Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Jenny, Keila and Mark

Jenny, Keila and I reached Managua, Nicaragua last night around 7:30 PM. We had an uneventful trip from Managua, except for the family sprint we had to make in Panama city to get from the arrival gate to the departure for Managua. By the time we stepped off the plane, they were announcing the last call for passengers for the Managua-Guatemala City flight, and we still had to wait for Keila's baby carriage which was still stashed under the plane. Jenny walked a fast walk with Keila while I waited for the carriage, then I took off running after them.

If by chance, the two people I knocked down as I ran by loaded down with two laptops. a medium-sized carry-on and Keila's carriage are reading this, I'm very sorry.

In Managua, when immigration deterimined that we were flying from Haiti, they had members of the well-organized Nicaraguan Ministry of Health pull us aside in order to give us prophylactic medication to make sure that we are not carrying the cholera bacteria. The medical personnel that treated us noted that one mother said her son would never take the pills. "But he did," our doctor said, "I had to take the pills, too, but, hey, it worked, you know?"

Jenny and Keila and I are well. Our friends and work partners in Haiti are also generally doing well, which is amazing. We've made a number of hospital runs with the crew truck, but crew members and close friends are doing all right.

But cholera has hit people hard in the whole area around Hinche-Papay-Bassin Zim, where we live and work. Please do keep Haiti in your prayers and especially, pray that there will be fundamental changes in the government. It has been a government of the wealthy for a very long time. It continues to be so. Preval, the current president, went to great lengths to make sure his people won the elections this past November 28th. The hope of Preval and his fellow party leaders was that there would be few contenders. But there were many valid contenders, and they were all far more popular than Preval's candidates (the "Inite" party). So, when the partial results indicated that almost all of the Inite candidates were frontrunners, the fraud was evident and the response was immediate, with protests and riots just a couple of weeks ago. This past Monday, the government was supposed to announce the final results, but they chickened out. Now? Who knows.

In terms of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, my sense is that many people consider the cholera epidemic to be a result of the thousands of refugees without adequate sanitary conditions in Port au Prince, Leogane, and other cities near the epicenter of the quake. That is not the case. It may not have made the mainline news, but the epidemic started in the Artibonite valley, which is a region north of Port au Prince where there was not heavy damage to the houses and there have not been large camps of refugees in tents at all. As my friend, Robert Morikawa notes, the cholera epidemic didn't start until 10 months after the earthquake, and it started far away from all of the most heavily affected areas.

In fact, there are many good reasons to suspect that the source of the cholera epidemic in Haiti were United Naitions troops from Nepal,stationed in Mirebalais at the head of the Artibonite valley. Sanitary conditions at the UN military base in Mirebalais became abominable, based on several news reports, and as a result, raw sewage began seeping into the Artibonite river watershed. The worst seepage began in late September or early October, just weeks before the first cases of cholera were identified in St. Mark, where the Artibonite drains into the Caribbean sea.

Two additional notes about the cholera. First, in March 2010, concerns for a cholera epidemic in Port au Prince were minimized by world health organizations, noting that cholera had never been present in Haiti and was considered unlikely to show up, because the vast majority of the aid workers coming to help with earthquake relief were from countries with good sanitation. Second, CDC (Center for Disease Control), out of Atlanta, Georgia, has positively identified the type of cholera present in Haiti as the southern asian cholera, endemic to such countries as India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

There were protests against the UN forces in early November, which the UN passed off as politically-related. There may have been political implications, but the fundamental source of the anger was the fact that the UN is a foreign military presence which has now caused the death of over 2,500 Haitians. Biological warfare, or simple incompetence, it has made Haitians victims yet again.

Flooding, earthquakes, cynical and self-interested political leaders, and cholera spread by the United Nations foreign, troops. Violence in all its forms is unproductive, but what can people in Haiti do to get the world to really listen"?

If it takes burning tires, I do wish the tires they burned would be the ones we can't turn inside-out anyway.

Many blessings.

Some links:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Haitian Elections 2010

The Toyota Landcruiser that normally serves MPP's project, The Road to Life Yard, provided tansportation for voters during elections yesterday. Voters were enthusiastic, walking hours to get to polling stations and then waiting hours more, at times, to get the chance to vote.

Polling station, Los Palis (Third Section, Hinche, Central Plateau)

Elections in the municipality of Hinche went fairly smoothly and without violence. I hung out with Fenese, the MPP driver who used the project truck to help transport voters to and from polling stations, and to help deliver food to MPP election observers who were stationed inside the polling stations to help make sure that the voting was done fairly.

MPP carried out an incredibly intense and well-organized process of motivating rural farmers and their families. MPP also helped train and motivate election observers. The results were very apparent yesterday. The ill and the elderly, women with nursing babies, made their way down the mountains to cast their ballots.
It is possibly the most exciting thing I have had the privilege to be part of in my nearly seven years of serving with MPP.

