Haiti Bound

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships were built for.” – Grace Murray Hopper

In November I had the opportunity to join Paul Brandt and members of the Build It Forward Foundation team on a trip to Haiti, where projects with Haiti Outreach Ministries, supported by the Build It Forward Foundation, were officially dedicated in the community of Repatriote, near Port-Au-Prince.

I’ll admit, prior to visiting Haiti I knew only glimpses of the country, mostly seen through a television screen or in the newspaper – a place plagued by natural disasters that could never seem to catch a break.

Haiti surprised me in a number of ways, and like many great travels, the experience will continue to stay with me and shape my perspective.

Visiting Haiti gave me a new lens to peer through – past the signs of destruction and poverty, I saw smiles, opportunity and hope. Beyond the wild and noisy streets of Port-Au-Prince, I saw a dramatic countryside with burgeoning farms growing coffee, bananas, mangos and rice.

Haiti has a long way to go, but there are some great things happening.

The Build It Forward projects in Haiti were supported by a donation forwarded from the town of Slave Lake in the spirit of “building it forward” from Paul Brandt’s Up From The Ashes benefit concert that took place in 2011. While receiving support from Build It Forward for their own disaster, Slave Lake decided to share some of their proceeds with Haiti, who had suffered tragedy as well when an earthquake in 2010 ravaged the small country.

During our visit, we also ventured along wild, winding, mountain-climbing roads into Haiti’s rural areas with Rob Lehnert of Café Xaragua. Based in Calgary, Lehnert’s company is dedicated to helping to re-build Haiti’s coffee industry, one tree at a time.

Selling a rare and primitive coffee known as Arabic Typika, Café Xaragua sources its coffee directly from farmers in Haiti and is 100 per cent fairtrade certified. Better yet, they plant a coffee tree for every bag of coffee sold – every Xaragua coffee drinker has their own opportunity to build it forward.

I am grateful to Paul Brandt and the Build It Forward Foundation for the opportunity to take part in a very successful journey. The chance to meet some incredible “builders” on the ground who are tirelessly implementing their vision for a better Haiti is quite simply, inspiring.

– Paula Worthington is Vice President at Brookline Public Relations. She uses her fresh perspective and draws on her experience and skill set to deliver creative ideas and results-driven strategies for the agency and its clients.

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