I have an idea.  I call it the Faith of Job Garden…

hicks
“The Peaceable Kingdom” by Edward Hicks

My objective is to re-ignite the direct-giving program my friends and I created in 2017 and operated through 2018 to support the Guepard Boxing Club in Cité Soleil [GBCCS].  During that time, we fed upwards of 300 Haitian children, three days each week.  We expanded our support to include education – we financed school for approximately 20 children – and we organized and financed a field trip for 300 children to the National Museum.  When school was dismissed for the year in 2017, we financed and sponsored a summer camp to keep the children occupied and off the streets to minimize gang influence.

Sadly, in 2018, we were unable to raise the funds to sustain the program.

A Better Way

Two years have passed and I have found a new and better way…

I plan to grow vegetables which we will sell locally.  We will distribute ALL the GROSS proceeds directly to GBCCS so that they continue their work with the children of Cité Soleil.  Justin’s budget to feed 180 children, four days each week is $1,038USD/month.  I believe the garden can produce between $15,000 and $20,000 of revenue during our Arizona market season, October through May.

Our friends’ acreage is growing strong

My friend Dwight and I are set to prove the concept.  We have leased a 3,000 sq.ft. plot and hope to have it planted by December 31, 2020.  If we get plants in the ground by the end of the year, we expect to begin harvesting in late March, early April.  You can expand this post to read more detail, and you will learn that Dwight and I have been working with a commercial group from Phoenix that has already leased 10 acres adjacent to our plot.  They have cultivated 3.5 acres.  We learn much from them and they are willing to help us succeed with the Faith of Job Garden.

How you can help…

I am adamant and ‘hard-over’ that ALL GROSS REVENUE will be distributed directly to the children of Haiti through my friends at GBCCS.  We intend to rely on volunteer help.  As we move forward, we plan to solicit donations to fund minimal expenses.

All we need to do is grow food, bring it to market, sell it, and pass the donations to those in need.

While we wait for our first harvest in the spring, I would like to raise $1,000 each month so that we can feed the children now.

If you are inclined and inspired to help, please send me a personal email at “eskraay’at’eskraay’dot’com.”  I will call you and discuss this one-on-one to answer all your questions.  If you can help, please let us know.

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I first traveled to Haiti in the summer of 1971. Forty-five years later, I returned to Haiti in 2016. The notable change was the remaining rubble from the 2010 earthquake that further devastated this already impoverished country. Nothing had changed in a half-century: poverty remained rampant, BUT the people still smiled.

Tony Sanneh

I made two more trips to Haiti that year – one with U.S. soccer legend Tony Sanneh – giving soccer clinics to young children in Haiti’s worst ghetto, Cité Soleil, characterized by Wikipedia as “one of the poorest and most dangerous areas of the Western Hemisphere and it is one of the biggest slums in the Northern Hemisphere.” On the third trip in December 2016, my friend Gail Rongen and I met a young boxer running and shadow-boxing on the perimeter of the worn-out park we used for training. They say the park belongs to the Salesians, but I have no evidence to support the claim. Having boxed four years in college, I conversed with him as best I could. It is hard to say which was worse, my Haitian Creole or his English. Regardless, we made a connection.

In 2017, the boxer and his friends reached out to Gail. They proposed to train young children to keep them occupied and off the gang-ruled streets. They hoped to conduct training three or four times each week. Following training, they wanted to feed the children what would be for most, their only meal of the day, and possibly the week. They called their club Guepard Boxing Club of Cite Soleil [GBCCS]. Guepard is the Haitian word for leopard.

We got by with a little help from our friends…

Long story short, Gail and I – with help from a handful of friends – funded the project until our money ran out.

I refer to our methodology as direct giving. There is no middle man or organizational red tape. I sent the money directly to my Haitian friend Justin in Port-au-Prince. Justin applied the money directly to rent the space, purchase tables, stoves, pots and pans, and everything he needed to set up a kitchen and dining area. He purchased food directly from the Haitian market. Everything about the project came from Haiti, so in addition to feeding the children, we were keeping Haitians employed by purchasing their food and the products they produced with their own hands.

While Justin provided me with receipts – photos he took and sent to me via ‘messenger’ – the best receipts I received were the countless pictures of the facility as it grew and took shape; the hundreds of children training; and the thankful children enjoying their meal.

GBCCS feeding children

Initially, our objective was to feed upwards of 300 Haitian children, three days each week. Justin and his friends rotated through three meals – spaghetti; beans and rice; and porridge – so that the children could enjoy and experience some variety. We expanded our support to include education – we financed school for approximately 20 children – and we supported a field trip for 300 children to the National Museum. When school was dismissed for the year in 2017, we financed and sponsored a summer camp to keep the children occupied and off the streets, thereby less susceptible to gang influence.

As we approached the 2018 school year, the well ran dry. Gail and I explained to our friends that we were unable to raise the funds to continue.

That was a sad day.

“Children don’t deserve this treatment…”

We have maintained contact with our friend Justin throughout the years.

I rarely view Facebook. When I do, I always check in with my friend Justin. Several weeks ago, Justin posted this picture with the comments, “…are they the ones who make the choice to live like this?… children don’t deserve [this] treatment.” The picture and Justin’s comments struck me powerfully and grabbed my heart as I recalled similar scenes during my time in his country in 2016. The image and Justin’s words would not leave me. Days later, I reached out to Justin and asked for an update on what has happened to him, the children and GBCCS since Gail and I ran out of money to fund their project in 2018. Justin does not speak and write the King’s English, but he writes well enough that you will get the picture from his response

“With the idea to have a better world in Solidarity and Love, Guepard Boxing Club Cite Soleil (GBCCS), decided to spend our time closer to children, with the idea of practicing sports(Boxing) as a vector of development.

