Community Kitchen of Cite Soleil
July 9, 2010
Joegodson and Paul
The people of Simon have completed their plans for the community project that addresses their most pressing concerns. The two foremost community organizations, FFAMIPL and DAD, have joined forces to found the Cantine Communautaire à Cite Soleil, the Community Kitchen of Cite Soleil. Over the next few days, we will reflect upon their initiative from a number of perspectives. We encourage commentary.
We think the local leaders are offering a program that addresses a confluence of crises that have intensified since the earthquake and that threaten to undermine the future of communities like Simon. They argue that, since the coup of 2004, Cite Soleil has endured socio-economic hardships as a result of an unaccountable, uncaring state and a culture of fraud and embezzlement nurtured by many international and local NGOs. The constitutions of both DAD and FFAMIPL envisage local, community development integrated into a national, Haitian economy. The Community Kitchen of Cite Soleil is a deceptively simple project. As we will show, it is designed to treat a potentially mortal disease and to set the community on a course towards health. The residents of Simon are asking individuals and institutions of goodwill, with financial means, to support that vision.
The community leaders have conceived the Community Kitchen to interrupt a painful phenomenon. Even before the earthquake, there were limited opportunities for the people of Simon to earn enough money to survive, let alone to live in dignity. The foreign sweatshops at the nearby Sonapi Industrial Park set the standard for wages and working conditions. No human being would accept either except in desperation. Since the earthquake, many people have lost even their low-paying jobs. They have no way to feed their families and dependents. Normally in Haiti, waged workers share their pay with family and friends who contribute other things to the household: domestic work, scavenging, small-scale agriculture, and so forth. Since January 12, those threads that held people together in survival have torn. As a result, people who were once dependent on someone else’s wage are now starving.
Children, both boys and girls, have turned to prostitution. They exchange their bodies for food. Those who would otherwise care for them cannot find the resources. And so the people of Simon are watching children everywhere sell their bodies, their dignity, and their future. The adults have always sold their labour for inadequate wages in the sweatshops. Now, their children are selling their bodies so that those with financial means can satiate their sexual desires without even paying the children enough to satisfy their hunger. The children remain hungry and malnourished, biologically and spiritually. And so, they remain vulnerable.
If the most vulnerable members of Simon could be assured of one cooked meal each day, then they would no longer be at the mercy of those who are exploiting their hunger. And so, the project is intended fulfill a basic human need and right: food. The Community Kitchen would also provide jobs and a centre of activity in Simon.
In preparation, the local community leaders asked the Irish NGO, Haven, to fund the construction of a community centre where the Kitchen will operate. They had previously convinced Haven to fund the construction of community latrines. Now, the Kitchen is built and, except for some finishing touches, awaits operations.
FFAMIPL and DAD have organized in detail a four-month pilot program whose goal is to offer 250 people in Simon a cooked, nutritious meal once a day, between noon and two o’clock. The new Kitchen will offer a salubrious environment for the community meal. Some local artists will add character. Chairs and tables remain to be constructed, but Simon does not lack skilled workers to accomplish that. Much of the cooking equipment can be bought locally. However, some items will have to be purchased in the Dominican Republic.
Local cooks will be hired from within the community on a rotating basis to ensure that many may profit from the program. Youths will be hired as helpers and busboys, assuring that the area remains clean and healthy. So, the local initiative has the potential to not only feed the hungry, but to bring much-needed money into the community.
One of the assets of the program is that it budgets for the purchase of local produce. Not only will Haitian cooks prepare the meals, but they will also offer the local dishes appreciated by the people of Simon. The networks that already exist between the residents of Simon and their birth communities in the countryside will be nurtured to assure a market for Haitian produce. Thus, the program remains true to the constitutions of both DAD and FFAMIPL that envisage domestic, Haitian, development. Self-sufficiency is the long-term goal of Simon, in collaboration with other communities throughout Haiti.
The program will serve women, children, the elderly, and the handicapped: those who the community groups have identified as the most vulnerable in Simon. The meals are valued at three American dollars. Participants will pay fifty cents. Half of that money will go towards hiring local people to clean the streets and the other part towards future community projects. In other words, if you don’t have the money to pay, you can earn it by helping to improve the neighbourhood. The total cost is calculated at $168,000.00 US, including produce, infrastructure, and salaries. All of the money will remain in Haiti, in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince and in the countryside in support of peasant agricultural production.
The slogan for the program is An-n manje pou gen fos poun rekonstwi ayiti: We must eat to gain the strength to rebuild Haiti.
The details of the proposal can be found on this Website on the page entitled ‘Simon.’ The contacts in Cite Soleil are Cyril Baudelais of FFAMIPL (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Jhony of DAD (509 37 31 30 42).
They are looking for organizations interested in funding the initiative. See the FFAMIPL page for the documentation attesting to FFAMIPL’s accreditation by the Haitian state.