Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Picking up Momentum

The past two weeks, I've felt the momentum of my work in Haiti pick up. Things are moving forward. So, I’d like to share a basic update of what’s going on.

Stabilization projects at the Centre d’Agriculture St. Barnabas are finally underway. Right now, Saint Ange is building a new nursery so we have plants for new land we’re preparing for production. We’ve purchased seeds from Seed Programs International, based in Asheville, NC, to try in our student practice plots. We’ve rented temporary composting toilets from SOIL, which safely compost human waste, and we are purchasing compost from them to use until we have our own capacity to make it.
The new CASB nursery nearing completion
Throughout the month of December we’re installing temporary classrooms that will serve the school until we are able to construct new buildings hopefully by the end of 2016. We’re finalizing plans for a new pump, reservoir and irrigation system to outfit a well. This will allow us to increase farm production to support the center financially and to begin more test plots of crops that local businesses are interested in growing. Three examples are jatrofa, used to make biodiesel, morenga, a leafy plant with high concentrations of vitamins and protein, and sisal, a plant that was once a significant crop in this region of Haiti before synthetic fibers replaced the organic ropes made from the plant.
SOIL EkoMobil composting toilets installed at the school
We’re also preparing a preliminary scholarship program for students in the agriculture technician program. So far, thanks to donors in the Diocese of California, CASB has granted 6 half scholarships. Remaining students have filled out applications for scholarships, and we hope to find more sponsors in the U.S. that can make it possible to grant additional scholarships.
Eliza Brinkley, underway on a boat and underway teaching the new CASB English class
A lot more is to come in 2016 as the Episcopal Church together with partners like Fresh Ministries out of Jacksonville, FL, continue to seek the proper support needed to rebuild academic and administrative buildings, install hydroponic units, and establish additional farming services CASB can offer in the region.

In other happenings, I’m still supporting Earl Burch in his mission with the Diocese of Upper South Carolina in Cange, as they work with Ecole Bon Sauveur and many other ministries in the Central Plateau. I’m moving forward with Chris Ciocchetti and Maegan Daigle from Centenary College in Louisiana on conducting Partnership, a pilot, week-long academic course in Haiti in May 2016 designed to equip communities and individuals interested in Haiti to promote effective engagement and cooperation. Finally, I’m in the early planning stages with Reverend Carmel Chery to design a program on racism and racial justice for the youth in each parish in the Diocese of Haiti to use in their spring gatherings. This project is an extension of the Episcopal Church Young Adult Pilgrimage to Ferguson, Missouri, that happened in October.

As you can see, there are a lot of partners in this work. I’m blessed and grateful to be working with so many amazing people and to receive such amazing sustained support from friends, family and church communities back in the U.S.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Change but not Changing: A Ferguson Challenge

The other day, I came across a two-frame comic. In the first frame is a politician like figure standing at a podium in front of a happy crowd of people each with one hand raised as the politician asks, "Who wants change?"

In the second frame, it's the same scene, but the politician asks, "Who wants to change?" No hands are raised. No one looks at the politician or one another.

Everyone wants change, but no one wants to change.

The idea, the need, the desire for change was readily apparent during the recent Episcopal Church Young Adult Pilgrimage to Ferguson, Missouri. Twenty-four other young adults and I, 6-8 staff, and countless guest speakers, engaged in conversations about racial justice and reconciliation. Indeed, during the pilgrimage we met with many inspiring agents of change. But what was also apparent, especially in looking out from Ferguson, is a lack of will to change. We want change, but we're not changing.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Trinity Asheville Sermon

Below is the sermon I presented to my home parish, Trinity Episcopal Church, in Asheville, NC. I give great thanksgiving for the lives of Anyo and Tiyolen, two people who inspire me greatly and who have shaped my life significantly for the better. I love you both.
Trinity Episcopal Church, Asheville, NC, October 18th, 2015

Gospel Reading: Mark 10:35-45

“For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”


Monday, October 5, 2015

What is poverty? How can community over come it?

