Wednesday, May 30, 2012

HTRIP May Highlights!

Dear Supporters,

For those of you who read the Highlights Graduation Special edition earlier this month, you already know that May is surely the most exciting month of the year for us here in Deschappelles.  The first day of the month began with a graduation ceremony honoring 738 graduates with a second ceremony less than one week later honoring 281 more. All program participants, even those not eligible to graduate were invited to the ceremonies representing more than 1,400 guests.

Program participants accompanied by a marching 
band head into the HAS dispensary at Bastien for 
the second of two HTRIP graduation ceremonies.

May also brings the first rains of the wet season which means it’s time to start planting trees in addition to our shade tolerant crops.  The shade crop trials are taking place in the demonstration plots of 15 HTRIP communities that have been with us since at least 2008.  The shade crop trials are important for working with farmers to discover high value crops that can be grown under the shade of their older trees that prohibit the continued cultivation of the traditional corn and millet. Yams worked well in last year’s pilot shade demonstration trial and are being accompanied this year by an additional range of shade tolerant contenders including passion fruit, taro, pumpkin, and various beans.

Technicians Mathurin Dorceus and Antione Frantz 
pose in the shade at Didye’s shade crop konbit.
February through April HTRIP communities install rock walls and earthen canals to prevent soil erosion and hold water in place.  Experienced communities are capable of doing this work on their own with small quantities of food to support konbits, but in new communities HTRIP technicians teach the new techniques.  Then we wait for the rain.  This month we planted trees in the demonstration plot of two new communities; Remanse and Ores, where we were greeted with lots of enthusiasm.

            Unfortunately, May was not universally joyful.  The entire HTRIP staff was forced to say goodbye to not one, but two wonderful interns who embedded themselves in the HTRIP team.  Uma Bhandaram completed 10 weeks with us down here in Haiti before returning to her job at an environmental consulting firm in Southern California.  She greatly enjoyed her time working in the field with the staff and helping the program manager prepare for the large graduation ceremonies.
Angel Hertslet, Shellon Mondesir, Albertini Alexandre, 
and Fenel Plaisel enjoy the pleasant shade of the 
Dwen community tree nursery.
Technician Shellon Mondesir and Jack Devine 
collect the tools after planting trees in the Ores 
Demonstration plot with a community member.
Jack Devine left in the middle of his fourth month with HTRIP.  His last several weeks saw an incredible drive to bring a honey producing bee box to the HTRIP repertoire. Jack contacted a local carpenter familiar with bee boxes to construct one for us.  On his search for people willing to get bees into the box, he found someone willing to sell a box with bees already producing honey inside.  It is not very helpful to get us the box and then leave us without direction, but luckily Jack is already planning his return trip for another month with us before he starts at CMU in the Fall.

We lost two incredible interns, but gained one equally enthusiastic. Angel Hertslet, who met all three power interns (Ruth Portnoff, Jack Devine, and Uma Bhandaram) in her March visit with the Yale School of Forestry, has returned for a 10 week internship.  She is working out the details of a research project for her Master’s thesis in Environmental Science. 

Technician Albertini Alexandre (top left) observes 
school children at the community of Dris as they 
help arrange tree in the community nursery.
Visiting the small community tree nurseries is one of the greatest pleasures for the Project Manager. Each nursery has its own unique feel and presence in a community. Some are at the heart of the community near the church or school, whereas others are further removed.  Some communities have better access to water and a correspondingly greater number of healthy trees. At the modest subsidy of 1 gourde ($.025) per tree produced, it is hard to think of a more effective way HTRIP spends money.
It is during the rainy season when the hillsides transform from brown to green and we are doing our part by putting the trees in the ground that the HTRIP staff is working at its best.  We would like to thank the generous support of our donors who allow this rewarding and important work to continue.

The HTRIP Staff,
including Starry Sprenkle, Ross Bernet, Jack Devine, Uma Bhandaram, and Angel Hertslet

Thursday, May 17, 2012

HTRIP Graduation Ceremony 2012

Dear Supporters,

The marching band "Fanfa" followed by a long
line of HTRIP project participants marching down
 the National Route 1 towards Le Palace.
May must be the most exciting month of the year for HTRIP. The rains bring a verdant vibrancy to the Artibonite Valley, tree plantings are beginning, and all 1,225 program participants rejoiced in one of two large graduation ceremonies. May 1st is a Haitian national holiday that recognizes agricultural work, so it seems fitting that HTRIP hosts its first celebration this day each year.  We have grown too large for just one ceremony to host all our communities, so the 32 communities closest to the valley were invited to Le Palace in Desarmes to participate in the first ceremony May 1st, while the following Sunday’s ceremony at the HAS dispensary in Bastien hosted the remaining 14 mountain communities.

The festivities continue the following Sunday, May 6th. HTRIP's mountain
communities follow the marching band and parade into the Bastien Dispensary.
Can you spot HTRIP co-founder Starry Sprenkle?

April is the final round of monthly education sessions that started the preceding year in July. If HTRIP participants attend seven or more of the ten education sessions, they will graduate our program.  Although we invite all program participants to the graduation ceremonies, it is only those who will graduate who receive a certificate with their name on it in addition to a germinated coconut tree ready to be planted.  The certificates are prized by many program participants who might not have had the opportunity to receive something similar in school.

Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Managing Director,
Ian Rawson   addresses the crowd to congratulate
them on their dedicated work.
The weather could not have been better and there was no shortage of food or drink at either ceremony. Planning the events poses quite the logistical challenge and was started a month in advance. Luckily for the HTRIP Program Manager, HTRIP technician Marielle Pharelus has several years of experience purchasing food for such events and HTRIP coordinator Antione Frantz handled the transportation superbly. Additionally, the entire HTRIP staff worked together seamlessly to allow the events to run smoothly during each ceremony.
HTRIP graduates make music for the singing
and dancing that marks the end of the ceremony.
As always, the HTRIP staff appreciates and is grateful for the support of our donors, we only wish that next year we will see some of your faces at our graduation ceremonies.

The HTRIP Staff,
including Starry Sprenkle, Ross Bernet, Jack Devine, and Uma Bhandara