While many of the political parties literally paid voters to vote for their candidates, MPP leaders and organizers held rallies and talked, sometimes community group by community group, explaining their ideas, as well as listening to the hopes and dreams of the rural participants. It was not democracy as we know it in the States. Exposure to television is mostly limited to the World Cup and newspapers in the rural areas don't exist at all. An illiteracy of 49% is also, of course, a huge factor. How do you get a message across when people don't read and don't have television? Even radios are limited by the batteries that people can afford to buy.
In the end, many people decided that as members of the Farmers Movement of Papay, they are first and foremost members of an orgainzation that is truly working to make a difference in their lives, and they voted in faith that the candidates that MPP endorsed would work with the same vision.
It was an experience. There were many reports of relatively minor fraud in the polling stations in Hinche where Jenny and I had Haitian friends who were working as election observers. In part due to their vigilance, in most of those stations, the voting remained under control. Unfortunately, word is that their was widespread fraud throughout most of the rest of the country.
One report that I just found on Internet ( suggests that the turmoil was related to the problems of the country, the chaos related to the cholera epidemic and the after-effects of the earthquake. But that is not the analysis of the leaders of MPP. Together with all of the leaders of the main opposition parties, they point the finger at the party of the current government--Inite (Unity). Fanfan (Philefrant St. Nare, MPP's candidate for the Haitian Senate) told me that the government thought they would be the only participants in the elections. When they saw that they could not slide back into power without a struggle, and then found out that they could not buy the people's vote, they decided to win the elections through fraud, or cause enough chaos that they would have to be annuled.
What will happend next? Only God knows.
As you pray for Haiti, please pray for the poor farming families who voted with their feet and with their hearts. Pray that their efforts may not be in vain and they will find new hope, beyond, perhaps, all expectations.
In Christ,
Mark, Jenny and Keila

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cholera Update

Hey Friend,

Just a note to let you all know that Jenny and Keila and I continue to be blessed with normal health. We continue to take normal precautions to prevent intestinal problems, including, and especially, to prevent a close-encounter with cholera. Please continue to hold us in your prayers, and all Haitians, as they struggle to deal with yet another tragedy.

Cholera, floods, the earthquake, all of these tragedies are caused or affected by poverty and poor governance.

The current cholera epidemic has been magnified by the lack of clean water for drinking, cooking and bathing, as well as inadequate sanitation. The response to stem the epidemic is hampered by poor infrastructure and inadequate medical facilities. The reported death toll may, in reality, be as much as twice as high, according to a conversation Jenny and I had with Chavannes Jean Baptiste, the executive director of MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay--Farmer's Movement of Papaye). Because roads are bad, public transportation in many places non-existent and public health centers few, many of the victims never receive any medical assistance and their deaths remain unregistered.

Many efforts are being made to spread information that can help stop the spread of the disease. Messages and information are being broadcast via cell phones and via radio stations about how to prevent and how to treat the disease. But lack of basic education is a problem. With over 45% of the population over the age of fifteen unable to read or write (google: haiti literacy), there are many basic concepts that don't translate easily. What does hand washing mean to someone who knows almost nothing about microbes, viruses and bacteria? Without solid understanding of disease mechanisms, it is also easy for many diseases to be understood as the effects of witchcraft. And witchcraft of course, can only be treated by witchcraft.

A Haitian friend I was talking to yesterday asked why the government wasn't organizing health brigades to go out into the countryside to share information and resources. Wilfrid asked why groups of young people couldn't be going house to house to really give people a sense of the urgency and effectiveness of the methods for keeping themselves healthy--providing, house by house, packages of powdered chlorine for treating the water, and packages of mineral salts for making rehyrdation fluid. National and international agencies are working with the government to treat the sick, but really, only a national effort, coordinated and energized by the national government can have the kind of extensive and profound impact needed to change the underlying causes feeding the epidemic. Haiti does not yet have the kind of people in government that are willing to make that happen.

National elections are a week from Sunday (November 28th). This may not be a good time for elections, but it may be, too, that they will offer the country hope for real change. Keep us in your prayers, keep the people of Haiti in your prayers.

Thank you.

Mark, Jenny and Keila

News about Interpretation Assignment 2011

Jenny, Keila and Mark, in Managua, July 2010. Photo by Hypatia Bent

Hey Again,
Another note to let you all know that Jenny, Keila and I will be in the States from February through, approximately, June, 2011. For those reader who are members of churches who provide support for our work with MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay--Farmer's Movement of Papaye) we would be happy to work on scheduling a visit to your church or your presbytery.
Please contact us through our PC(USA) Mission Connections website:
We will also be trying to put together an updated address list of supporters. Once that is put together we will mail you all information about possible dates you could host us, or me. We will be working on getting residency in the States for Jenny, so she will not be readily available for travel.
We will be serving as missionaries-in-residence at ECHO during February and March, so during that period, we would prefer to focus on churches in the vicinity of ECHO's center in North Fort Myers, Florida (southwest Florida, just north of Naples). We currently have an engagement from February 19th-February 25th.
We look forward to hearing from you!
In Christ,
Mark, Jenny and Keila

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Some time by the ocean

The view from the deck outside the CODEP guesthouse, second floor. The view is to the northwest and you can just catch the outline of the island of La Gonave across the bay. Click on the photo to see the details more clearly.

Clements Jean and Keila checking out a mango tree (Janmari variety) at the CODEP guest house and fish production center in L'Acul, Haiti, about 18 miles south of Leogane. Jenny, Keila, Clements and I are here for a few days while the Toyota Landcruiser gets some repairs in Port au Prince. Clements is Keila's "nanny" when Jenny and I are working at our respective jobs with MPP in Papaye and she graciously agreed to help us out on this trip.
John Winings and his wife, Debbie, are hosting us at the CODEP guest house. CODEP is an integrated development project associated with the Haitian diocese of the Episcopal Church. It receives support from Presbyterian and Episcopal churches in the United States, which coordinate their efforts through the non-profit organization, Haiti Fund, Inc. John is HFI's executive director.
This is Keila's second trip to the ocean.

Map coordinates for L'Acul are 18º 26' 32.43" N, 72º 41' 21.57" W.