Natalie Finstad, former Episcopal missionary in Africa, started the organization Tatua Kenya after her experience working in Kenya. Check out her terrific TED Talk, posted this past January, on her decision to take action, how she thinks we should define poverty, and what community can do to better our world.
Some of you may have seen me share this video before. Watch it again. It's good.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Why I Post About Haitian Food

The causes of food insecurity in Haiti are large and complicated, and the impact is real, individual and personal. But some Americans simplify this reality to an idea that Haiti cannot feed itself due to problems with the culture and the people. Put simply, this is misguided and narrow thinking.

Those who are friends with me on Facebook might notice I post about the Haitian food I consume A LOT.

I do this first and for most because it's delicious, and it will increase your desire to suddenly go on vacation in Haiti and even buy Haitian products. (Most significant is peanut butter. I used to be a choosy mom, but no longer. Natural, spicy Haitian peanut butter even beats creamy JIF.)

The second reason I do this is to shift perceptions about Haiti. Though sharing what I eat on Facebook isn't academic or fully representative, hopefully these posts publicize raw, value added and even branded products that are grown, produced and refined right here in Haiti.
My friend Loosakimg, in Cange, at his high school graduation dinner. His mom, on the left, went to culinary school. In the foreground is a goat, cooked perhaps like Americans prepare turkey on Thanksgiving.
There's significant room to grow agriculture related production and business in Haiti. That is a big motivator behind the revitalization of the St. Barnabas Agriculture Center that I'm involved in with the Episcopal Church. As I've shared before, the long term plan, together with Fresh Ministries, is to expand the capacity of that center in improving agriculture production around northern Haiti, equipping farmers and entrepreneurs with the training and tools necessary to begin and grow small businesses, and providing services to nearby farmers using the best available techniques for production and environmental protection.

So what can you do? From in the U.S., in addition to seeking out and buying Haitian made products, you can support this sector of the Haitian economy by communicating with your representatives in the U.S. government to encourage legislation that is more fair to the Haitian producers. Let me explain.

The political actions of the U.S. are one reason food insecurity is an issue in Haiti. This is just one element adding to the complexity of this problem. Here are two examples: 

In the mid 1990s, President Bill Clinton essentially forced Haiti into lowering their tariffs on imported (read: U.S. made) food stuffs, including rice. Haiti at one point in history exported rice, and now it imports much of what it consumes. In 2010, President Clinton made the following statement, seen in the following excerpt from Fran Quigley's book How Human Rights Can Build Haiti:
A second example, from the 1980s, is the extermination of the Creole pig by USAID and other international actors. Because of a fever identified in a pig population in the Dominican Republic, fear grew that it would spread into Haiti and then the U.S., effecting the businesses in the U.S. So the solution acted out was to simply eliminate the pig population in Haiti.

This pig was a significant staple of the rural economy in Haiti, not only as a source of food but as a source of income that, among other uses, provided stability in times of unexpected expenses. It also supported the presence of royal palm trees, whose seed was the principal feed for the pigs. Now, without the pigs, those trees have been cut down at higher rates, contributing to the already serious deforestation problem.

By staying engaged with the political activities in the U.S., and contacting representatives to tell them how to act on these issues, you can support fairer treatment of Haitian agriculture and improvements in the economy here.

So, what have I been eating? Take a look below:
Tahomey chocolate
Let Agogo yogurt, local bananas and peanut butter on local bread, Selecto brand coffee
Frozen cubes of mango two dous and passion fruit juices with Haitian cane sugar
All local yogurt, peanut butter, bread, sugar, coffee, and passion fruit juice
Rebo brand coffee
Grapefruit jam
Hot sauce
Vanilla extract
Mel'ange brand all natural tea

Bon apeti!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Three Lessons I've Learned

Ou met jwenn atik sa an Kreyol pi ba la.
While making the decision to move to Cap Haitien, I considered two things. First, I considered that the move from Cange to Cap Haitien might be as different as was the move from Clemson, South Carolina to Cange. Second, moving to Cap would mean a chance to experience Haiti from a completely different vantage point, helping me understand the Haitian context more deeply.
Photos are textures from around the house in Cap Haitien
To the first point, two months after moving to Cap Haitien, I can already say that yes, the move here has been just as different as was the move to Cange. I’m now living independently, I’m more mobile, and I’m living in a city where every single person doesn’t know me. All of this makes for a pretty unfamiliar environment and figuring out entirely new ways of doing things.

