The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
Partner Profile: The Bright Educators of Delmas
May 2, 2014
Have you planted your garden yet? If your answer is yes, a growing number of families in Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti, are proud to say the same. This is the fruit of UUSC’s partnership with the Bright Educators of Delmas (known as GEAD, their Haitian acronym), a group of young change makers dedicated to food security and food sovereignty.
GEAD is led by four young adults who are true community organizers and share a vision of strong and healthy communities rooted in connection and unity. Danielle Neus, GEAD’s spokesperson, shares their motto: “We are all one, we remain one, and we will die one.”
Working together with UUSC and the Papaye Peasant Movement, a UUSC partner in rural Haiti, GEAD first embarked on their mission to bring healthy homegrown food — and the recycled container gardens to grow it — into Port-au-Prince in 2012. Their urban agriculture pilot project brought gardens to 48 families in the Delmas neighborhood. Five container gardens — grown safely in recycled tires — can feed a family of four for a year, and five more can yield extra income from selling produce. GEAD Coordinator Emmanuel Exuma explained to UUSC: “GEAD’s dream is to see the majority of people in Port-au-Prince have the possibility of not buying vegetables in the market. They could just go pick the vegetables in their garden.”
More than just delivering materials, GEAD’s project offered families vital training on organic farming methods, continuing support in the process, and a deeper connection to their food. “Their dream is to fill the bellies of everyone in Port-au-Prince — but not just that,” explains Wendy Flick, UUSC’s senior program leader for Haiti. “They want people to feel ownership and control over what they fill their bellies with. So it’s both: it’s not just food security; it’s also food sovereignty. A mother can know that she’s feeding her child a carrot that was not grown with pesticides, wasn’t trucked in from the Dominican Republic. She knows what was put into it, because she grew it herself.”
When the GEAD pilot project started, there was only a trickle of families signing up. But when plants started coming up and word started spreading, interest skyrocketed. “The demand went from zero to off the charts,” Flick recalls. To meet growing demand and continued need, UUSC is currently working with GEAD on the following:
- Developing urban agriculture training for additional 100 urban families
- Pursuing land for an urban training center with secure storage, compost production, and model gardens
- Exploring further partnerships in the city to support trainings and expansion of the project
GEAD’s leadership has determination and drive that are hard to match. For her part, Danielle Neus is now working on a four-year agronomy degree and will continue to be involved in the project as she pursues her studies. Flick describes the group and their work: “They’re really community animators. They have that enthusiasm. The word animation — bringing something to life — is really apt. They have a momentum and energy behind all their work. They dream big, but they have energy and ideas to make that concrete.” Neus’s take? “The dream is becoming a reality, but we have much to do.”
Want to help GEAD’s dreams become more of a reality?