If my short experience in economic development is a lot like climbing mountains, then participating in the development of business leaders, the creation of jobs, and the development of personal businesses is similar to planting trees.
Several times throughout my life I have heard the discussion of the difference between people who see the forest and people who see the trees, big picture people and visionaries verses detail and task oriented people. To this day, I’m still not sure which one I am…Is both an option? Depending on the situation and topic at hand, sometimes I see the big picture but don’t have the specific skills or resources to make it happen (thank goodness for delegation!), and other times the leaves on the trees and bugs eating them are quite clear.
In February, I started putting pieces together and began learning that numerous moving pieces must first fall into place before you can have a thriving forest. There must be a vision for the forest, the land must be surveyed, the desired product must be considered before selecting species of trees (Do I want fruit? Timber? Large root systems to protect the earth? etc.). People must be hired and trained to care for the land and trees and eventually to harvest, and on and on. Will my trees survive and thrive in this environment? How long will it take for them to produce what I want? Who will provide the initial investment for the trees? What diseases are they susceptible to? Are these trees a threat to what is already here? What is needed for a successful integration of this future forest to the current climate?
Some visualize the forest and choose their trees accordingly, bringing along people who know and care for them along the way. Some step into managing a forest someone else has crafted and add their personal touch to it.
Forests involve vision, researching, planning, laboring, training, fertile ground, the proper species and caretakers, pruning, harvesting, and an in-demand result.
But before a forest can become a reality, the trees must first be planted.
And the more I go on, the more I see the similarities between forests and thriving industries, economic frameworks, and individual businesses. Haiti needs many trees planted—in both the literal and figurative sense—to one day have thriving and life-giving forests.
“Time flies when you’re having fun…” and February was by far one the fastest (and I recognize also the shortest) month of my time in Haiti! This theme of forests, trees, and planting is strung across the past few weeks, and here’s a few snapshots into what I learned and experienced in the past month:
These last few years I have been unbelievably fortunate to be surrounded by world-changing leaders for whom their ‘vision’ is a way of life—guiding every thought they possess and every step they take. My professors taught me how to take what we were learning in the classroom today and apply it to societal problems of tomorrow. My coaches successfully demonstrated how to set a standard of excellence and create the culture within a program that sets the course, enjoys the process, and achieves winning championships in the future.
Now I get to work for an organization led by people who see what can be in Haiti decades and generations from now and use it to shape and motivate our work for each day. And ultimately, I serve a God who has already won the battle against the darkness of this world and get to put on the armor and fight with His power, His strength, and His truth. Today, I fight for what can be because I already know what will become of this world.
And because of these visionary leaders and forest-planners I’ve been blessed to learn and work under, now I get to participate in planting and caring for ‘trees’ after the ground-breaking work has already been done.
TREES upon trees upon mountains beyond mountains…during my first visit (of many to come—I fell in love!) to the Dominican Republic (DR), I spent most of the waking hours in awe of the beauty of the forests that cover the eastern side of Hispaniola. Unlike Haiti, the DR has protected and preserved its life-giving trees. That decision among many others has led to a better developed country with infrastructure and stability decades beyond where Haiti is currently. It was inspiring and mind blowing to see how developed the other side of the island is compared to the desperate poverty that consumes Haiti, as even the slums had paved roads, and access to electricity, water, and even occasionally cable—an example of what focused development efforts can do for a community and country over the course of several decades.
Time in the DR gave me a glimpse of what planting trees and caring for them decade after decade can look like, unlike in Haiti where an overwhelming majority of trees have been chopped down after decades of attempts to make a quick buck to meet today’s needs through making and selling charcoal.
Several DV leadership and staff went together on this semi-work semi-fun trip, although the beauty that surrounded us everywhere we went made even the ‘work’ parts such a pleasure. Crossing the boarder via a bus was quite the experience, as a mixture of Spanish, English, and Haitian Creole filled our ears. At any given time we weren’t sure which language to speak (although Spanish wasn’t much of an option) and what was trying to be said. It was a fun time for all after we safely sat back down on the bus. There were several times I wasn’t sure I’d ever see my passport again…but thank the Lord it made it back to Haiti with me!
A highlight of the trip was meeting with and learning from a young lady who recently moved to the DR to run a social enterprise that makes soaps. She and her newly acquired operation provided several great ideas that could be brought to Haiti, and I was thankful to meet and share experiences with a like-minded individual with similar passions and background (she too was a college athlete!).
