Anse-a-Pitre, Haiti December 2011
At the end of 2011 The Cookbook Project travelled to the southeastern border of Haiti to work in conjunction with Sadhana Forest Haiti and the orphanage Ayitimouno on a joint Local Leaders Training and Youth Education Workshop. The Local Leaders training at Sadhana Forest, which included 11 international volunteers, foreign aid workers and 8 local Haitian community members, helped to cultivate the cooperation and flexibility that would be necessary for the upcoming youth education project. After 2 full days of the Local Leaders Training Program, particpants practiced what they had learned to create a Holiday Dinner utilzing local ingredients and lots of creativity. Over the course of the next three days a combination of trained leaders and locals worked together to engage the youth at Ayitimouno — street kids, orphans, village youth, and a collection of interested locals gathered at the seaside orphanage to play, learn, and most importantly cook! Participants feasted on ripe local fruits, squeezed a seasonal white grapefruit-like citrus called Shadek (imagine if a grapefruit and an orange had a love child), and collaborated to bring together the final meal, which included Haitian style beans and rice with Pumpkin Soup. It was a privilege to be able to work with such dedicated leaders in order to plant seeds of awareness for the 60-plus kids who participated throughout the youth education workshop.
The Haiti Cookbook Project was an extremely challenging yet rewarding experience for everyone involved. The area of Haiti where we were working was isolated by an overnight boat trip or multi-day mountain road trip to the nearest town or city. Unlike other projects, where we had a local market at our disposal, we had to travel across the border to the biweekly ‘international market’ in the Dominican Republic to get food supplies for the workshop in anticipation of what we thought the group would want to cook. Even though there was no running water, electricity, or other modern infrastructure, this project bestowed so many gifts to all of those involved. On the final day, we were all filled with joy serving the 60 some kids from Ayitimouno and the surrounding village who had come to participate — we were even more overcome with happiness when many of the local youth asked to bring back their extra large portions of food to share with their families.
Merci, Haiti — for all of the lessons we learned, the new friends we made, and the delicious food that we shared!