Editor's note: As we approach the third anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the lives of so many Haitians, we are asking for your help in raising funds to continue the important work of rebuilding livelihoods in post-earthquake Haiti. Visit www.heifer.org/reachout to learn more and give.
Author's note: In 2012, I traveled to Haiti to spend a couple of weeks visiting projects with Heifer Haiti staff. For previous posts on my trip, see my page.
Toussaint Christophe lives just off the road that takes travelers to nearby Milot, Haiti. There, he earns money by breaking limestone and selling it as construction material.
But not too far from his house, Toussaint also cultivates yams, bananas and beans and takes care of four goats and a cow--all of which came from Heifer through the From the Ground Up project. The crops and livestock will supplement both his diet and income.
"Since I was a young man, I've seen people with cows," Toussaint said. "This is the first time I've had one."
Goats are a more familiar sight to Toussaint. His parents raised and bred goats, and he began helping the effort as soon as he was able. At age 14, he received his first goat. Shortly after, Toussaint's family was robbed of all 15 of their goats, and he, his parents and six siblings had to rely solely upon selling bananas and yams to the market.
Compounding the situation, the family's house burned down a few years later. The fire killed one of his brothers and left another paralyzed. Toussaint's family never found out how the house burned down, but they suspect it was arson. Around the same time, four of his siblings became ill with asthma problems.
After the fire, Toussaint dropped out of school to help support his family.
"The first time I went to school, I was 17 because my parents were not supportive of that kind of thing," he said. "When the house burned, we lost everything. (My parents) wanted me to work."
Toussaint's children, however, are getting the opportunity he never had. Both of his sons, who are in their mid-20s, are in secondary school in Cap Haitien, about 12 miles away.
And Toussaint's informal education has continued through Heifer trainings.
"I have had many trainings... (including) techniques for dividing yam roots and goat production," he said. "I can now treat some of the kinds of diseases that goats have. In the past, I (would have) to pay a veterinarian for everything the goats needed. Now, I can give a first examination or first aid to the goats."
The project with Heifer marks the first time Toussaint has owned goats since his teenage years, and this is not something he takes lightly.
"I take care of (the goats) as well as I would a person," he said. "I like to see them right."