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School Gardens Help End Hunger and Prevent Child Slavery

Parents in rural Haiti are no different from parents everywhere – they love their children and want to provide them with the best life they possibly can.

Students eat fresh beets from their school garden.

Students in Matenwa on the island of La Gonave, Haiti, eat fresh beets from their school garden.

But what if you couldn’t even feed your child, let alone send him or her to school? What would you do?

Would you risk sending your child away to live with others if it meant a chance at a better life?

School Gardens Help Keep Kids at Home

Thanks to the generous support of donors like you for school gardens, parents in 11 rural communities are no longer faced with having to make such an awful choice. Instead they can now feed their children and keep them at home and in school, where they belong.

“School gardens create food, income and hope,” said David Diggs, Beyond Borders’ executive director. “It’s why we’ve invested in the creation of 11 school gardens and 60 family gardens launched by our partner organization, the Matenwa Community Learning Center,” he added.

The inability of impoverished parents in rural Haiti to provide the most basic needs for their children – food, clothing, and an education – often drives them to send their children away to the city to live with others in the hopes that some of those needs might be met.

“Often though, their precious children end up trapped in slavery, suffering physical, emotional and sometimes even sexual abuse at the hands of those who said they would care for them,” Diggs said.

10 New School Gardens and 70 New Family Gardens Planned

To help rural parents keep their children at home, Beyond Borders is supporting the Matenwa Community Learning Center’s expansion of school & family gardens on the island of La Gonave, off Haiti’s west central coast.

A student tends to a school garden in LaGonav, Haiti.

A student tends to a school garden in La Gonave, Haiti.

Ten new school gardens and 70 new family gardens are planned for launch in the coming 12 months.

Besides providing food for daily meals at home and in school, the gardens help students and parents learn how to improve their farming techniques to produce higher yields and minimize the impact of drought and deforestation. School and family gardens also show students that rural life can be fruitful and productive and that searching for a better life in the big city isn’t their only option.

Empowerment Rather Than Dependency

Chris Low, a former associate staff member of Beyond Borders and a co-founder of the Matenwa Community Learning Center, said the school and family gardens are part of a larger strategy that is built around “empowerment, rather than dependency.”

“When given the space and resources to implement new ideas [like gardens], parents have confidence in their own capacities and personal experiences,” Low said.

Beatrice Jean* is one of those with a new garden and new confidence.

For years Jean planted large crops of corn and grain, as is common in Haiti, hoping that come harvest time she could earn enough to feed her family. Year after year though, Mother Nature didn’t cooperate.

“I lost my crops to drought,” Jean said.

School and family gardens teach parents & students new farming techniques that improve their crop yield come harvest time.

School and family gardens teach parents & students new farming techniques that improve their crop yields.

The repeated losses left Jean unable to provide for her family, putting her children at greater risk of being sent away to the city to live with others and falling in to slavery.

Then Jean took part in the family gardens program piloted by Matenwa Community Learning Center and supported by generous donors to Beyond Borders.

With coaching from Matenwa staff, Jean planted a smaller, more diversified garden that included vegetables. She used the irrigation techniques she learned to collect and conserve rainwater for use in times of drought.

“Not only did she grow enough to feed her family, she was able to sell the excess vegetables that she grew in the market for a profit,” said Abner Sauveur, who together with Low co-founded the Matenwa Community Learning Center and launched the school and family gardens initiative on La Gonave.

Across La Gonave, after feeding all of their students, participating schools earned a collective $1,400 from the sale of vegetables from their gardens – monies that were invested back into each individual school.

“School and family gardens hold great promise for Haiti,” said Diggs, Beyond Borders’ executive director. “With the continued generous support of donors we hope to see gardens like these sprout up in communities across La Gonave, helping parents feed their children and keep them home,” he said.

*name changed to protect anonymity

Give With Confidence

Charity Navigator, the largest independent evaluator of charities in the USA, has awarded Beyond Borders its highest rating for ten consecutive years. 'Only 1% of the charities we rate have received at least ten consecutive 4-Star evaluations, indicating Beyond Borders outperforms most other charities in America. This 'exceptional' designation from Charity Navigator differentiates Beyond Borders from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust.' Click here to read Charity Navigator's independent report on Beyond Borders.

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