Colladère Cooperative and Farm

Colladère cooperative and farm, established on land provided to MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay--Farmer's Movement of Papay) to manage and care for. This is one of the areas of the farm where the Road to Life Yard crew is establishing some of the same techniques that they've worked with at MPP's training center in Papaye. In a small, fenced in area, approximately 45' X 60' (about 15 X 20 meters), the crew, led by Wilner Exil, has a compost pit (1 X 1 X 1 meter), five vegetable beds (1 X 4 meters), approximately six banks of over 30 vegetable tires and one bank of six tires with african redworms (Edrilus eugeniae). The structure painted black to the right is a drying shed that the crew uses for drying moringa leaves to make powder.
Above is one of the areas at the Colladère farm where the Road to Life Yard crew is producing moringa leaves and processing them into moringa leaf powder.The Road to Life Yard crew recently cut back the trees to increase leaf production and to provide light for the pigeon peas growing amid the trees. We used the cuttings to feed our goats at the center in Papaye.
During the five years since we began experimenting with moringa production at the farm, the crew has tried a number of different techniques for improving soil fertility and increasing leaf production, including the use of Canvalia (Canavalia ensiformis) planted under the trees. Canavalia improved soil fertility when we cut it back and hoed it under, but while growing, it significantly and negatively affected the trees' development.
All of the land where we are working with moringa at the farm had soils degraded by over farming and erosion.
The map coordinates for the Colladère farm are: 19º 13' 00.48" N, 72º 01' 38.7" W. On Google
Earth you can zoom back to images taken in 2003 and see some of the changes as the crew has planted hundres of moringa trees. Click on the photos to see more detail.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cholera in Haiti

Dear Friends,

Just wanted to drop a quick note to you all to let you know that Jenny and Keila are fine. There have been two confirmed cases of cholera in the Hinche area as of Monday or Tuesday. Jenny and I are taking more precautions than normal to assure our hands are clean, especially when we are feeding Keila, etc.

The last figues, as of Sunday, were 3,015 cases, most in the area around St. Marc (about two hours north of Port au Prince) with some in Mirebalais (about one hour south of us). There were also five cases confirmed in Port au Prince. My understanding is that those were people who had come from the area around St. Marc (the Artibonite valley). In the brief time I had to check internet just this PM, that was still the only information I found. You all may know more than me.

Thank you for your prayers and please continue to keep our health in your prayers, as well as the Haitian government, in its response to this particular crisis.

In Christ,

Mark, Jenny and Keila

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Saintville's new garden project

Wednesday, October 20th, the farmer's association APS (Asosyasyon Peyizan Senvil--Farmer's Association of Saintville) met together to mark the start of a project sponsored by the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP). The project, which they titled Home Gardens--Cistern Construction, which will help the families construct rainwater catchment systems.

APS, an association that is part of MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay--Farmer's Movement of Papaye) consists of about thirty families working together to improve their community. One of their successes has been constructing a hand-built road into the community, which was recently improved and extended through the assistance of funds from Mercy Corps. Nevertheless, one of their biggest challenges is to "...end hunger in our community."

Working together since November 2008, in 2009, the group began focusing on integrated, diversified systems of yard production. With the technical advice from MPP's Road to Life Yard crew, the families began experimenting with producing vegetables in their own yards, using a variety of techniques, including old tires which are turned inside out and filled with a rich mix of soil, sand and organic material. Impressed by their success, the group requested a workshop in spring this year to help them improve their skills. Soon after, the group's executive committee requested assistance from Mark Hare and Alexander Placide, the two agronomists coordinating the work of MPP's Road to Life Yard-Moringa project. Together, Mark and Alexander and the group's leader put together a project which will help each family construct their own cistern and install simple gutters made from 4" drainage PVC. The funds from PHP will also help the group purchase six kits of tools that the six groups of five families each will share. The project will also allow the group organize a serivies of workshops to assure that each family has at least two members who have received intensive training in integrated, diversified yard production.

The executive committee put together a set of criteria that each group of families must meet in order to participate in the project. Among these, each family must have at least ten tires producing vegetables and each family must have at least one plot dedicated to intensive moringa production. Moringa (Moringa oleifera) is one of the key components of the work of the Road to Life Yard. It is a fast-growing tropical tree that produces highly nutritous, very edible leaves. Most Haitians know of moringa, but few realize how important it is and how highly productive it can be.

In addition to hearing the criteria they need to meet to participate in the project, the group yesterday talked about the importance of working together, about the work they have accomplished so far, together, and some of the dreams they have for the future of their community--they want all their children to have a good education, they want access to good health care and they want a healthy environment, including clean water and good food. They joked that what they want is for their community to be a new example of the land of Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey. As the committee stated in the project proposal, "...we were here before this project and we will be here after it is finished. We will be here until we have accomplished all of our objectives."

Funds for Saintville's rainwater catchments project were generously provided by a number of PC(USA) congregations as well as several individuals.

