Notes from the Field: A Humbling Journey to Haiti

By Richard Fox, TWP National Director

May 2011: Port-au-Prince, Haiti

While in Port-au-Prince this April I witnessed a city that is still experiencing overwhelming need. Today much of the rubble from thousands of destroyed structures remains where it fell and many people still live in tent communities. Life, though, has been slowly improving and Trees, Water & People (TWP), in partnership with International Lifeline Fund (ILF), is continuing to build low cost, fuel efficient cookstoves that not only lessen the exorbitant price families pay for charcoal, but also help relieve pressure on the disappearing Haitian forest.

After collecting valuable feedback from our stove beneficiaries, TWP and ILF worked together to design the Zanmi Pye Bwa (“Friend of the Forest”) fuel-efficient cookstove. A group of tinsmiths was then brought together to cut and assemble 1,000 Zanmi Pye Bwacookstoves over a six week period. Centralizing production without a factory site is challenging, but allows us to improve standardization of our product while offering these skilled metal workers a positive change of environment – getting them away from rough neighborhoods characterized by burning trash, dilapidated buildings, crowds, and traffic.  All in all, these workers have embarked on what we hope will be an uplifting rise out of poverty, gaining access to steady and dignified employment in what TWP and ILF intend to develop into a significant local charcoal stove manufacturing operation over the next year.

The Zanmi Pye Bwa ("Friend of the Forest") clean cookstove. A joint effort of Trees, Water & People and International Lifeline Fund.

I was greatly humbled by my journey and it reminded me once again to be thankful for all I have.  It was heartening to see how effective TWP and ILF are at utilizing our donors’ contributions and to witness the positive and lasting impact our work is having for thousand of Haitian families.

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Trees, Water & People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to developing sustainable community-based conservation solutions.

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