Byler Barns is partnering with other local businesses to provide relief to Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. This relief project provides livestock to rural farmers who cannot be reached by the larger relief organizations. One of our employees, Shea Alexander, went down in November 2016 to help with livestock distribution. He tells his story here.
→ We are auctioning off sheds to benefit rural farmers in Haiti. Learn more about the shed project here.
Hurricane Matthew Strikes Haiti
I live in Virginia, but the landfall of Hurricane Matthew in the southern coast of Haiti struck me with the full force of its 145mph winds. I invested my late teens and early twenties in development work in Haiti, and I could only imagine what hurricane winds would do to the rural underdeveloped coast of Haiti’s southern department.
All of the mountain sustenance farmers who would lose their crops, the beautiful tropical trees destroyed in an already deforested country.
I’ve worked in the aftermath of major storms before, earthquakes and epidemics. I knew the big organizations would roll in a few days late, distribute to the masses to alleviate the most obvious needs and once the excitement wore off the rural mountain farmers would still be hungry. They would still have lost their crops and livestock.
For many of these farmers calling them rural is an understatement. Many of them are 3-6 hours of strenuous hiking from a public road. One can only imagine how difficult rebuilding their small farming infrastructure can be.
Answering Hurricanes with Livestock
By November I was in Haiti to help with a livestock distribution project. The project was headed up by a coalition of organizations led by Blue Ridge International. Working together with Haitian agronomists, we worked with local leaders to select the neediest mountain farming communities in Haiti’s south department stretching from Port-Salut all the way to Tiburon. Of those communities the neediest families were chosen to receive seeds, goats and chickens that we sourced from local markets all over the country of Haiti.
The animals were trucked in daily to a base we set up in Les Cayes where all the animals were kept for a day to be fed and vaccinated before going out. In the first two weeks we distributed 60-75 goats and 120-180 chicken every day. The livestock was distributed with literature on both livestock and farm care as well as physical and spiritual health. The scope of the project also includes revisiting the communities and helping network them with the Haitian agronomists for future agricultural needs.
The Daily Trek
We would start every morning before light loading our trucks with animals for the day. I was in charge of the goats. Each morning we loaded the goats into the back of a mid-90s International box truck. We then wound through the mountains along the southern coast.
Every town told a story of the storm. In many of the streets the waves had literally brought the beach to town, filling the streets and houses with the nearly black sand of the southern coast.
Those beaches. The beautiful sandy shores that once sloped down to the Carribean were denuded of sand. Now, they were filled with jagged rocks.
With multiple bridges out we bounced over the smooth stones of the river beds. We forded the quick moving waters multiple time a day in our route into the countryside.
An Unforgettable Day
To distribute the animals, communities would come out of the mountains to meet us on the main road down by the sea. On one particularly unforgettable day, the recipient community started their 6.5 hour descent down the mountain at 2am in order to meet us at 8:30am.
The meeting place was an empty church just inside the town. We pulled into the courtyard and were meet with smiling faces neatly seated in pews waiting on us as if we were the guests. Their gratitude and words of thanks seemed so surreal coming from those whose daily existence consists of so much suffering.
Leaving there I felt as if in some way I had received more than they had. A Blessing of gratitude toward my creator who has blessed my existence so much that I know it is meant for me to generously bless others.
Learn more about this project …