Monday, October 4, 2010

MPP Youth Camp

A youth camp at MPP's national training center, August 15-21, 2010, brought close to 600 youth together to learn about personal health, and about food sovereignty. Food sovereignty is the right and ability to produce your own food. In addition to lectures, all of the your participated each day in practical work, learning to turn tires to grow vegetables. making compost and preparing vegetable beds for maximum production.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The march against Monsanto seeds

June 4th, Jenny, Keila and I participated in the march and demonstration against Monsanto's donation of hybrid corn seed to Haitian farmers. Monsanto's hybrid seeds do not breed "true" and therefore cannot be saved year after year as farmers normally do. Although the seeds would be "free" this year, farmers would have to purchase the seeds each year after that. This has already occurred in many developing countries and has been one factor in causing farmers to lose their lands, when, for example they lose a crop and can't afford to pay back the purchase of the seed. Becoming dependent on Monsanto seeds also carries the huge risk of farmers losing the native varieties that Haitian farmers have been saving year after year for, in some cases, generations. Photo by Eileen Schumann, all rights reserved

The march against Monsanto was sponsored by farmer organizations throughout Haiti, as well as international farmer organizations, such as Via Campesina. Besides MPP, another of the local organizations that participated was FONDAMA, the Haitian counterpart of PC(USA)'s Joining Hands Haitian network (google "pcusa haiti joining hands"). MPP's official count is more than ten thousand participants in the march and the demonstration held in Hinche's central park. Photo by Mark Hare, all rights reserved

For more information about the march, google "monsanto hinche march"

Friday, June 18, 2010

Marimode's Tire Garden

Marimode St. Fleur and her daughter, Belinda, in their tire garden.
Crops include hot peppers, sweet peppers, tomatoes, amaranth and eggplant

Marimode and Belinda with a handful of their vermicompost.
Marimode wasn't willing to work with the worms at first, more or less
because of the "squiglliness" factor. We made fun of her and eventually she
gave it a try. Mariomode uses the worms specifically to produce the
high quality compost that makes her vegetables really take off.

Belinda's (left) first communion celebration, Sunday, June 6th. Jenny and Keila and
I were able to help Marimode with the celebration--and we participated!
Hey friend,
Just putting out a few images of the work that Marimode St. Fleur is doing in her yard where she rents a few rooms in a small house, together with her three youngest children. Marimode had been a member of the Road to Life Yard crew for about two and a half years now, but she was working with vegetable tires before that. Now she also works with red worms and she has a goat that she ties up and feeds much the same way we do with the goats in the project. Mariomode collects the goat manure in a shallow hole and waters it with organic uric acid they collect each morning from their chamber pots. I don't remember now if she then feeds that mix to the worms, or uses it more directly in the soil mix for the tires themselves.
Marimode and her kids have been building their own house and Marimode was concerned that she would have to leave the soil from her tires behind, but I'm sure we can find a way to sack up the soil and take it along with the tires to her new yard.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Simple Rainwater Catchment Systems

A rainwater catchment system being built at the home of a member of MPP (Decil Exil, far left). The Road to Life Yard crew has been involved in building around 40 of these systems throughout the Papaye-Bassin Zim area over the last five years. Recipients provide most of the labor. This includes digging a hole approximately 9 feet X 9 feet X 3 1/2 feet deep . Recipients also provide all of the sand, gravel and rock and water for mixing cement.
When we first started building these systems six years ago, they cost around $US 150.00 for all purchased materials. We recently made new calculations based on current prices and it looks like purchased materials now cost around $US 277.00 for one system, which includes around twenty-five feet of gutters and a cistern which holds around 9 cubic yards of rainwater. Folks are using the stored water in numerous ways, but in particular, for producing vegetables on a continuous basis. Owners add tilapia fish to control mosquitoes.
We have at least two new MPP community groups interested in working with this technique (which comes from an organization in southern Honduras called COSECHA). The Road to Life Yard crew is beginning to help them put together project proposals which they will submit to the Presbyterian Hunger Program.
If you or your congregation is interested in knowing more, please let us know.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Missionary Retreat

Missionary Retreat--Brazil. The group seemed to mostly enjoy Keila's
shenanigans in the middle of the presentations.

Participants praying for the life and mission of Sherron George (center, red and blue blouse),
mission co-worker of PC(USA) for more than thirty years, and
regional liason for southern South America for the last five
years or so.

April 30th, Jenny, Keila and I headed out of Papay to spend a week in Brazil with fellow PC(USA) mission workers serving in South America and the Caribbean. It was a long trip. We left Papay on Friday, April 30th. After one night in Port au Prince, we took a flight to Miami on Saturday and arrived in the Sao Paulo airport around 6 AM, Sunday. It was the longest trip we've attempted with Keila, who, by the way, has now visited five countries in the ten months since she's joined us here on Earth. Keila was a bit tired and grumpy by the time we reached the hotel around 2:00 PM, but maybe less than Jenny and myself. And she definitely doesn't enjoy being grumpy, because eventually she found something to laugh or giggle at, which, of course, whatever it was, made Jenny and me laugh, too.

For me, it was a great pleasure to see folks again, some of whom I had met for the first time almost four years ago. For Jenny and Keila, it was a bit like meeting cousins and aunts, folks you hear stories about, but only really meet in person only once in a great long while. PC(USA) mission workers are, on the whole, truly amazing people. For example, here is the blog site of Kristin Hamner, a mission worker based in the Dominican Republic (DR) who worked with twelve brigades in less than five months since the earthquake in Haiti, many of them serving refugees from the earthquake who moved to areas near the Haitian border with the DR.

Blessing and being blessed was an important part of the retreat, but even more than that, it was being part of a community of believers, blessing and being blessed, praising God for God's grace, sharing and receiving that grace in concrete moments of fellowship.

Blessings to you all. I finally had a chance to connect and publish this blog, after nearly ten days. ARGH.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lots of Visitors!

Hey Friend!

Check of PC(USA) moderator, Bruce Reyes-Chow blog. Bruce was one of a delegation of some seven folks from PC(USA) visiting Haiti this week, bringing a word of solidarity to PC(USA) partners here in Haiti as well as working to develop the dialogue with them about how best folks from the USA can participate in Haiti's resurrection the most effectively.

