High school boy Wikersen and his friends work to reforest Haiti
As a girl pinned a red flower to my shirt, Wikersen informed me “You’re going first”. “Oh no I’m not, I need to see how this is working first!” He disappeared, returning a few minutes later to tell me I would be third. Fine. All I knew was that I was expected to give a speech on waste management, to which I decided to focus on composting as something they could act on without relying on others, but I had no idea what the rest of the evening was. It had been described to me as an event, a party and a presentation but that was about as detailed as it had gotten. I suppose it was all of those things. The evening was all in Creole except for my speech which was translated by Wikersen, and was a series of speeches, poetry, theater and song about Haiti, the environment and politics. Impressive for anyone to set up an event like that, more so when remembering he has not yet graduated from High School.
It doesn’t feel like that long, but it was two and a half years ago that I sat down with Wikersen and 3 of his friends. They asked me to talk to them about how they could work to make Haiti a better place and how our organization could help them do that. I talked to them about initiative and how important it is for them to do what they could on their own and with and through their community first before asking for help from abroad. We talked about different options but they were most inspired by the work the agronomist Tifa was doing to reforest Haiti and decided to follow his lead and start a tree planting project. After showing some success through buying some saplings from Port-au-Prince and planting them in the mountains, One Big Boost gave them $200 towards more saplings and tools and granted them the official title of a starfish project. This event was my first glimpse at where they’ve taken it since then. There were at least 40 people present from the community of all ages from babies to elderly.
The real joy came the next morning when eight of us gathered at the garden, where they now grow plants from seed instead of buying saplings, and sell some of them to cover the cost of more seed and grow bags. There were thousands of plants at various stages of growth from a few inches to about two feet tall of all varieties. They explained that their focus was on plants that goats don’t like to increase their chance of survival. We counted out twenty bags of ten plants each, two hundred trees in total to carry up the mountain. They were brought to the edge of the town by motorbike and from there we carried them up by hand.
A gallon of sweat later we reached the spot, a bare mountain side which the property owner had given permission for the planting. Over the course of two or three hours we planted all two hundred trees until there wasn’t a bare spot to be found. I asked him how many of these plantings they had done and he couldn’t remember, but a lot. I wondered if this was more than usual, but he said he sometimes gets as many as fifteen people to come up and often plant more trees than we did that day.
It will take time and some of the trees won’t make it, but plot by plot Haiti is being reforested by people like Wikersen and his friends.