Haiti Partners Hatch Long-term Business Solution

Tom Price

Haiti imports 90 percent it eggs from the Dominican Republic, but a project in the town of Gros Morne is changing that. The Church of the Resurrection in Burtonsville, Maryland, the local Haitian parish, and CRS joined to fund and construct a hen house that can sell eggs to local entrepreneurs. Now, Enel Poleus will no longer have to take a 2-day round trip to buy eggs for his sandwich stall which supports his young family. Photo by Debbie DeVoe/CRS

By Robyn Fieser

The belief that eggs could help solve at least part of the problem in Gros Morne, a growing community of working class and subsistent farmers in central Haiti, had been incubating for years.

As Father Wilner Donecia, a pastor in Gros Morne, sees it, women shoulder much of the responsibility to feed their families in the struggling economy but have few opportunities for employment.

Meanwhile, everybody loves eggs.

The town of about 125,000 people imports more than 50,000 eggs each week, much of that from neighboring Dominican Republic. The practice drains the local economy and inflates prices.
Donecia has long figured that raising eggs in Gros Morne would provide employment to the women who need it and offer a cheaper way for the people of Gros Morne to get their eggs.

For years he daydreamed about building a laying facility on a piece of Church-owned land but he lacked the expertise and resources to do it.

It wasn’t until Christina Newman, a Virginia Tech graduate specializing in animal sciences, arrived in 2007 to do a year-long stint as a volunteer that the idea finally hatched.

During her year in the volunteer program, a part of the twinning relationship between Gros Morne and Church of the Resurrection in Burtonsville, MD and Gros Morne, Christina developed a business proposal for the egg-laying plant.

Then she went home to raise money. She helped create Hens for Haiti, a student organization at Virginia Tech dedicated to raising funds for Haiti. And she earned a graduate degree.

In 2011, she returned with enough money to start building.

Today, more than 70 women sell eggs produced by some 1,500 hens in the 3,000-square-foot facility in Gros Morne, and there are plans to expand.

For Donecia, the partnership with the Maryland parish is proof that goals can be accomplished when working together.

“The relationships we have built together help us realize the dreams we don’t always have the resources to fulfill,” he said. “There is only one church. They might have different names but we are all one people.”

Donecia and Newman discussed how the two parishes came together to create sustainable employment opportunities for communities in Haiti at a workshop on June 2 during the “One Table, Many Partners,” a National Solidarity Conference held on the campus of Catholic University in Washington, DC.

Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops held the conference, which brought together 375 people from the United States, Haiti and Canada to explore how to strengthen partnerships that contribute to sustainable development, celebrate diversity, and uphold human rights and social justice.

Conference participants represented dioceses and parishes from across Haiti and the United States, partnership organizations, religious institutions, and Catholic institutions.
Among the attendees were several Haitian priests and six Haitian bishops, including Bishop Chibly Langlois of Les Cayes, president of the Haitian bishops’ conference.

In his keynote address, Bishop Langlois called parish-to-parish partnerships a “tool of the church in the fight against poverty, inequality, and exclusion.”

See a related story by the National Catholic Reporter here.

Robyn Fieser is CRS’ regional information officer for Latin America and the Carribean. She is based in the Dominican Republic.

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