The key term from the beginning of the project has been “sustainability.” The leaders of the project did not want to build something that would become a slum or a ghetto. They did not want to build something that would be forever dependent upon the donations of Americans or other foreigners. The idea was to build that which would be economically sustainable by the Haitian people. Returning Haiti to its pre-earthquake state would not be sustainable. Rather, developing a community where families had the means, opportunity, and training to provide for their own families would lay the groundwork for a viable economy where jobs and services were created and where individuals were trained and capable of filling those jobs and providing those services.
Approximately $600,000 was raised in the first 9 months of the project. Then, Stan Buckley resigned from First Baptist Church Jackson effective August 14, 2011 to form But God Ministries (hereinafter “BGM”) to continue the work in Haiti. BGM is using the funds raised through the church, as well as other funds, to continue and expand the work on the project.
In May of 2011, construction of this sustainable community began on 17 acres of land that had been acquired. The land is located in a region called Ganthier that is approximately 30 miles east of Port-au-Prince just off the main highway that connects Haiti to the Dominican Republic. The first phase of this sustainable community includes: a medical-dental complex,40 houses, church, school/job training center, water wells, soccer field, and agriculture plots.
The medical-dental complex was completed in October 2011. It includes 4 buildings. Two of the buildings are used for medical purposes, the third building is a dorm for visiting teams, and the fourth building contains bathrooms, showers, and a kitchen. In addition, a water well, security fence, and septic system are part of the medical-dental complex.
Also, the first of the 40 houses has been built, and the foundations for the next seven houses have been poured. A second well has been dug and is used daily by the people. As of October 2011, thirteen teams have been to Haiti and worked on the project, including a medical team that held the second week-long clinic in October 2011. Also, in the fall of 2011, a nurse, his wife, and son committed to moving to the sustainable community to operate the medical-dental complex on a full-time basis and to coordinate and implement the plans for the development.
Economic Impact Thus Far
Already, the economic impact in the region where we are working has been substantial. BGM has purchased goods and services, hired workers, and has begun training workers for future jobs.
We have trained and employed two Haitian men to serve as hosts for the American teams who go and work on the development.
We have purchased a bus to transport teams from the airport to Ganthier. We have bought fuel for the bus and fuel for our generators. We have employed two local Haitian drivers. We have purchased countless building materials, food, water, and other supplies.
We have hired dozens of construction workers, cooks, security persons, and interpreters. Included in the construction workers are Haitian supervisors who are paid a greater wage and have decision-making authority.
We conducted a dental clinic with an oral surgeon, pediatric dentist, and two other dentists. During the week of the clinic, young Haitian men were trained to do simple dental procedures. This is the type job training that is planned throughout every phase of this project – train a national while the work is being done by a professional, continue the training of that individual, and set up apprenticeships where applicable. Our practice is to allow the money that is used to provide a product or service to impact the local economy, train a local, and thereby multiply the long-term impact of that same money.
We have seen small businesses emerge in the area where the sustainable community is being built. Haitian ladies come to the work site regularly and set up a store in which they sell cold drinks and hot lunches.
We have hired tap-taps (Haitian cabs) for weeks at a time to transport our teams to the worksite where our bus cannot go due to the condition of the road leading to the site. Not only does this provide employment for the driver, but it also brings funds into the economy as that driver purchases fuel, tires, etc.
Future Economic Impact
As we move forward with the building of the sustainable community, we anticipate an enormous economic impact for the Ganthier region, including job training and job creation. Currently, we are building on 17 acres of land. There are an additional 17 acres adjacent to the land that can be used for future growth, as well as other land nearby.
Perhaps the most obvious, initial economic impact will be 40 families who move from temporary to permanent housing. Those families will have agreed to a “sustainable” lifestyle in order to become part of this development. That agreement includes the following economic impacting requirements: to invest sweat equity in the housing construction, to plant and grow a vegetable garden to provide proper nutrition for their families, to live cooperatively in the community by care and management of community assets, and to either have a job or participate in job training.
The job training we have planned includes a wide variety of skills and opportunities. Some of the job training is related to the construction of the houses, school, and other buildings. We already have one brick press being used and anticipate purchasing a second brick press. This brick is a compressed earth block that is totally “green” in that it does not require any fuel source. We have already trained workers and will train more workers to make bricks that can be used in our construction work as well as any other construction work taking place in the region. In addition, other workers have been, and will be, trained to lay brick and build houses as well as larger, more complex buildings such as schools, churches, and medical clinics.