The delegation also included Doug Welch, assistan director of missions, Ruth Farrell, Coordinator for the PC(USA) Hunger Program , Maria Arroyo, Coordinator for Caribbean and South America, and Pix Mahler, liaison for PC(USA) partneres in Haiti.

We also had two folks from the Dominican Republic with us, including Kristin Hamner, the Mission Co-worker in Haiti helping to coordinate mission trips to both the DR and to Haiti (!).
Carlos Cardenas and Jessica Maudlin, here with us in MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay--Farmer's Movement of Papay) as part of the assistance PDA (Presbyterian Disaster Assistance) is providing in Haiti through MPP.

The group spent a day and a half with us, Wednesday evening and all day Thursday, meeting with my local boss, Chavannes Jean Baptiste, and seeing the work of MPP on the ground. It was a good visit.

Today, I am in Port au Prince waiting for my two brothers, Bruce and Keith Hare, to come in. Bruce and Keith are here to work on installing a solar-powered electrical system for a clinic in Dumay, near Croix-de-Bouquets which is part of Healing Arts Mission, based out of Granville, Ohio. Keith will be going straight to the project, but Bruce will be headed home with me to spend a day with Jenny, Keila and me in our home in Bassin Zim.

This makes our third "group" of visitors this month! We had a friend visit at the beginning of April, named Cosimo Storniolo, a doctor from Corvallis, Washington.
Cosimo was here for a lightening quick trip as well, coming for the weekend from work he was doing in Leogane as part of a medical missions trip to help serve communities affected by the quake.

Bruce and Keith come in in about an hour. In the meantime, I am trying to catch up on old e-mails. I will soon stop, though, and may have to simply ask you all to give me a chance to declare an electronic "Jubilee." Meaning, forgiving me my debts as of today, in terms of responding to your notes, and writing me again if you truly need me to respond.

Many blessings on you all, and please know that your prayers are very much appreciated. Our daughter, Keila, is doing very well, which is at least in part, due to your thoughts and prayers of support!

In Christ,


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Grace and beauty

Grace and beauty--

Not because of poverty.

Not exactly in spite of poverty.

Maybe, out of poverty, out of simplicity,

Using only what is absolutely essential
To form beauty that is powerful and elegant.

It is, perhaps, something like the elegance and beauty of old age.

Years and experience wearing away all that is non-essential,

Until what is left shows,

Shines through, blazes out,
Making utterly transparent any superficiality that might attempt to shroud it.

A solid reality you can count on,

And take pleasure in,

With nothing left--nothing extra--

To regret.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

MPP's Road to Life Yard and Moringa Project

Alexander Placide (center) is a welcome new addition to the Road to Life
Yard crew. Alexander is a recently graduated agromist who spent three month with
the crew last year as an intern. One of Alexander's main responsibilities is helping
provide follow up and monitoring for farmers who are trying out new techniques. A generous
donation from a PC(USA) church in Oregon made it possible for us to hire Alexander this year.
Fedlin Joseph (far left), one of the crew members, is providing technical assistance to
Solone Jn Etienne (far right), helping him with new ideas for producing vegetables and fruits.

Hey Friend,

I hope you don't mind if I take a break from the earthquake and focus on some of the details of the work of MPP's Road to Life Yard and Moringa project. Since Jenny, Keila and I returned to our work and lives here this past November, I have been trying to find ways that our work in the Road to Life Yard crew could become even more effective and more far-reaching. Some of the ideas I'm trying out are inspired by a book I found at a bookstore in Managua while Jenny and I were there waiting for the birth of our daughter, Keila. I'll share the exact title and the author in a future post, but the approximate title is "Flight of the Buffalo--Learning to let employees lead."

One of the things we've done as a crew is define what our big objective is. We may change it or adjust it based on our ongoing experiences, but as of now, we have defined our crew's job as finding ways so that every single family, in the respective communities where the crew members live, is producing food in their yard all year round. Our methodology is to learn new technics and technology. We learn (and help create) new technics and technology and then we share them with the families in our communities. This information that we share has three important aspects. 1) The technology can help rural families produce more food with less work, 2) The technology respects God's creation and helps recuperate its natural abundance and 3) The techniques, as much as possible, can be learned and applies by rural farmers using their own resources, without being dependent on outside funding.

This third aspect is essential if we are truly serious about our big objective. Ultimately there is no way that we can reach every single member of all of the communities represented if we are dependent on funding to help people acquire particular technology. Our goal has to be to find ways that people can do things themselves, with what they have available. Does this mean that all of the support so many of you are so generously providing is ultimately unnecessary? Not at all. What it means is that MPP and the Road to Life Yard crew is dedicated to using the funds you all provide in the most effective ways possible, particularly by providing training and follow up (monitoring). Training and monitoring are two aspects of our work which allow farmers to apply and adapt the ideas we help provide effectively and with significant results in their own, individual contexts.

In a nutshell, that's what we are about in the Road to Life Yard and Moringa project. It is what we have been doing for the last six years. The only change now is that we are defining what we want to happen more clearly and looking for the most effective ways to make it all happen. I hope to provide more details and examples in future postings.