Business Leader Training
An idea that has been brewing since November was finally realized in February! The first business leader training meeting was the first Wednesday of the month, and I had a blast preparing and facilitating it. At the beginning of the month I spent time contemplating the overarching DV vision/mission statements, crafting my own for this training to fit into DV’s mission, and breaking it down into weekly goals to work towards and obtain each meeting. It’s been fun piecing together the structure and content for the meetings, pulling from and blending various economic/business development organization materials (used with their permission of course).
Through this process, I have realized how business owners and leaders in Haiti have little access to resources in their own language that will increase human capital! I recently became aware of an organization south of Port au Prince successfully doing business training and micro loans for their nutrition program recipients, and am working to set up a meeting/attend a training and get my hands on their curriculum. This could be quite useful moving forward!
We had 3 out of 4 partnering villages represented at our first meeting! It was a beautiful time of immediate connections and shared learning. We discussed our dreams for ourselves and our communities and talked about some things that we need to work on and learn to achieve those goals. We also shared the gifts God has given us and how we can use them in business to serve our families and communities. Another topic of discussion was the needs and resources in each of DV’s partnering villages. The best part might have been the end—we took a walk to the chicken coop in Trouforban to give an example of a job creation project, and everyone was sharing phone numbers to stay in contact and continue conversations they had started at the meeting during one on one time.
Our second meeting of the month had fewer numbers, as some had to fulfill last minute responsibilities during that time, but the discussion was rich! We talked about God’s view of work as told by scripture, their thoughts on spiritual warfare and how it effects businesses in Haiti, how we must be filled with the Holy Spirit before we can lead others well, and they provided input on where to buy and find local ingredients needed to make soap. I also learned that one of our business leaders participates on the board of Haitian-led microfinance organization at work in a nearby community!
My vision for these meetings is to continue to grow the deep roots needed in Disciples’ Village partnering communities to enact local-led sustainable change. Deep roots, a solid trunk/core values, and hefty branches/local business leaders will be needed for leaves/individual business to grow and produce fruit. However, I must keep in mind that it takes years for a tree to produce fruit and decades for a plentiful forest to grow.
Through the process of planning for meetings, I have discovered my love for researching and condensing information for others to have comprehendible access to. I always enjoyed researching in school (not so much the report writing, ha!) and am thankful to get to transfer that over into my work in Haiti. Now I actually look forward to reading, note taking, writing and preparing ‘presentations’ for our business leaders, as I know that this information will help them and their communities advance (an it’s no longer graded!!).
A lot of pruning has been going on in the trees in my life as of late; sometimes it’s wanted and other times it’s Spirit led. I’m slowly trying to simplify my life and living space, finding what I truly need and what I can easily live without and putting occasional needs in their accessible but out-of-the-way place.
I’m also thankful for leaders in my life that call out in love areas that I need to prune personally and professionally, desiring what is ultimately best for me moving forward in life and in the business world.
Spiritual pruning is likely the most subtle, yet most painful, process of simplifying and purifying my life. The Spirit has been revealing weaknesses in my armor and false truths that I hold onto, stripping me of them—leaving me temporarily vulnerable and utterly dependent on God, and then building me back up stronger than ever and ready to continue with the spiritual battle that is living and working in a dark world.
Charles Spurgeon says, “Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.” And lately I’m seeing the insurmountable value of discernment in my daily walk and work, as the enemy of this world often hides behind partial truths attempting to deceive us into choosing what is temporarily good but not God’s lasting best, what is almost true but not God’s truth.
Every day I’m thankful for God’s loving pruning and His grace that is new each morning. While it is unpleasant and often painful, I know in the end my earthly attempts at planting trees will bear fruit with pruning in His due time.
Zi Zi Ze Poulaye- Chicken Coop Update
- A team came and added a run onto the chicken coop to make room for more chickens as they become available from our layer supplier
- Made some improvements to the coop to increase efficiency and ease for our employee, decrease the amount of food lost to rodents
Haitian Coffee Farm Update
- “Haitian Coffee Grows on Trees” has become a book in my free time rotation, and I have learned quite a bit about the coffee industry in Haiti and how it came to be.
- Haitian coffee only reaches 33% capacity compared to other coffee producing countries in the Caribbean and the Americas. That sounds like a challenge to me!
Life is challenging but sweet here in Haiti. These last few weeks have been filled with new adventures and learning experiences, dreams coming to life, spotty internet and data, and recently daily matcha green tea lattes—my favorite non-coffee drink—thanks to a sweet long-time supporter of Disciples’ Village bringing me some matcha powder a few days ago.
With joy I begin March elated with the continual task before me to plant, water, and prune the trees right where I myself have been planted. Thank you to all who have and continue to pour water, food, and life into me, and none of this would be possible without the fertile grounds of those who have tilled and planted and fed long before I came around.