On March 14th, I traveled to Haiti to learn firsthand about the Haitian Tree Reintroduction Program, or HTRIP with our tree-planting partner, HaitiFriends. HaitiFriends is the incredible organization who fulfills the “Plant A Tree” portion within our slogan of “Buy A Tea, Plant A Tree.”
The excursion was one of the most incredible travel adventures I’ve ever had. There is something about the feeling of traveling alone that’s both foreign and spectacular. Although I was in Haiti a mere five days, it felt like two week! Below is a chronological overview of my adventure.
Day 1 – Met with the CEO of HaitiFriends, Edward. Edward is serial entrepreneur with work/living history in some of my favorite cities – Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and Miami. He taught me many life and business lessons that I took careful note of throughout the entirety of the trip. It was this evening that I also ate Haitian food – fried, hearty, and delectable. By night time we got to the town of Deschapelle, where much of the HaitiFriends staff resides. Edward and I stayed at a nearby hotel called the Verretienne in Veret.
Delicious griot (fried pork) and bannann peze (fried plantain)
I started to learn some Haitian creole at this time – although it was sloppy, I loved being able to say “Sak Pa Se”, or “What’s up” to natives and hearing them respond “Ma Bu Le”, or “I’m burning” (Haitian slang)!
Day 2 – We started off the day with breakfast at Kay Mellon, a beautiful Chinese-style home that used to belong to descendants of the Pittsburgh’s prestigious Mellon family. We ate with the CEO of the local hospital that the Mellons built in Deschapelle. He was a sophisticated french-speaking Canadian named Louis.
Albert Schweitzer Hospital and HaitiFriends Staff breakfast
The rest of the day consisted of travel to individuals’ farming land in the Artibonite Valley to look at trees that were planted in 2008. The trees planted by HaitiFriends yields huge economic impact to families – the average annual earning of a Haitian farmer is $1,200 USD – farmers can sell one mature tree for $1,000-$2,000 USD (Haitian Wood is very high quality). Farmers have anywhere between 20-30 trees on their property. As such, the HTRIP program allows trees to act as a sort of monetary “bond” which full matures in 15 years.
Trees planted in 2008 in Artibonite Valley
Day 3 – This day we saw the mountaintop farms. As we ascended the Haitian hilltops in to Terrnette, it looked as if we were ascending to God’s house.
Hillside fog along the rockiest road EVER
The fortitude and grit of the men and women alike was remarkable. Women walk with perfect balance as they carry large containers on their head up a rocky and uneven road. Men labor in their modest-sized fields all day with focus and purpose.
Haitian coffee farmer in the high elevation
The impact a tree makes on an individual’s lifestyle and finances is incredible. It was on these farms that the “full picture” of a tea purchase made on a Haitian’s life was truly made palpable.
Upon returning to Deschappelle that evening, we visited the HaitiFriends tree nursery on the campus of the Albert Schweitzer hospital. Sustainability was exhibited as small water bags are recycled into containers for saplings. Below is shown the group of saplings that Té Amo funded through organic tea bottle sales. This specific part of the trip was very fulfilling.
Saplings growing as planted by Té Amo
Day 4 – In morning I tried riding a motorcycle .. didn’t work super well. After that embarrassment, we had a beautiful lunch at the Mellon home once again – this time with Doug, the serial entrepreneur behind Selecto coffee, one of the biggest coffee brands in the country. Edward and Doug were meeting about prospective business deals around planting a different strain of coffee plants in the Haitian highlands – an extremely educational business lunch for an entrepreneurship student like myself.
Haitian coffee is next-level. Selecto is delicious!
That evening we journeyed back towards Port-au-Prince. On the ride we stopped in Saint Marc for souvenir purchases – a must on every foreign travel!! The population was much greater than the rural countryside. The people, nonetheless, were equally as high-spirited.
Snapshot taken on the drive through Saint Marc
Day 5 – The Kaliko Resort is beachfront and all-expense paid. This was the day our crew unwound. Snorkeling, swimming, eating, playing cards, and chilling made for a dream-like relaxation I won’t soon forget. One of the most distinctive memories was sitting on the edge of the beach with a Prestige - a malty rich libation which is the country's go-to drink.
Once again, an absolutely incredible trip. While writing this and reminiscing over the mass amount I learned and enjoyed – I look forward to my next adventure to this beautiful yet misunderstood nation.
5 days in Haiti has given selling tea in Haiti a new meaning.
Orevwa Ayiti, je t’aime.
Adios Haiti, te amo.
Goodbye Haiti, I love you.