mercredi 4 mai 2011

Church festival in Barnesville changes lives in Haiti

Parishioners at St. Mary's have been helping Carcasse since 2008 by Danielle E. Gaines
Tony Chmelik: Jack Reid (second left in front) poses with
coffee farmers in Carcasse, Haiti. Reid, the coordinator
 of a project that pairs St. Mary's Catholic Church of Barnesville
with St. Joseph's Parish in Carcasse, is helping the farmers
create an association to export coffee around the world.
The project, one of many undertaken by Barnesville parishioners,
will help Carcasse residents create a stable economy
Almost two years before a 7.0-magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, members of St. Mary's Church and Shrine of Our Lady Fatima in Barnesville were already on the ground, helping the people of Carcasse.

The seaside village is the westernmost point of Haiti, about 120 miles from the epicenter of the quake that killed nearly 250,000.
The town struggled in the months after the quake when refugees from Port-au-Prince turned up in their area and food prices increased.
St. Mary's has been working with St. Joseph's Parish in Carcasse to provide infrastructure that will help residents weather future hard times. The church has invested in schools, paid teachers' salaries, is coordinating a census to determine how many people live in the area and is creating systems for clean water and better sewage management.
Now the Maryland church has its sights on something bigger: the creation of a coffee export economy.
Jack Reid, coordinator of the twinning project that paired the parishes, has met with Just Haiti, a nonprofit organization based in Silver Spring that helps farmers get fair prices for their coffee bean exports.
Reid traveled to Carcasse in August with parishioner Dave Cahoon and put farmers from the town in touch with farmers in Baradères, where the Just Haiti program began in 2007.
Reid said the coffee export trade could change residents' lives. "It's a good way to improve the economy on the island without being a handout," he said. "The big thing we wanted to do was help them help themselves. They just need access to markets and a little help to get them going."
The church will raise the funds to get the coffee cooperative up and running with its third annual Haitian Festival this Saturday. The church has raised $19,000 at the festivals since 2009.
Parishioners Therese Mackie, a native of the Caribbean island of Martinique, and her daughter, Dominique Agnew, have planned an authentic island meal of squash soup, lamb, rice with beans, fried plantain and coconut flan.
Diana Snouffer organized a silent auction, which includes a dinner for four prepared by the church's pastor, the Rev. Kevin O'Reilly. Snouffer also organizes the church's "Donut Sundays," when everyone gathers for sugary snacks and to order coffee from Just Haiti.
To get the coffee operation started, the church is coordinating zero-percent loans for new equipment and training sessions for the farmers.
The coffee plants themselves will also help the community. Grown under thick forest, the plants make the surrounding ecosystem healthier, according to JustHaiti.com. The coffee fields will protect trees that are routinely cut for fuel and also reduce soil erosion, flooding and water pollution.
"We wanted a sustainable change for them," Reid said.
Reid and Snouffer stress that the relationship with St. Joseph's has been just as beneficial to the Barnesville parishioners.
"We worry about retiring, sending the kids to college, paying off the mortgage, and they're living day to day," Reid said. "You see someone who can enjoy the day, even though they're living day to day. That's incredible."
The relationship between St. Mary's Church and Shrine of Our Lady Fatima and the
people of Carcasse, Haiti:

Barnesville and Carcasse: How the two parishes have worked together
Feb. 2008 - Parishioner Jack Reid makes the first visit to St. Joseph's Parish in Carcasse, Haiti.
Aug. 2008 - St. Mary's volunteers establish Internet access in Carcasse.
Oct. 2008 - The first medical mission funded in part by St. Mary's treats more than 1,000 patients in Carcasse.
May 2009 - First annual Haiti Festival held in Barnesville raises $8,000.
Jan. 2010 - In response to the earthquake, $4,000 is sent to St. Joseph's to purchase relief supplies for refugees who came to the area.
Feb. 2010 - Construction of new primary school for 300 students finishes. St. Mary's continues to raise $560 a month for teachers' salaries.
May 2010 - Second annual Haiti fundraiser raises more than $11,000.
Aug. 2010 - Deacon Dave Cahoon and Jack Reid accompany Carcasse farmers to a seminar in Baradères to learn about starting a coffee growers association.
Feb. 2011 - St. Mary's starts a new water infrastructure improvement program in Carcasse.

What: Third Annual Haiti Festival
When: Saturday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Where: St. Mary's Pavillion, 18230 Barnesville Road
RSVP: 301-972-8660
Details: Tickets for a buffet dinner are $15 for adults and $10 for children. The event also includes live music and a silent auction.

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