Teaching Children in Haiti

cropped-pkitchen-65-of-2831.jpgTeaching children is one of my favorite activities, to do so in Haiti has been a profound experience, and, as some of you know, I will be going back to the SOLT mission for ten days this month with Cathy Rose, of Mindful Generations, who teaches permaculture to farmers in the U.S. and abroad.  I will also work with Andrea Holker, a permaculture powerhouse and colleague, whom I met when I visited Sepp Holzer’s place in Austria in 2013.

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When they first invited me to go last year, I jumped at the chance, I knew i could learn so much under their guidance.  in Haiti, I made some good friends and met some of the strongest people I have ever met.  I mean, the Haitian people revolted from slavery, beat back Napoleon among others and became a Republic.

We are teaching 4th, 5th and 6th graders, which are pretty much my favorite age to work with.  It’s at a mission that has over 1,000 children who come for school, breakfast and lunch 5 days a week, and then go home to help with farming and cooking chores. The Father, Fr. Maux, is an amazingly keen individual who engaged us at the dinner table nightly with the curiousity of a child and the intellect of a religious scholar he would questions us and then tell us stories of amazing depth over fried goat and some hot delicious habanero onion topping.  He understands applied permaculture as an important set of tool for farmers to become stewards of their land, he sees the many parallels between bible parables and prophecies and our permaculture ethics & principles, in fact when we were there last time he gave a sermon on seed saving based on our discussion that was a revelation for me as he put together individual purpose, birth & death, change, and the future of Haiti through a discussion of seeds.

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Haiti has paid a terrible price as the international community has dismantled it, piece by piece, through slavery, deforestation, war, politics and now, under the guise of humanitarian aid.  this has been in retribution for having stood up for themselves and achieved their own freedom through revolution.  it’s a pattern of neocolonialism that we want to believe only exists in the past.

it’s a pattern I see repeated in present day Hawaii, where our government continues to facilitate the poisoning of children, and imprisonment and oppression of the native population to stop them from asserting their inherent and legal rights to practice their cultural traditions as well as follow their ancient religious practices.

It’s a pattern I saw develop for years when I was living in Brazil, as the native people continuously lost life, limb and land to everything from genocide to illegal land grabs, as well as all kinds of government sponsored oppression.  All for profit.

Hard times make for strong people, is another pattern I have seen repeated.

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From my reading and personal experiences, it has become apparent that Haiti became a testing ground for the international community to develop their methods of dismantling and subjugating smaller weaker nations in our hemisphere and beyond to international corporate interests.  Deliberate deforestation, a coup, earthquake relief, a cholera outbreak brought by the U.N., and a disaster relief economy that only served to line people’s pockets, up and down the ranks of corrupt businesses, followed by low rate privatization of the Haitian cement company, telephone company, beer company, the list literally goes on and on.

And now they struggle as big agriculture turns them into economic serfs, selling them GMO seed they can’t grow well nor collect seed from, and selling them fertilizers and chemicals to produce annual crops that often leave them as poor or worse off at the end of every season, and with no way to lift themselves out of the pit we have all put them in.

They are the marginal,

They live on the edge,

They are the weeds.

They are some of the strongest people i have ever met.

The children walk up to three hours a day to get to school, and then walk back.  all while taking care of their younger brothers & sisters, and children and help out with chores from farming to cooking and beyond.

We have so much more to learn from them than anyone realizes, these are some of the strongest, most resilient people on the planet and they can read nature like a book in the words of Sepp Holzer.  The kids tell me the name of every tree, people can hear around them what is going on for distances that i don’t even fathom, their situational awareness is impressive.  people’s intuition and ability to read social situations and other people far surpasses what I see here on the mainland US.

subset of pkitchens 2014 for photo class 2015 (14 of 140)Cathy knows that these peasant farmers are the stewards of the land, and that makes them the most important people to liberate and support, direct People Care for those who practice Earth Care.

They are gods children and each one bears unimaginable gifts to humanity.

Another repeating pattern I have noticed is that like the native Hawaiians, Haitians are at ground zero for Big Ag, not only are they fighting their own battles, they are also fighting the world’s battles against GMOs, and against the large chemical agriculture complex, the same ones corrupting our legal system and poisoning our people.

their struggle is our struggle, and they have the keys to that struggle.

Dady Chery, Haitian intellectual, academic, artist, poet, and writer, says it all much better than I…

GM. What can other people learn from Haitians?

DC. They can learn their future from Haitians. Let me explain. In the last 30 years or so, and especially in the last 10 years, Haiti has become a laboratory in which the world’s most reactionary forces and institutions have experimented with methods of oppression. In effect, a coalition of colonial powers like the US and France; want-to-be colonial powers like Canada, Brazil, South Korea, etc.; and other entities like the USAID, UN, NGOs, World Bank, IMF, and IDB have latched on to Haiti. They have done this, not only to exploit Haiti itself, but also to learn what works in Haiti so that they can take home the more successful methods. There are lessons in Haiti for everyone. We are, of course, resisting the imperialist onslaught. It is to the world’s advantage to help us in our resistance, because we can also learn and export methods of resistance. I completely believe that if most of the world’s people could look in a crystal ball at Haiti’s future, they would see their future too.

GM. How do you plan to keep fighting what you called the “peddlers of despair?”

DC. More than anything, I want to continue to inform people about the truth of things. About their own power. Those who work to demoralize people are fundamentally cowards. They have to believe that every action issues from power, and this is the view that they present to the world, mainly because they are unwilling to take the chance to act. The Haitian Revolution, the US labor movement, and countless leaps from the human imagination happened because people at the absolute bottom of society dared to believe that together they could exert real power. They were willing to put their lives on the line to change their situations. The next 20 years or so will be a serious test for humanity, because the pressures of climate change will generate a lot of displacement, homelessness and hunger. The rich will not be able to solve the world’s problems. What it will take to effect real change will be a quantum leap in human moral evolution. I hope to be part of that change.”

Excerpt from an Interview with Dady Chery, DadyChery.org, http://www.dadychery.org/2015/07/29/dady-cherys-book-we-have-dared-to-be-free-1st-from-njp-press-july-28-2015/

And Hawaiians say “Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono”

                          “The sovereignty of the land is perpetuated in righteousness”

They can teach us so much, we just listen to their wisdom and experience, and, we need that wisdom and experience quite badly, just now.

Seth D Peterson

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