To the second point, after two months in Cap, I’m already learning many new things. All of this new learning has made me reflect on what I learned the previous two years in Cange. So, since I’m feeling a bit of a personal reflection post, I want to share the three most significant lessons I’ve learned since moving to Haiti.

Friday, August 21, 2015

CASB Master Plan

In my new position, I'm working as a project manager for the stabilization and revitalization of the St. Barnabas Agriculture Center (CASB), which primarily features an agricultural technical school with a 2-year academic program. It is one of the higher education institutions in the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti, but has recently suffered from various difficulties, prompting a push to reinvest in the center.

My work is just a part of what will take many more years to realize. I want to share a bit here from the CASB Capital Development Plan put together by Haitian Architect Herve Sabin and the Studio Drum Collaborative to provide more context and motivation behind this project.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

New Home in Okap

I want to share a brief post and some pictures of my new home in Cap Haitien. The church is renting this house for the next year for missionary personnel to use (thanks David Copley!). Next month, I'll be joined by Eliza Brinkley, soon to be another full time missionary here. Of course Dan Tootle and Kyle Evans will be making their usual rounds from time to time every few months or so. 

My favorite parts about the house are the outdoor spaces (two balconies and the courtyard), the location (close to the market, close to the boulevard, close to the movie theater, close to restaurants, close to church...), and the fact that it is not near a loud bar that plays music late into the night. 

We'll have extra beds (when Dan and Kyle aren't here) so come over and visit!

Monday, July 27, 2015

An Explanation of Language/Yon Eksplikasyon Lang

Ou met jwenn atik sa an Kreyol anba sa ki an angle a.
Language matters, and language can be power. The language I choose to use at any moment in Haiti determines who will and will not understand what I say. Like any power, this can be used for good or for bad. When used to express superiority, manipulate, degrade, suppress or exclude it is unjust; likewise, when used to amplify the voices of the suppressed and outcast it is full of justice and goodness.

When I say language, I mean the particular language of choice, be it English, French, Haitian Creole or Elvish. The issue is not that speaking any one of these languages is a bad thing in and of itself. The issue is about awareness of the privilege being able to speak them, and wisely reflecting on when and how to appropriately use them and NOT exert unjust power over others.

It was to illustrate this point that I chose to write a brief post a couple of weeks ago on racism, the shooting at Charleston's Emmanuel AME Church, and the parallels in Haiti, yet post it only in Haitian Creole (Men jan mwen we'l). #blacklivesmatter #lavinwaenpotan

Friday, July 17, 2015

Trinity Youth Mission Experience

This past week, I was blessed to travel with the youth of Trinity Episcopal Church Asheville, NC, on their trip to visit Cange and the Central Plateau. I really can't express how inspiring and meaningful this experience was.

Debbie, the youth director at Trinity who has been such a big part of my life, led the group of 8 youth along with the participation of Rev. Scott and his wife Missy, and Greg Hilderbran, a parishioner from Trinity who is involved with Consider Haiti, an organization based in Montrouis, Haiti.
We were able to visit almost everywhere we planned for the week. One highlight was visiting Hermane in Chapoteau to assist in the first produce distribution from his community garden to some of the 25 primary school kids who are in an agriculture-education program he is leading (funded by St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Herndon, VA). I was very excited to be there for this, and I appreciate Hermane inviting the group across the lake. He even sent us back to Cange with a sample of the spinach for the staff in Cange to prepare for us. Delicious and nutritious!
We also were able to tour Cange, CFFL/Zanmi Agrikol, the University Hospital in Mirebalais, and Basin Zim. On Thursday, we stayed at a beach resort called Wahoo Bay Beach, my first time staying at a beach resort in Haiti. It was a special, relaxing treat and even included a bit of snorkeling. Also during this overnight trip, we were able to visit one of the sites for Consider Haiti--glad I finally made it. I'm impressed by their multi-faceted approach to their work in health, nutrition and food security.

