When Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti in October 2016, it devastated the surrounding areas of Petit Trou. Patrick Desir sprang into action. Knowing that the mentors from the Girls’ Empowerment and Mentoring Program (GEM) would be able to account for all of the community’s girls and their respective families in the area, he helped to disperse a response team that checked whether all community members were safe and accounted for. It was a relief to discover that everyone had survived the storm, but Patrick knew the community was in trouble as he learned about the numerous farms and homes that had been flooded or all-out destroyed in the storm.
Patrick joined a contingent of community leaders including the mayor, staff from the girls’ clubs, church congregations, agricultural association members, and representatives from the Colorado Haiti Project that mobilized response efforts. After some brainstorming at several community meetings with local organizations, a plan was put in place to start a seed bank in Petit Trou. Acquiring and storing mass amounts of seed at a local marketplace and offering them to local farmers in the area at a discounted price would help families to put food on the table, boost the livelihoods of local farmers, and in turn create lasting impact. Patrick was appointed program manager of the new project.
It was not so easy at first. Patrick wondered how he would find a location for the seed bank. Would it offer appropriate storage? The hurricane had caused a scarcity of seeds throughout Haiti, how would they start their initial supply? Moreover, how would they effectively store the seeds?
Patrick worked diligently, day and night, to find solutions. A local senator lent access to a building in Petit Trou’s main market—an ideal place to both store and sell the seeds. Patrick went on several trips to Port au Prince to learn about seed storage and hone his skills in the software program Quicken in order to effectively manage the finances of seed sales. The seed bank opened to the community, selling seeds every Thursday in the market.
As the program gained momentum, it faced other obstacles. For example, Patrick quickly learned that reaching the seed bank from distant, mountainous villages was a challenge for many. In response, Patrick started a mobile seed bank that traveled three days of the week to outlying areas when the mayor lent his truck to the program.
Over 66,000 pounds of seed have been distributed since the bank was started, with this successful effort being just one example of Patrick’s leadership in the community.
Patrick traveled to the U.S. in Fall 2017 to tell the Colorado Haiti Project community about his work and meet other representatives in person. He called the visit “the trip of the lifetime,” expressing how much it meant to him to see Coloradans genuinely interested in the lives of his community. He attended the 4th Annual Farm Dinner, visited the mountains, was welcomed by local churches, and ate many home cooked meals with friends before traveling back to his home to continue his work. We look forward to keeping you updated on big news on Patrick’s growing family!