Glenna Stinson, president of "Trees for Life Haiti," experienced the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. After helping people survive the aftermath of the disaster, she returned to her tree-planting activities the following spring. This blog contains her updates since the earthquake.
14 Months After the Earthquake
Glenna gives a brief summary of the past year, and shares about her recent trip to the USA -- her first time out of Haiti in eight years -- and her visit to the Trees for Life International office.
Dear supporters of Trees for Life,
When we experienced the earthquake in January 2010, I was staying in the mountain community where my partner, Fritz Desulme was born. We were overwhelmed by the devastation in our area, but I will never forget the helplessness we felt when driving through the city where there was no visible response and no rescue of survivors; rubble and dead bodies were everywhere. We went to the UN compound to request aid several times for our area but no one came. People in our area were not getting food or shelter. When we finally had phone service one of the first people I spoke to was Treva Mathur at the TFL office. After the earthquake she spoke to me several times by phone and made sure we got the support we needed during that time. We were able to help the people who were not getting any aid in the area where we were staying. Treva also knew when I started to fall apart from the devastation that I needed to talk to Balbir Mathur, whose words of love and encouragement helped me “do what we could do”, not carry a burden, but “be a light for others” Over the next several months our lives were changed forever. I lived in a tent for 5 months while we distributed food and shelter to over 3000 people in our area and we even planted 3200 trees on May 1st on the mountain. Trees for Life was a lifeline for us during that time.
In November, 2010, many people encouraged me to take a break, visit family and friends. I had not traveled from Haiti since 2003. When I arrived in Miami where my daughters live, I contacted the TFL office and said I would really like to meet all of the staff. A few days later it was arranged for me to visit Wichita and have a short visit to nearby Kansas City to see my brothers. Little did I realize that my visit to Trees for Life would be like “coming home to another family”.
During my visit to Wichita, I have never felt so loved and supported. The Trees for Life “family” welcomed me and took such good care of me and provided the opportunity to share my life and experiences in Haiti.
I traveled to Wichita from Kansas City with my brother Frank and my long time friend Nedra. To be honest, I had no real expectations of my visit, other than knowing I would finally meet face to face, Treva, Balbir and the staff, who I have been communicating with by e-mail for years. I was so pleased and surprised that my first evening would be an opportunity to share a wonderful vegetarian pot-luck meal with over 20 people and show slides about our work and experiences in Haiti. The interest and genuine concern and caring about what is happening in Haiti expressed by the guests was also another wonderful surprise. I was encouraged by the questions, the gratitude, and all the hugs I received by the end of the evening.
I spent the night at Treva and Balbir’s home and the next day I shared at a luncheon at the office with about 50 guests. Jeffrey Faus and Scott Garvey assisted in creating a slide show of some photos of our work in Haiti and I spoke to the guests from my heart. I shared about our work and experiences with those who have supported Trees for Life and some who have contributed to our work in Haiti. I was very impressed and very welcomed by everyone who attended. And I was extremely moved when one of the guests wrote a generous check to support the work in Haiti. We both hugged and cried while I told her that she was truly an angel. Two young men from Bulgaria who are volunteers thanked me so much for acknowledging the oppression in Haiti as it is also the story of their country. Haiti is the story of too many countries whose people live in poverty and oppression.
That afternoon I spent more time in the office, learning more about the goals of Trees for Life, especially Balbir’s vision of transforming global education. I fell in love with Darcy Predmore and her playfulness and hope to have her visit Haiti some day. David Kimble spoke to us before the luncheon and shared his story about how he came to be part of Trees for Life. David is a beautiful soul who has chosen to give his talents to a bigger vision. We also learned about Balbir’s dedication to education. Jeffrey is a steady force in the office…no matter what needs to get done he will do it, with a smile and an “OK”. Scott is a sensitive and artistic soul. Both Jeff and Scott completely complement each other and seem to work together as “one mind.” There is a great deal of work to be done at Trees for Life, but with such a dedicated and loving staff, everything is possible. I met several volunteers who all seem willing to do whatever is needed to be done. The experience I had while in the office was a feeling of “coming home” and meeting new members of my family.
The next day I went to the office and shared a quiet meditative moment with the staff. This is how they start the day………30 minutes of quiet time together, and then begin the work day. I then went to another Luncheon sponsored by Global Faith in Action. Sam Muyskens invited some guests who are supporting work in Haiti in a region called Milot which I visited two years ago. Another wonderful surprise: a Haitian pastor from Milot was there visiting his daughter and we sat next to each other at lunch and spoke Creole. It was a joy to be with someone from Haiti and to get caught up the news there. I spoke briefly and acknowledged the work they are doing and discussed how we can work together.