The youth also led a couple of English classes for Alix's and Victoria's afternoon English program for young kids in Cange, which all seemed to enjoy. And finally, Scott was able to lead the service at Bon Sauveur Parish, which has been without a permanent priest since August of last year. I was able to translate the sermon for him to the congregation, and he was able to lead Eucharist and a blessing of the children in the church (some adults still have a bit of a child in them too).
Beyond these great learning experiences, I am most impressed with the curiosity and compassion expressed throughout the week and of course all of the Haitian hospitality. The Trinity youth proved to me, once again, that high school groups coming to visit Haiti are some of the best to come through. The work that we were able to see, the people we met doing it, and the interest of those in the group give me great hope for the future. A big thank you to those from Trinity and elsewhere that contributed to making this possible.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Some Blog Updates

Since I've now successfully arranged internet in my apartment, I've made some updates on my blog. Learning to be domestic on my own in Haiti is a challenging experience, but I'm having great interactions along the way.

Updates I'd like to call your attention to include:

1) New blog sites! On the right column, you will see the blog addresses for Episcopal Missionaries in Service (I'm still tracking down some of the other adult missionaries' blogs). Check them out to see what all they're up to. Many of the new YASCers are in the midst of their fundraising and preparations for moving to a new country.

2) How to Help! I'm not required to raise funds for this next year. However, check out the "How to Help." tab to see how you can get more engaged. Two things in particular: first, if you are interested in any of the work I mention on my blog, send me a message to discuss it further. Second, I do appreciate "mix-tapes"--it means a lot to me to have playlists from friends and family (I usually listen to music when I'm cooking). If you want to send me one, let me know! pa.yarbs@gmail.com

3) Reading List! I've updated my reading list (see "Reading List." tab) with more of the books I've read on economic development, human rights, and Haitian history and culture. I highly recommend some of the books on there, so go check them out!

Bondye beni ou.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Good morning, Mr. Yarborough

I’m late in sharing this, but I got this strange, corny message a few weeks ago from the director of missions in the Episcopal Church:

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it, involves a new placement in the Episcopal Church as a volunteer in mission in Cape Haitian, Haiti. You will be working as a project manager for the stabilization and revitalization of the Centre d’Agriculture St. Barnabas in Terrier Rouge, Haiti, an agriculture center run by the Diocese of Haiti.

What does this mean for you?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Men jan mwen we'l

Apre nouvel South Carolina kote gen yon moun blan ki touye 9 moun nwa andan legliz yo, pemet mwen di yon pawol ki pa jwe. Men li:

Mwen blan e se devwa mwen pou travay kont rasis yo. Kijan map fe sa? Nenpot jan ki posib. Siw konnen yon fason fe'm konnen, tanpri. Map swiv. 

Pou kounyea yon fason se pou mwen pi byen komprann reyalite moun nwa ni Etazini ni nan lot peyi.

Yon lot fason: Mwen travay an Ayiti wi? Se yon peyi ki gen anpil nwa. Men gen blan ki kon visite la e yo pa konnen istwa Ayisyen byen. Se yon istwa ki vreman impotan pou nou komprann byen. Men yo rive isit pou "ede moun pov yo" men yo pa mande sa ki fe moun sa yo pov. Gen yon rezon ki rasis ki fe yo pov. Gen rezon esklavaj, dominasyon, jan Etazini trete peyi sa mal, jan UN pa fe anyen apre yo bay Ayiti cholera... Bagay sa yo se rasis yo ye. Mwen kwe sa. 

Men pou yon blan pou antre Ayiti san yo konnen e komprann bagay say yo byen se yon enjistis pou Ayisyen yo. Se sa mwen panse. Sa montre'm ke istwa moun nwa yo pa impotan pou konnen. Yo nwa. Yo pov. E se jus jan li ye.

Non. Mwen pa aksepte sa. Plizye blan pa we sa. Se pa jus jan li ye. Gen yon istwa ki rasis. Gen yon jounnen joudia ki rasis e tout sa kontribye pou povrete nou we Ayiti, e vyolans nou we Etazini tou...

Mwen pa vle di mwen se yon moun ki pi bon pase lot, ki mwen menm mwen pat kon fe bagay rasis jan mwen pa konnen. Mwen koupab tou. Men mwen al cheche aprann. 

Epi mwen vreman kwe, nan travay ki mwen genyen kounyea antre blan e Ayisyen, ki mwen gen obligasyon pou diskite istwa peyi sa avek tout blan yo. Mwen gen obligasyon pou montre yo se pa jus kon sa li ye. Mwen gen obligasyon pou fe blan yo sispann manje grenn je Ayisyen yo. E mwen espere ke efo ki map fe ap gen bon rezilta pou nou tout. 