In Christ,


MPP--PDA proposal and seeds initiative, health center

MPP members uloading food donations from the French government
for rural families who are hosting refugees from Port au Prince
Hey Friend,
Two or three observations about MPP and the earthquake, and then I'm on to a new posting with some updates about the work of MPP's Road to Life Yard and Moringa project.
In January, in partnership with PDA (Presbyterian Disaster Assistance) MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay--Farmer's Movement of Papaye) submitted a proposal for earthquake recovery in the Central Plateau, the Artibonite and the Northwest departments of Haiti. This project has been approved and MPP will begin receiving funds at the end of this month, or the beginning of next.
MPP's decision to focus on three departments that were not directly affected by the catastrophe in Port au Prince, is based on the large numbers of former residents of Port au Prince who have left the city and fled to the departments less affected. The problem is that the Central Plateau, Artibonite and the Northwest, where as many as 500,000 refugees may ultimately settle, are the same areas most heavily affected by the hurricanes less than two years ago. Most families in these areas, particularly the farmers, have not yet fully recovered from that disaster, which makes it extremely difficult for them to respond to the new challenge of receiving thousands of refugees. In some cases, the refugees are family members who were previously sending at least occaisional financial assistance from the capital to their parents and siblings in the countryside.
The main thrust of the proposal just approved is to help farmers in the three departments find resources and training which will help them increase food production while protecting the environment. The project will also help some families near Mirebalais (about 45 Km northeast of Port au Prince, on the main highway to Hinche) rebuild their homes. The project will also provide scholarships for over 500 high school students who had to flee Port au Prince continue their education in the provinces where they have taken refuge. Women in some of the cities will also have access to small loans to recover and/or improve their small businesses. Some of the women targeted lost their merchandise in the hurricanes of 2008 and have not yet been able to restart their businesses. Other women targeted by the proposal will be those who lost their homes and merchandise in Port au Prince in the earthquake in January, and are now refugees in new cities, without adequate resources to begin again.
Led by Chavannes Jean Baptiste, MPP's director, and guided by Carlos Cardenas from PDA, I was one of the two members of MPP's technical team who helped put the initial project together for submission. It took most of four days to do it, and it was tedious and mind-numbing. It also seemed at times unlikely that the project would ever be accepted. But now it has been and now it seems like it truly was worth every minute lost to the other work we do in the Road to Life Yard.
Praise God for that. And praise God for the many many people who have given so generously to PDA, as well as to other organizations who are faithfully working to meet the many needs in Haiti.
I also want to give recognition to folks who have provided donations for the Seeds initiative sponsored by the Presbyterian Hunger Program. This initative will provide thousands of dollars to purchase seeds for farmers looking to increase production this year to meet the increased need of their newly enlarged families.
Many thanks also to those who have sent funds to help support MPP's Integrated Health Center, "Mironda Heston." Those funds are on their way here and will help supplies, materials and salaries to help the center increase its capacity to meet the needs of the rural families in Papay, Bassin Zim and surrounding areas.
Please continue to keep MPP in your prayers, particularly as they receive funds through PDA and other organizations. MPP is made up of many concientous, dedicated people working to serve people with minimal resources. Good hearts and good intentions do not, unfortunately, guarantee perfect results. Please pray for MPP as they begin putting in place all of the mechanisms for a transparent accounting of the use of funds, and as they begin assigning the personnel who will oversee the implementation of all of the activities in the projects for which they are now responsible. The people of MPP have enormous capacity. Please pray for our Lord to bless that capacity with the Holy Spirit so that MPP may continue to work with one heart and one mind.
In Christ,

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Folks continue to come to the Central Plateau

Loading the truck with goods and people, Friday, January 15th, the first trip from Port with quake victims

Some quick observations from Papay-Hinche.

More and more folks are coming into the area from Port au Prince. Today, Fenese, the MPP driver who works a lot with us in the Road to Life Yard-Moringa project, brought back fourteen more folks who will be staying here at MPP's national training center. I'm not sure of exactly how many folks from Port are hear right now, that MPP is directly supporting, but it is around 50, at least. This was the project truck's second trip from Port with quake victims, since January 12th. The first was Friday, January 15th. Other MPP vehicles have also been making sporadic trips.

Food is becoming a problem. Port is obviously not the easiest place to find food, and it was our region's main source for dry goods (rice, sugar, flour, oil, tomato paste, etc.), prior to the quake. The problem is also, of course, money. As more and more people in the area accept people from Port into their homes, their limited resources will get stretched beyond the normal impossible.

Chavannes noted in some observations that he made, that families will be forced to use the seeds they've saved for this year's growing season, to feed the extra mouths. This will lead to a second famine, when farmer's find it impossible to get the seeds they need for the this year's growing season.

MPP has a number of organizations waiting to send some funds to help, but there is also a bottleneck. Available dollars in the country are limited, at least in the private sector. Fonkoze is, an international organization which helps provide small loans at the grassroots level. It is apparently one of the best options right now for getting money transfer through. MPP has had an account with Fonkoze for several years now.

For those who have written me asking about Bigonet, just outside Leogane, in the mountains, friends there indicate that the loss of life in that area was minimal, thanks be to God. But most of the houses were flattened, or severely damaged. The Bon Nouvel Church was flattened, the Bon Nouvel School was severely damaged. Folks in general living in the Cormier area have almost all lost their homes and are living in any available open area, under sheets and tarps, when they can get them.

If you have a heart for this area, please check out . They have been working in the Cormier area for over twenty years. Mike Carlin, the director, was not in Haiti at the time of the quake, but he was able to make a lightening fast visit, to get pictures and some idea of the situation. He is back in the States working with Haiti Fund to put together a strategy that can help get folks back on their feet in the best way possible, as soon as possible.

