nutrition. Farmers need a source of capital, typically provided by banks and other lending institutions, to weather unforeseen events that cause shortages. Alternatively, farming cooperatives could provide small loans through micro-financing programs. Initial capital is needed at this time from both cooperative members and outside sources. Two Mules is looking for partners to help provide an initial source of capital for farming cooperatives having micro-financing options. If you are interested in partnering, please contact Two Mules or support this initiative by following the link below.
Assisting local farmers with improved cultivation, processing and marketing, while promoting reforestation are essential components of Two Mules’ mission in rural Haiti. Deforestation and soil erosion have long been understood as significant deterrents to improving crop productivity, and although the causes of deforestation are complex, local farmers are very aware of the advantages of adopting practices that regenerate forests. Two Mules board members have begun exploring successful reforestation projects in Haiti and anticipate partnering with organizations such as Haiti Reforestation (https://haitireforest.org/) to design and implement agricultural improvement projects that promote reforestation, minimize erosion, conserve topsoil and promote the planting of shade trees as part of farming. In the past, coffee was the main source of income for inhabitants or rural Haiti. Because of deforestation, coffee production has been reduced to the point of disappearance, yet in some areas today, coffee farming cooperatives are beginning to thrive. Programs that couple reforestation and coffee cultivation can revive this industry and provide support for village economies in L’Acul.
Two Mules anticipates that community cooperatives will be the cornerstones around which projects will be built and supported. History has shown that charitable donations are limited in their ability to create long-term change without active participation and project ownership by recipient communities. Two Mules will work with family members residing in the local villages to assess the viability of establishing a cooperative to serve as a source of governance with open participation, elected officials and fair rules of order with procedural and financial transparency. The goal is to foster economic development and social transformation through the productive cooperative model. Two Mules expects to provide resources and introduce appropriate technology to communities who desire to advance themselves economically by participating in the cooperative model based on international principles (http://www.icc.coop/story/mission/documents/COOPERATIVEPRINCIPLES.pdf), and looks forward to partnering with organizations such as FIDA-PcH (https://www.fida-pch.org).
The contamination of drinking water in L’Acul is largely due to contamination of open water sources. Rural family homes often do not have latrines and the concept of composting is not widely appreciated. This results in contamination of almost all surface water sources including free-flowing springs and streams in mountain villages such as Molas and Chermaitre. Individual latrines or composting toilet systems for family homes, and larger systems for schools and churches will greatly reduce contamination of drinking water in these villages. Two Mules’ goal is to partner with organizations such as SOIL (https://www.oursoil.org/), and US universities to design and conduct educational programs, to support the construction and maintenance of waste disposal systems using technology appropriate to meet the needs Haitian families living in remote locations.
Coffee and cacao grow well in the L’Acul area. The coffee grown by local farmers in Mola and Chermaitre is a variety known as typica Arabica, and is a direct descendant of the plants brought to Haiti by the French in the early 1700s. As coffee has high genetic fidelity, beans from these heirloom plants have great potential to be marketed as historic, single-origin source coffee. This variety grows taller than most coffee plants, more like trees than bushes, and produces fewer berries than hybridized commercial varieties. Unfortunately, the local variety is also susceptible to leaf rust, particularly at altitudes below 3000 feet above sea level. We estimate Molas to be about 2800 feet (0.85 km), and Chermaitre somewhat lower, perhaps 2300 feet (0.7 km); so, this disease may well pose difficulties for local farmers attempting to increase production for commercial marketing. Two Mules’ efforts will focus on listening to the Haitian farmers, documenting their challenges and shaping solutions for those who may be interested in expanding their coffee and cacao yields for commercial sales. Partnering with US university researchers, we hope to find solutions to problems as they emerge.
Pere Andre Wildiane, his family and other residents in the L’Acul area are in the process of forming a non-profit organization, the Mélina Fondasyon, in compliance with Haitian administrative regulations. The mission of the foundation is to provide assistance to the residents of Molas, Fierville, Chermaitre, Treille, and others in the L’Acul Communal Section. Two Mules looks forward to partnering with the Mélina Foundation when it has established its status as a NGO.
The Episcopal primary school, Notre Dame, was opened in the village of Molas in 2013. Constructed with support from the Church of the Holy Family, Chapel Hill, and St. Luke’s Foundation, Salisbury, NC, the school provides instruction and meals for about 175 students in grades one through six. In 2017 enrollment increased to nearly 300 and the decision was made to build an additional building wing to add five more classrooms. Progress on construction of the new wing has progressed, and the building is now about 60 percent complete.
Two Mules is partnering with the Church of the Holy Family to complete construction in 2020-21, and hopes to assist not only in construction, but also in toilet sanitation and water purification systems.