On July 7th, Many Hands CEO and Founder, Tim Brand, shared this news with Many Hands missionaries in Haiti:
“COVID 19 has wiped out all food packaging events at this time…NOTHING being packaged, NOTHING being shipped.”
This news set in motion the process of investigating, calculating, purchasing, and finally dispersing more than six tons of locally grown Haitian rice and two tons of locally grown Haitian beans. This was to fulfill the promise that Many Hands made to 3476 kids in 15 schools and 3 orphanages for the 2019-20 school year.
Because of COVID
Because of COVID, the Haitian school year 2019-20 was extended to be completed during August and September. Because of the current pandemic, many of the ways missions have NOT been working are being exposed. This is allowing missions organizations to build new and better bridges to new lands. Many Hands will be part of this bridge-building for the Haitian people. We are excited about the potential.
Though this purchase and distribution were recent, the seeds of this idea were planted last year. In 2019, Tim Brand met with a partner organization and talked about creating sustainability targets for pre-packaged food. The HOPE from a long-term perspective is to benefit developing countries with a shift from distributing “free” food to distributing “locally grown and purchased” food.
On July 10th at 11:36 am, Tim again contacted the partner organization by email with this challenge: “How do we move away from this “free” food distribution model when we all depend upon it? Seems because of a global pandemic, we are being forced to address these issues.”
Tim continued, “Right now there is no “free” food being packaged or shipped. When the kids go back to school in August, there will be no food for them, unless God provides a different way. They need food to fight malnutrition and a virus that wants to kill them. If they don’t have strong immune systems, they don’t stand a chance. I can’t just put my hands up and say, ‘Oh well, that is too bad for them.’ We have to do something”.
The reply from the partner organization came at 11:45 am the same day: “Our heart is breaking over the supply chain issue and what it means to our partners all around the world. We too do not want to just throw up our hands, so we are trying to find every solution possible.”
Now is the Time
Not much more than an hour later, Tim contacted Mand Hands missionaries on the ground in Haiti with this news, “I’m pushing the conversation forward on multiple fronts. We need to investigate sourcing food locally in Haiti for our feeding programs. NOW is the time if we are going to do it. We need to build new and better bridges to new lands as we aren’t going back to where we’ve been. We are going to be forced to adapt.”
Tim shared his heart, “I really, really want to provide food for these schools and I really, really want to buy it in Haiti.”
The book titled “Travesty in Haiti” by Timothy T. Schwartz, Ph. D. shockingly reveals the plight of Haiti. “FOOD AID HAS BEEN DESTROYING AGRICULTURAL ECONOMIES.” With food aid programs being such an ingrained, common practice within mission work, consider this quote from Edmund Burke. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
We did not want to sit idle. There was an opportunity for us to adapt. All we had to do was find a way to build a new ‘bridge’.
MH Leadership Meeting
Shortly after these initial communications, a meeting was held between me, Craig Gabhart (Director of Admin), and Claudin Augustin (Head of Agronomy), to describe the beginning of this multi-level investigation. Craig and I indicated, “We want initial buy-in and input from the Many Hands Haitian staff while looking at the potential impact this could have on Haitian farmers.”
Agronomist Claudin, excited about the potential, talked with growers in San Raphael and knew of a person to contact in the L’Artibonite area where Claudin says they grow a large volume of rice. Doing his due diligence, he said that we need to be sure we don’t buy ‘dirty rice’ that is not processed well with a high chance of little rocks mixed in.
Claudin came back from his investigations very confident. When sharing his findings at the staff weekly meeting, he was questioned on the quality of the rice. Claudin was absolute that we would find the rice to be clean.
With all the calculations double-checked, we moved to the purchasing phase. This included 4286 pounds of locally grown beans from nearly 150 different sellers at 5 different local markets and 12,870 pounds of locally grown rice that directly benefited 82 area farmers. Claudin is confident, “If farmers know they have a buyer for their product, they can and will produce more.”
The week our staff were purchasing all the beans, they were like kids going out trick or treating all day, every day! They saw hope in the process of so many being able to sell their beans. For them, it was worth the many hours in the hot sun, the time in crowded markets, and the effort spent negotiating for hours on end to purchase the beans. In all, they carried two-plus tons of beans and rode for hours sitting on top of the pile in the back of the three-wheeler. They were so energized because they saw HOPE!
Seeing the San Raphael rice mill cooperative where the rice was purchased was a fantastic experience. This is a well-run operation with tremendous potential. The rice is clean, meeting the highest of standards. Jobs are being provided and farmers are being rewarded for their hard work by being able to sell what they grow. Finding this level of operation close to Pignon was extremely encouraging.
Before leaving with our load of rice, we asked the rice mill workers and managers to help us pray. Pray for God to work in the situation and make the necessary provision so that we could return to make another purchase in the future.
Rice Mill in San Raphael
A Promise Fulfilled
August 26 was the first day schools were scheduled to pick up the food to use for the students in September.
One school director came on his motorcycle. He waited for two helpers to arrive. It was getting close to lunchtime and his helpers still had not arrived, so we offered lunch from our First 1,000 Days program for which he was grateful. Soon, the helpers came, one on a mule, one on a donkey. Their school is located across a river to the west. The river has no bridge so the mule and donkey had to carry their loads through the river. The first guy had saved half of his meal to share with the helpers. We said he should go ahead and finish his meal and we would bring two more meals. But he said, “OK, they can eat this first while we wait for the other food.” Food is such a precious resource in Haiti.
This specific food distribution will feed the kids at these schools and orphanages for the next several weeks. Many Hands fulfilled the promise to provide food for 2019-20. We have asked many to be in prayer for the future.
A card was given to each recipient that picked up food with details of the quantity, a place to sign that the food was received on one side, and a request shared on the reverse side. This said:
“Today, you are receiving the last food distribution for the 2019-20 school year. After this, for the year 2020-21, we want to ask for your help in praying for God to stand with us because, at this time, we don’t know if we will have food to give again for the next school year. KEEP PRAYING.”
As the world faces unprecedented changes globally, we believe God is calling us to find ways to do things better. We are excited to see how he works through these pressing times for His glory. The promise found in the book of Revelation, chapter 21, verse 5, is being carried out today:
‘And He who was seated on the throne said,
“BEHOLD! I AM MAKING ALL THINGS NEW.” ‘
GOD IS USING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC FOR HIS GLORY!
Written by: Christi Gabhart
All I can say is “Amazing! God is good”
The commitment of this team to fulfill their promise is inspiring. The times we live in are going to change the way we think and work on the field. Can’t wait to see what our team does in Haiti!