I had the incredible opportunity to work with CODEP and the folks in the Cormier area of Leogane for about a year in 1997. There are people there who will be friends for the rest of my life.

Please continue to check out the PCUSA Haiti site for information about what's going on in Haiti

Carlos Cardenas, a PCUSA mission worker stationed in Nicaragua, came to work in Haiti these last two or three weeks, as a representative of PDA--Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. He spent two days working with MPP team members putting together a proposal for immediate assistance to at least 5,000 victims located throughout the Central Plateau, the Artibonite and the Northwest. The project also includes a request for funds to address the longer term recovery problems--increasing food production, helping students to get back to school, helping women who've lost their investments begin their small businesses again, and, always, always, working on protecting and improving Haiti's natural resources by planting trees.

Many of you already understand that disasters such as this do not create poverty, but they uncover it, lay it bare, impossible to ignore.

Plese continue to keep us in your prayers.

In Christ,

Mark, Jenny and Keila

Saturday, January 23, 2010

MPP Delmas 39

This is the MPP office on Delmas 39th.

Dear Friend,

Jenny and Keila and I are doing well. Thank you for your many e-mails, and for your prayers.

Here are some observations about how you can help, in addition to your prayers:

Please consider checking out Presbyterian Diaster Assistance. They are the arm of the Presbyterian Church which focuses on disaster situations. The do an excellent job of not only providing immediate emergency relief through dependable in-country organizations, they also focus on the longer term recovery effort. The website is:

Also, for ongoing news and information about relief work related to specific PCUSA partners in Haiti, as well as more general information, please check out the Haiti Network:

Finally, for individuals and churches who would like to support the work that Jenny and I are involved in, working with the PCUSA partner MPP--Mouvman Peyizan Papay (Farmer's Movement of Papaye), there are two options.

For the agricultural work I am involved in, which will not provide immediate relief, but will address the longer term issues of exacerbated hunger throughout the country:

Write the check for Presbyterian Church (USA)

Write the account number H000007 (H, five zeros, 7) and MPP-Road to Life Yard-Moringa project on the check.

Send it to PC(USA)

Individual Remittance Processing

P.O. Box 643700

Pittsburgh PA 15264-3700

To help support the work that Jenny is involved in, with MPP's health center follow the instructions on the website for MBF (Medical Benevolence Foundation):

The account number for MPP's health center is 530-445
Please include the reference: MPP's Integrated Health Center, "Mironda Heston"
Jenny's work with the health center directly affects the immediate needs of many of the folks streaming to the countryside from the devastated areas around Port au Prince, Leogane and Petit Goave. Hundreds are leaving Port au Prince daily, returning to their homes. Pressure on the fragile resources in the countryside will be heavily affected.
Please know that the best of what you have to offer are your prayers and your concerns. Knowing that we are not alone, that the world is willing to share part of the grief, is a relief.
In Christ,
Mark, Jenny and Keila

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Folks leaving Port au Prince on the highway going northeast, towards the Central Plateau. These folks are on their way up "Mon Kabrit"--Goat Mountain, east and a bit north of Croix de Bouquet.

People are pouring in to the Central Plateau from Port au Prince. The local public hospital is reportedly full of folks wounded in the quake, who one way or another made it here. There is a call for donations of blood, which I hope to answer tomorrow. Employees of MPP took up a collection yesterday to help the wounded. There is a call for food as well. The hospitals here are not generally set up to provide meals on a large scale, so families usually fill in the gaps. But these patients have no families.

Banks here are still closed, which is complicating things a bit. MPP's cash funds have been depleted, so they are running on gas fumes, as we used to say when Mom's car showed Empty on the gas gauge. Fortunately, MPP, and Haitians in the countryside in general, have had years of practice running on very little.

The two main cell phone services here are now working, more or less. Both have provided their users free minutes to help them make connections with their loved ones.

Jenny and I are running a little low on readily available cash, but this morning, a neighbor let me know that he can help us out when our supply is really gone.

In general, Jenny and I are doing well, but we are trying to know how to react. We still have our regular work, which definitely is important, but that's not easy to measure right now, on the scale of what has happened.

We also talk with friends, ask what news they have. Many folks do have news. It is a difficult question to ask, but a joy when the answer is "they made it!" Hard to deal with when the answer is "we don't kow."

The people of Hinche, Papay, Bassin Zim, are grieving.

Probably the best we can do is do what we can wherever we can, and whenver we can, pray hard and pray often, and hope that our simple presence can somehow be part of our witness.

Food is not yet a problem, and the supply will probably not be a problem. Food and gas is making it over the border from the Dominican Republic. We put 8 gallons of Dominican diesel in the truck on Saturday. It cost us what we normally would pay for 16 gallons, but we were grateful for the security of having a bit of fuel.

The police are reportedly working on keeping food prices from skyrocketing. Word is that this past Saturday, they went around the marketplace and closed down shops who were charging exhorbitant prices.

That's the news for now. Please continue to keep all of Haiti in your prayers.

In Christ.

Mark, Jenny and Keila

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ti Jak, MPP, Port au Prince

"Ti Jak", a member of MPP who lives in Port au Prince. Ti Jak is a mechanic at the garage where most of MPP's vehicles are serviced. When I visited with him on Friday, he told us stories of using one of the vehicles being serviced at the garage to carry load after load of injured neighbors to the local police station, where they hoped to find medical aid.

Ti Jak also was responsible for saving one of the neighbors in a house next to MPP's office on Delmas 39.

