Today our first stop was to visit the mayor of Hinche. To our surprise, this was like a royal welcome. We were welcomed by a band playing the national anthems of Haiti and Canada. Then we were introduced to the mayor of Hinche and several key individuals from the local government. Mayor Woodside was given the ceremonial key to the city of Hinche. It was great to see how important this relationship with Fredericton is to people in Hinche.
We then headed to the Cobocol Area Development Project. The first thing I noticed was the huge improvement in the roads. We were on the major north-south highway north of Hinche, and it is being widened and will be paved. What an improvement over the rough roads we saw on our last trip.
It was a very full day in Cobocol. After being greeted by some beautiful music by the band, we were introduced to the members of the Cobocol team. This was followed by a tour where we first saw women being trained in sewing. They not only produce their own clothes, but also sell items they make and produce items that were commissioned. We also saw where the young men were being trained in woodworking. We saw a number of bed frames being produced, with elaborate carvings in the headboard – they were quite beautifully done. We saw the grain mill that is used to grind corn into cornmeal. This is an important savings because they used to have to ship their grain to Hinche to grind it. Their dream is to develop the capacity to package cornmeal for sale throughout Haiti. We also visited their computer centre and library.
A special moment for us was the opportunity to meet with Aneas. She is the first sponsored child from Cobocol who has gone on to university and she is training to be a doctor. She dreams of being able to go back and work in her community some day. She explained how critical child sponsorship was in providing her with the educational opportunities that made this possible.
Another highlight of the day was a visit with a meeting of the woman’s association. It was wonderful to hear them speak so openly about the challenges in their lives, but also the progress they have made. They emphasized two areas in particular. First, training in family planning has allowed them to begin managing the size of their families, a critical step in breaking free of poverty. One woman who has 13 children said it was wonderful that her daughters would be able to have less children than she has. Second, they emphasized how through improved training of mothers and through regular checkups, the number of sick children has decreased dramatically. It is wonderful to see how effective World Vision has been in working with these women.
We then went on to visit the goat project and the tree nursery. The goat project is one of my favorites. Goats are the primary livestock in Haiti. Two new breeds of goats are being introduced, one with greater meat production and one with increased milk production. The economic benefits of these new breeds are profound. The tree nursery produces fruit trees including mango, orange and lemon, trees for wood, as well as for reforestation.
Overall, I noticed quite a change in Cobocol since my last visit. The project seems to have matured, where people have a better idea of where they are gong and how they will get there, and have greater confidence in their abilities to get there. I also noticed an increased entrepreneurial spirit. When asked what would happen at the end of the World Vision support, in each case they could explain how the community intended to continue these activities in the future.
Unfortunately, I misplaced my camera for most of the day, so few pictures to share.