While back at the office I spent time with Balbir and I really began to understand on another level his dedication and calling to advance global education. This has become an addition to his life’s work now, so I promised him I would support this in any way I could. He immediately asked me if I knew someone who would translate lessons into Creole. I contacted my good friend and assistant in Haiti who agreed to do the translations. Balbir also made it possible for me to make personal calls to those who had contributed to Haiti, especially after the earthquake. We contacted as many as we could reach and I was able to express my gratitude on behalf of the many people in Haiti who benefited from those gifts of love.
On Friday morning, Balbir took me to the airport. I was not ready to leave these wonderful, kind and loving people, who revived and renewed my spirit so I might return to Haiti with hope and energy to continue our work.
If it were not for Treva, who represents to me, the roots of Trees for Life, I would not have had this experience. She has been with me thru the best and worst of times and has always written words of encouragement and always responded with whatever support that was available for us to continue our work in Haiti. She knew I needed to come back for awhile after the most trying time in my life. And she KNEW I needed this time with the Trees for Life family. Thank You from the bottom of my heart for my time in Wichita, which will be an experience that will be with me for life.
Love to all of you ... Glenna
After the Earthquake
Glenna shares her thoughts on the conditions in Haiti and her work with the people there.
May 16, 2010
From Glenna Stinson, Trees for Life Haiti - Boutillier Mountain, Haiti
Dear friends of Trees for Life Haiti,
Sorry have not written in so long but busy and not getting to internet as often.
We are still receiving some aid for this area but no food or tents and the aid is being distributed somewhat unequally. It has definitely slowed down but the conditions of the majority of people has not improved from large tent/tarp camps, some with 45,000 people. The lack of income and good shelter is taking its toll on the people in our area.
The plans for recovery and reconstruction are focusing on bringing back sweat shops, tourism and plantation grown food exports for foreign corporations . Our mission is to replant trees and Trees for Life Haiti is focused on self-sustainable villages and improved organic agriculture production for the communities and country. This plan is not in alignment with Monsanto, the producers of genetic and Genetically Modified seeds, and toxic Roundup fertilizer. I have read in the news that Monsanto is sending 450 tons of Genetically Modified seeds and a large supply of toxic fertilizer and given to areas such as Kenscoff where a lot of food is grown in the mountains.
We have been asking farmers to keep making their own compost and we teach different methods for best and quickest. We also get local schools to understand the importance of the children and families to save seeds and start a seed bank. We will do our best to inform people of the dangers of these products but it will be a big job.
The international plan for recovery and reconstruction in Haiti is obviously not about helping the population recover from this great tragedy, but the donors are investing in their own interest, not the people. And it is well known now that Haiti has oil and many resources to be exploited that would bring prosperity to the people and strengthen the sovereignty of the country.
I am only reporting this, to point out that in spite of these circumstances (and still waiting for UN funds), we were able to plant 4,200 trees on May 1st, a traditional tree-planting day. We had over 300 volunteers and local TV coverage.
On May 18th we will travel to Robeun where the earth collapsed in 2005, and where we plant every year with this community. TFLH (Trees for Life Haiti) provided help with a local nursery and water source so we plan to plant several thousand trees this year.
We are returning to Bongua to help with a planting of 12,000 trees which the community has raised in their own nursery.
I visited an area called Fond Verrette (hurricane disaster in 2004 )where I spent a week in Bwa Tombe and we are returning on the 20th to plant trees and start a project with Help Hayti . Our goal is to plant 100,000 trees and work with the community to bring more self sufficiency thru education and improving and protecting the environment.
We have also been asked to work in an area called Ti Goave by an American pastor who contacted us thru Trees for Life website.
We will also have the financial support of a private donor from Haiti soon and a promise for a new truck!!
Many, many people have acknowledged the work Fritz (my coworker) does and he has appeared regularly on a local TV station.
Treva, I thought for sure we would be starting the UN project by now. I received an e-mail May 5th that the papers were received and the funds were being transferred into our account. As of today, we have not received the funds and we are half way thru the rainy season. The finance department is being informed today of the delay….so what can I say?
Except, I keep recalling the words of Balbir, to stay focused on our work and do what we are able to do.
I see now more than ever how Trees for Life is about the regeneration of the spirit of people.
Thank you for all your love and support,
Trees for Life Haiti
residing in a tent on Boutillier mountain