The office was completely destroyed, but Ti Jak and several other members of MPP were able to get computers, chairs, printer, inverter, solar panels and some other office equipment out of the house a few days after the quake.

We've heard from friends from Leogane about 40 miles southwest of Port, where the situation is particularly bleak. Word is that most of the buildings in the city were destroyed. Outlying communities were also heavily affected, all up and down the mountain, although loss of life in the Cormier area was less than I feared. Friends up near the top of the mountain and other down in the valley all survived, although many lost their houses.

In Christ,

Mark, Jenny, Keila

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Haiti Quake--MPP and the Central Platuea

Hello again, friend.

The news about the earthquake here in the Central Plateau, where MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay--Farmer's Movement of Papay) is located, the news is, in the short term, considerably less dire than in Port au Prince. Here in Papaye-Bassin Zim, where Jenny, Keila and I live and work, there was no damage whatsover. We very much felt the quake Tuesday afternoon, a little before 5:00, as well as the four or five aftershocks during the night. But as far as we know, no houses and none of the MPP building were damaged at all. Nor have we heard of any landslides.

Chavannes, the director of MPP, was not in Port on Tuesday. He is here, leading a workshop on community development for community promoters who will become leaders within the organization. Chavannes wife, Nini, his daughter, Agathe and his grandchild were in Port, but reports are that they are fine. The house where Nini lives was apparently unaffected.

Moy, the director of operations for MPP in Port, was also uninjured, and the office off of Delmas 83, where he lives and works, was also undamaged.

MPP's other office which they share with the national farmer's organization MPNKP (Mouvman Peyizan Nasyonal Kongre Papay--the National Farmer's Movement with Congress in Papay) was totally destroyed. That is the Delmas 39 office, where I have sometimes stayed when I need to be in Port. It is also the home for a number of MPP-sponsored students studying in Port. Miraculously, there were no serious injuries. However, Caseus Chavanes, one of the leaders of a farmers organization outside of Les Cayes, lost his organization's truck, when it was crushed by the falling building. MPP also lost computers, printers and other office supplies, as well as supplies purchased in Port for projects with farmers in the Central Plateau. Caseus's organization does not have the funds to replace the truck. It is also unlikely that MPP will have the resources to replace the computers and printers lost.

Other issues for MPP and all of us here in the Central Plateau are many. The first and most important is the grief. Every single family in the Central Plateau has one or more family members living, working, studying in Port. Almost no one knows exactly how any one is doing right now. Cell phone service (the only reliable phone service we have), was knocked out shortly after the quake on Tuesday. This morning there are signs that the service is becoming operational again. As people begin getting the news, there will be a lot of grieving. Along with the grief, is the complication of how to get their people back home--those who have perished, to bury them, those who are injured and are homeless, to care for them.

The second issue which will soon be acute is one of food and fuel. All of our fuel and much of our food comes from or through Port au Prince. This is true for most of the country, in fact. As the supplies available right now are used up, where will we get the next batch? And how much will we have to pay for it? The growing season in 2009 was very short and complicated by too much rain at the beginning, and not enough at the end. Farmer's resources are already minimal. If one of the results of this disaster is that food prices shoot up again, as they did in 2008, there will be severe hunger, throughout the country.

There is a Haitian proverb that goes something like this: Dwet la blese, tout ko pran ve. A toe is wounded, and the whole body is attacked by worms.

Port au Prince has been deeply wounded. The whole country will be deeply affected.

Jenny and I have no answers for any of these problems. Just the reminder, that I felt, again, this morning while reading the Yearbook of Prayer, that our God is a God of hope, that despair has already been defeated, and now is the time to face what has happened and to act, act out of that hope and not out of despair. I don't have any idea what that will mean. But our God is up to the task. Pray for us, that we will also be up to the task.

Earthquake News


Thank you for your e-mails and notes of concern. I haven't even begun to read most of them, but I know they are there. And thank you especially for your prayers.

First of all, Jenny, Keila and I are fine. Keila is as cheerful and funny as ever, and more so every day.

As many of you know, Tuesday afternoon, Haiti was hit by a 7.0 quake, centered just west of downtown Port au Prince in the area called Carrefour. Based on reports on the radio, the images we are seeing on Internet, and the observations of some friends who were there, much of Port au Prince has been destroyed. Report after report has come in of major primary and secondary schools destroyed along with several Universities and some of the hospitals. The national palace, the parliament and several ministries have all collapsed or been heavily damaged. The center for the UN peacekeeping mission also collapsed, killing, among many others, the special envoy, a well-known leader from Tunsia. The national cathedral and many other churches were also destroyed or heavily damaged.

Carrefour, one of the many areas of Port au Prince where houses are built on top of houses, and alleyways are no wider than your two arms stretched out on each side, was, according to radio reports, completely destroyed.

Obviously, no one really knows the number of casualities. Many people remain trapped, alive, but with no access to water. I do not know the extent of heavy equipment available to begin removing debris and opening the way for rescue teams to enter, but I suspect that it is not enough. Even with heavy equipment readily available, so many of the neighborhoods are so tightly packed with houses, it would still be a monumental task. Without some saving grace, many of these folks may also perish.

That is the news as I know it of the situation in Port au Prince. You can probably find out much more from CNN and the internet.

It is unfortunate that I have let this blog sit with no news until now, when the news is so very sad. Thank you again for your prayers. Please continue praying for all of the families of the many victims, especially for those who are now waiting for resucue. Pray for everyone in Port au Prince and for all of Haiti.

I will post again in a few minutes with what I know of the situation with MPP.

In Christ.


Search This Blog