Friday, May 20, 2011

Building Community, One Mill at a Time

The St. Martin Youth Association for Community Development (AJSDC) is a vibrant local organization in the Artibonite Valley of Haiti. This fertile region produces the majority of Haiti's rice and AJSDC has just opened a community grain mill to support these agricultural efforts.
Years of hard work and community cooperation has gone into making this grain mill a reality. The group, who formed nearly 20 years ago and has 305 members, has been working together on sustainable development projects for quite some time, but this is by far their largest undertaking. AJSDC finds strength in its diversity.
A good chunk of its members have been with the group since its inception — they provide valuable leadership and wisdom, while a flood of new members infuse AJSDC with youth, vitality and energetic plans for the future. AJSDC's ability to engage the youth has directly strengthened the local organization and revitalized its efforts in community development.
PhotoAJSDC's new grain mill
The grain mill opening was a jubilant affair. Men, women and children came wearing their finest clothing. Hundreds of community members were in attendance. It was clear by the excitement and pride in the air that this was much more than the opening of a grain mill - it was a celebration of years of hard work and the countless possibilities for the future.
It was a meticulously planned program, with cultural components sprinkled throughout, with singing, dancing, speeches, a play and two skits. The older, more senior members opened the ceremony and spoke first about the organization, its history and the work they have done to improve the community. Newer and younger members then spoke about their vision and joy in making the grain mill a reality.
"This was much more than the opening of a grain mill — it was a celebration of years of hard work and the countless possibilities for the future."
The president of AJSDC, Wilner Pierre Louis, proudly declared, "With the opening of this mill, we can be the masters of our own destiny." He rejoiced in explaining how this mill will allow members to mill their own grains. No more will community members need to walk long distances for milling services. No more will they have to pay exorbitant milling fees. Milling services at this community mill will be at an affordable price and of high quality.
The mill is also a place to prepare and store seeds thanks to a large storage room. This small detail will allow members to save seeds for the next planting season and to achieve higher levels of economic security.
PhotoLongtime AJSDC member joyously celebrating the mill opening
The woman [pictured right] was dancing about ecstatically throughout the ceremony because as she exclaimed, "I am so happy not to have to walk far [to have my grains milled] and the kids can go to school now because they will not have to help transporting the grains."
Members worked hard to ensure that the grain mill meets all of their needs. Along with a motorized tiller, storage rooms and space to prepare the grains, the organization is building latrines near the building. There is also access to water which assists in running the mill and providing clean drinking water.
"With the opening of this mill, we can be the stewards of our own destiny."
PhotoThe motorized tiller that will mill grains and rice
While members fastidiously thanked the Lambi Fund of Haiti for its assistance in making this mill a reality, Lambi Fund staff could only respond with the utmost respect and gratitude for the hard work and resilience these members have shown in the last year. Staff members thanked them for their perseverance, strength and unity as they have moved forward after the earthquake.
Lambi Fund's new Executive Director, Marie Saint Cyr, attended the meeting and congratulated AJSDC members and the project committee for their long-term collaboration with Lambi Fund as the community works to realize its hopes and dreams. This building is more than just a building and more than a mill, it is a symbol of community strength and unity. With every brick and piece of mortar, this mill is building community.
PhotoA sign hung in preparation for the celebration reading "Welcome Lambi Fund of Haiti"

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