Local men depart for Haiti to teach farming techniques
By Preston Knight -- Daily Staff Writer
WOODSTOCK -- To fill their stomachs with something, Haitians often rely on mud cookies. Two local men are scheduled to leave today to work toward changing that.
The Rev. George Bowers, of Antioch Church of the Brethren, and Chuck Seal, manager of the Volunteer Farm of Zepp, are slated to depart for Haiti on a mission trip meant to assist with the fight against starvation. They will introduce farming techniques learned on the Volunteer Farm of Shenandoah outside of Woodstock.
"In this country, it's malnutrition," said Bob Blair, chairman and CEO of the World Foundation for Children, which sponsors the farms. "In Haiti, it's starvation."
Bowers and Seal will work with the Rev. Geordany Joseph of La Jeune-Pignon in Haiti, who visited the Woodstock farm last summer. According to a press release, he leads 12 churches in Haiti with a combined membership of 4,498, plus children, and runs an orphanage and seven schools. The churches will be a focal point for agriculture lessons.
"If we can teach the younger half of the population how to grow fruits and vegetables," Seal says in the release, "we may be able to reverse the trend of children having red hair and thin bodies -- signs of serious malnutrition."
Eighty percent of Haiti's 8.7 million people live in poverty, the release states, and 42 percent of them are 14 or younger.
Blair said the foundation has discussed the idea of establishing a volunteer farm in Haiti. For now, the goal is to take excess seed from the Woodstock farm to teach Haitians how to grow food in their backyards, he said. One plus is that Haiti has a long growing season, Blair added.
"We wish we could do more in both places," he said.
Last year, the Woodstock farm, which has existed for several years as compared to the Zepp location, produced 35 tons of vegetables thanks to 3,100 volunteers, the release states. Results even far less than that in Haiti would be a victory, officials said.
"They must be taught how to grow enough to feed themselves," Seal said in the release.
Bowers could not immediately be reached for comment Monday. He and Seal are scheduled to return from their trip Feb. 10. Representatives from Brethren churches throughout the Shenandoah Valley also are traveling to Haiti to focus on health and housing issues, the release states.
Anyone interested in donating to Joseph's churches, schools or orphanage can visit www.worldfoundationforchildren.com or mail donations to WFC, 277 Crider Lane, Woodstock, Va., 22664.
Contact Preston Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org