I’m currently in the airplane from Miami headed back to Pittsburgh. It has been an incredible experience travelling to Haiti and subsequently to Miami with Edward, the director of Haiti Friends (our tree planting organization). The two of us have become quite good friends, and I’m grateful to have him as my mentor / biz partner.
For the last 4 days in Haiti, my mother joined Haiti Friends for tree planting!! It was awesome to see her grinning from ear to ear as she finally saw, in person, all the good we were doing.
What blew me most away from my week in Deschappelles, Haiti (our tree-planting base) was the amount of work necessary to grow thousands of trees. The staff works year-round planning logistics, budget allocation, educating the public about trees, planting the trees, weeding the nursery lot, watering the trees (during the dry season!), and finally their year wraps up with the culmination of all trees being planted in their chosen community. It is a LOT of work, and I witnessed the dozen members of the HTRIP (Haitian Timber Re-Introduction Program) staff working HARD!
Every morning, I would get up and eat breakfast – fresh-made bread with a spicy peanut butter and coffee. After that, I would gather my photography and film equipment and walk a couple of blocks down to the tree nursery. There, I would proceed to observe and talk with the agroforestry technicians, the nursery keepers, and the tree experts alike. I interviewed them, asking them questions like; “How do trees impact your life”, “what is the biggest issue in Haiti”, “what is your favorite type of tree”. All the responses were different to questions like these. However, the one similarity between all the interviews was the passion that the HTRIP staff had when speaking about trees and reforestation, or “debwazman”, as the locals call it.
Three times during that week, I went on the long mountain journey to Decombe, a mountain village. It took 3 hours on severely bumpy roads…. No, I cannot even call these roads “roads”, they were more like large rocks laid down to be just enough for an offroading vehicle to get up. It was incredible, even though my spine still feels a bit compressed from bouncing up and down. I got to know the people of Decombe quite well. They were fascinated by my video and photography equipment, and they warmed up to me as I started playing with the children. For example, we formed an assembly line to pass trees out of the car and onto a shades spot (for the trees to be planted later). I was at the beginning of the line and would simply push the saplings into the chest of the kids for them to quickly grab them. They quickly caught on to me trying to get them to go quicker and would push the sapling into the chest of the next young boy, or garcon, as they call it in Haiti.
After a while, I brought out my harmonica and played a couple of tunes for them. They went wild!! Yay, I have fans! The music in Haiti is extremely specific, an afro-Caribbean blend of groove and rhythm. I believe that that was their first time ever hearing my American folk-type of blues Harmonica.
It took about 2 hours to empty the car from saplings. During that time, I would stop to set up different sorts of camera footage and take pictures. At first, the locals were a bit cold and apprehensive with me – the only “blanc”, or white guy (even though I’m Hispanic) that they’ve seen in a while! But, after a while they were posing with huge smiles for the camera. I’m extremely grateful to these amazing mountain people for allowing me to shoot some great content of them.
The content will be used for all it is worth. I hope it lasts me a year but am not quite sure if it will haha! Either way, it will assist in my goal of providing complete transparency to Treecup drinkers.