Raphael Fernandez walks among the variety of plants grown in the St. Paul’s garden, describing what is available and in season right now. It is mid-January and supposedly the dry season, but two weeks ago rain fell in the extreme, leaving his beautiful garden in tatters. He doesn’t dwell on it, picking up and replanting, but you can see he is deeply disappointed. His crops, planted for the annual St. Paul’s festival at the end of the month, will be half as good.
Raphael has been at St. Paul’s School for only four months, but he has dug in and made the garden his own. He has added crops like pineapple, sugar cane and an assortment of tomatoes to the already diverse garden.
Raphael is a soft spoken, thoughtful and intelligent. He graduated from the agriculture program from the state University of Haiti and has been working with community development projects for the past five years. In a country where sustainable agriculture practice is essential to the future, Raphael is passionate about conservation. He teaches the secondary students at St. Paul’s to think about adding trees to their yards and contemplating what they can do about managing trash where there is no municipal trash program. Each student has the assignment for the year to plant five trees at home from seed and nurture them to maturity. He also keeps the school gardens organic and teaches the necessary techniques for organic gardening.
In addition to his work at school, Raphael supports the local seed bank for the community. Every Thursday morning, he takes starter plants to the seed bank for the farmers. He stays throughout the morning, answering questions from the farmers and offering advice, especially on newer varieties of seeds and plants.
As Raphael enters into the second semester at St. Paul’s, he continues to develop the agriculture program at the school and support the local farmers at the seed bank. When asked what he wished for, he replied that he hoped the students would continue to plant trees for their community.
As Raphael continues to build relationships with the students and community members in Petit Trou, stay tuned to watch both his influence and his garden grow. Keep up with us throughout the year and you’ll learn more about him and his family as well!