For a few months the world is facing an extremely difficult situation with Covid-19. This situation made it impossible for us to training together in large numbers but we meet in small groups so that we could explain to them how to protect themselves at the time of Covid-19. We find many difficult times during this period. One of our youngest boxers died: Paul Evadson (Ti nico) 15 years old and (Charles Joulie) Pregnant 16 years old.

By the time we start training we have about 170 children, we expect to have 250 children because insecurity and the level of malnutrition are increasing so our goal is to keep the children in permanently activities: School, training and social services (planting trees, cleaning communities and visiting tourist areas).

We meet with them 4 days on a week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday (From 4h:00 to 6h:00). In the face of economic hardship, we do not have a budget for food and other activities.

2017-2018 (when Gail, our friends and I funded the project) we had a budget that allowed us to predict how many children we could feed

If we could to feed 250 children per day. In one month we were giving about 4,000 plates of food, Indirectly we were helping the families of these children.

We want to do more for the kids. Because there is a proverb that says children today adults tomorrow. Together we believe we can make a difference in the world.”

Djoulie at Foi de Job school in 2018

My gut turned as I read his email. When we worked together, Justin and his mates brought 10 or so girls into the boxing program. They were immensely proud of the girls and of the fact that they allowed girls into this male-dominated sport. One of the girls was Djoulie Charles who he mentions in the email. Djoulie was one of the 20 kids we sent to school, Paul Evadson – also mentioned in Justin’s email – was another. In fact, based in his grades, Paul was our number two student.

Our largest single donors when we funded the project in 2017 and 2018 were my longtime friends Dwight and Letty. Dwight and I have been best friends since 1983 when we met at Sabreliner Corporation in St. Louis. We have traveled the world together and shared many adventures. God was at play when Mrs. tVM and I returned to Arizona in 2019 and settled 10 miles from Dwight and Letty. I see Dwight virtually every day.

So what does Dwight have to do with Haiti?

Dwight is the vice chairman at the Desert Rose Baha’i Institute [DRBI] and manages its agricultural project. The institute and its facilities are located on 40 desert acres midway between Phoenix and Tucson. In January, Dwight and I wrote a plan to convert 20 of those acres – as arid 20 acres as you can find – into a sustainable farm. We kick-started the project by leasing 10 acres to an organization from Phoenix. Three-and-a-half of those acres have already been converted and are growing upwards of 12,000 vegetables, which they expect to begin harvesting in January.

Dwight’s plan is to lease other plots from the remaining 10 acres to people like you and me who might be interested in growing organic food. We have one full acre of the remaining 10 cleared, leveled, and ready to cultivate.

Dwight and Clarence walking the plot

As I stared at that acre plot this morning, I thought about Justin, the children, and their plight in Haiti. There are millions like them all around the world. According to the United Nations, 10% of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty. According to UNICEF [United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund], “Across the world, about 1 billion children are multidimensionally poor, meaning they lack necessities as basic as nutrition or clean water.” The same report estimates that 663 million children worldwide – nearly one in three – live in poverty.

I coulda had a V8…

Then it hit me… THE FAITH OF JOB. What if…

WHAT IF we could grow food on our desert farm, sell it in local farmer’s markets, and distribute ALL gross revenues DIRECTLY to organizations like Justin’s?

How much would that be? A legitimate question with a well-grounded answer…

I have acted as the project manager on the 10 leased acres, the go-between, if you will, between the owner financing the project and the owners with feet on the ground, preparing the land, sowing the seeds, cultivating the plants, harvesting, and ultimately marketing them in local venues. Based on the data I have, a 3,000 sq.ft. garden plot can generate produce valued at approximately $15,000 in its first year. Moving forward, production will increase as we expand from one to as many as four harvests through the Arizona growing season – October through May.

Why 3,000 sq.ft. plot? Dwight and I plan to cultivate 13, separate 3,000 sq.ft. plots we will lease from DRBI for the Faith of Job Garden. Each 3,000 sq.ft. plot will be assigned to an impoverished nation and an organization within it – like Justin’s GBCCS – committed to making life better for as many children as we can support with the produce we harvest and sell from the farm. We hope to have the first plot planted NLT December 31, 2020, and the revenue we generate from its crops will be directed to Justin and GBCCS in Haiti.

So that’s the program… grow vegetables, sell them at farmers markets, directly distribute the gross revenue to marginalized people.

How you can help…

I am adamant and ‘hard-over’ that ALL GROSS REVENUE will be distributed directly to the designated countries and organizations. I have no intention to divert revenue to administration and marketing. In the future, we plan to solicit donations to fund minimal expenses, which might include

  • Farmer’s market space fees
  • Farmer’s market worker wages (if we can’t get volunteers)
  • Farm labor (if we can’t get volunteers)

All we need to do is grow food, bring it to market, sell it, and pass the donations to those in need. We hope to rely on volunteers. While we wait for our first harvest in the spring, I would like to raise $1,000 each month so that we can feed the children now.  Justin prepared his budget and tells me we can feed 180 children, four days each week for $1,038/month.

If you are inclined and inspired to help, please send me a personal email. I will call you and discuss this one-on-one to answer all your questions.

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