Other job training involves the medical-dental complex that has already been built. We plan to train local Haitians to be dental assistants and medical assistants. They will have full-time jobs at the clinic we are operating as well as any other clinic.
In addition, we will establish a Job Training Center to be located at the school or church that we build or in a separate facility that we construct.
Many jobs have been created and will be created in the future as we continue this work in the Ganthier region. The construction of hundreds of additional houses will allow us to hire dozens of construction workers for years to come. These workers include skilled laborers such as brick layers as well as unskilled laborers. The construction process also includes construction supervisors to oversee all aspects of the construction process.
We will continue to have need for interpreters and security personnel. The medical-dental clinic will hire local assistants we have trained as well as a Haitian doctor.
A key part of the economic development will be the establishment of a banking system in which local Haitians can acquire small loans for business start-up costs. We anticipate partnering with established organizations such as Fonkoze who have years of experience helping the poor achieve economic independence. Fonkoze is Haiti’s largest microfinance institution serving poor and ultra-poor women throughout the rural areas of Haiti. It currently has more than 50,000 borrowers and 250,000 savers.
We anticipate the medical-dental complex, which has already been built, evolving into a medical hub for the entire region. The numbers of people attending the clinic will greatly increase when Tony West, along with his family, move to Haiti to live and operate the clinic on a full-time basis. Tony is a registered nurse who operates a Hospice Clinic in Jackson, Mississippi. In addition to his nursing degree, Tony has a Master’s Degree in Health Care Administration from Mississippi College. His wife is an educator.
With significant numbers of people attending the clinic each day, such a hub will support other business enterprises such as gas stations and small restaurants. There will be an increased need for translators, medical assistants, receptionists, and other workers related to the operation of the clinic. There will also be the need to purchase generators and fuel to operate the generators. Maintenance workers will be hired to work on the equipment that is being used daily.
We are working closely with a man named Harold Watson who has 35 years of experience working in developing countries around the world. He is an expert in food production, having graduated from Mississippi State University with a degree in agriculture. Mr. Watson pioneered a system called SALT – Sloping Agricultural Land Technology – whereby food can be grown in mountainous regions. For his efforts in food production, Mr. Watson was awarded the 1985 Ramon Magsaysay Award for peace and international understanding. This award is often considered Asia’s Nobel Prize and was established in April 1957 by the trustees of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund based in New York City with the concurrence of the Philippine government.
Mr. Watson’s system is currently employed in dozens and dozens of countries around the world. He has walked the land where our project is located in Haiti and is aware of the types of food that can be effectively grown there as well as the processes that need to be implemented to maximize food production.
He and others are already committed to training and preparing the Haitians who live in this community how to effectively grow food for their own families, how to replenish and reforest the land, and how to begin small produce related businesses.
There are plans to develop the artistic skills of local residents and then to provide markets for the works to be sold. Work may include paintings, baskets, all types of crafts, and a myriad of other art-related products. The markets in which these items may be sold include visiting Americans who will be helping in the medical-dental clinic as well as markets in the United States, especially a large network of U.S. churches in which the items could be sold to eager customers.
Our plans also include a marketplace in which food and other goods can be bought and sold. The marketplace will be located within a few hundred yards of the medical-dental complex. Booths will be set up once a week to allow individuals to sell their goods.
There are plans to establish a reforestation/charcoal initiative whereby families would receive incentives to plant trees, allow them to grow to maturity in three years, cut the trees for charcoal in the third year, and then allow them to regain maturity in another three years. The economic impact of this project will be substantial as families no longer have to purchase charcoal and as trees prevent erosion and allow soil to replenish itself. Eventually, the families will produce enough charcoal for their own use as well as for sale.
As solar technology continues to develop, we anticipate using this technology in an ever-increasing manner. The use of solar power to operate the medical-dental buildings will greatly reduce dependence on gas and oil and other energy sources that require continuous funding from outside sources.
From the beginning, But God Ministries has been committed to building a sustainable community in Haiti that is self-supporting and no longer dependent upon continuous American/foreign support. We plan to continue the work we have started and then expand our efforts to have an even greater impact on a larger area and a greater number of people.