Map priye pou Bondye bay mwen fos sa la. Mwen mande tout zanmi Ayisyen e Ameriken pou ede'm komprann pi byen paske #blacklivesmatter Paske deskriminasyon li menm li dezumanize ni moun ki dezumanize men moun kap fe dezumanizasyon tou.

Finalman, map priye pou Charleston.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

U.S. Tour Part 2

For most of April, I was back in the U.S. visiting churches around the Dioceses of Upper South Carolina and in Western North Carolina. The visits are going very well once again, and I thoroughly enjoy representing this relationship of the Episcopal Church between the Carolinas and Cange.

For this post I want to share photographs from some of my visits this month (and last fall) of the ways these churches create displays in their worship spaces and fellowship halls that serve as constant reminders of the relationship. Pictures are from my visits to St. Timothy's Episcopal in Herndon, VA, St. Matthew's Episcopal in Spartanburg, SC, Grace Episcopal in Anderson, SC, and Christ Church Episcopal in Greenville, SC.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sermon From Grace Episcopal Anderson, SC

As a part of my responsibilities while back in the U.S., I visit churches around the Diocese of Upper South Carolina (and sometimes other places) to discuss the relationship and ministry with Bon Sauveur in Cange.

I was asked to do the sermon at Grace Episcopal Church in Anderson, SC, for their Global Missions Sunday yesterday. It was a wonderful event, complete with a food festival with samples from 13 different countries (including Haiti!). My sermon is below.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

International Women's Day

Today was Cange's first celebration of Jounen Mondyal Fanm, International Women's Day. Here are some pictures of the festivities.  

Friday, March 6, 2015

My First Rural Medical Clinic

Below is an examining room for a rural mobile medical clinic conducted near Cange. Normally this space is a classroom for a primary school, but for about 5 hours the space served as a site to examine patients for high blood pressure, diabetes, lesions, colds, and other ailments.
From January 31-February 7, a team of medical care providers from South Carolina visited Cange for a series of mobile clinics in 4 rural communities nearby. I served as one of the translators for the team, and it was my first experience with rural medical care in Haiti. It was truly transformative. For the bulk of this post, I want to simply share what I found so motivating about the clinics.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Buen Vivir--Striving for "Good Living"

Buen Vivir speaks to good living, common wealth, the pursuit of happiness perhaps. But who determines what is buen vivir, and how can we strive for buen vivir for all?

The U.S. Declaration of Independence suggests Creator-given rights, namely life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, are what constitute good living. The document continues by saying that good relationship between the government and the governed, prudence and not abuses, is the mechanism that can spread and maintain buen vivir.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus explains, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Matt. 22:37-40). Again, the focus is on good relationship, this time between people and between people and God. Through these commandments, restorative and loving relationships, we can achieve buen vivir.
The rights-based approach to community development is one method used to restore relationships and help us achieve buen vivir for all. Foundation Cristosal, a non-profit human rights and community development organization, works for the good living of all people in El Salvador using this approach.

I just spent a week with Foundation Cristosal's Global School in San Salvador, taking a course on the theologies of human rights and development, where I learned about the rights-based approach and the positive impact it can have.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Gift of Seedlings

Happy New Year and Happy Haitian Independence Day!

I have unexpectedly delayed my return to Haiti until the end of January, in part due to travel advisories for Port-au-Prince due to increased protests that are blocking travel around the capital. In short, protesters are unsettled by the current presidential administration's inability to hold elections--dating back to 2011. Protesters in part have called for the resignation of the now former prime minister. He did resign, and since his resignation, President Michel Martelly has nominated a replacement during his Christmas Day message.

If the government is not able to hold elections by January 12th, parliament will be disbanded. Please pray for Haiti during this tense political time, where many are worried about the country falling back into unproductive political turmoil--something that has contributed to the country's lack of development for centuries. This would be especially disheartening now, given the bright spots of development in Haiti in recent years. See this article from the New York Times, Scrooges of the World, Begone! (Thanks, Al Brady, for forwarding that article.)

For the rest of this post, I want to exhibit another reason for hope and a reason to expect progress in Haiti. I've talked about Agronomist Hermane before, but I want to feature a recent event he organized and held for the children of the primary school in Chapoteau.