Church Donating 400,000 Trees in Haiti
In a continued effort to help Haitians following the 2010 earthquake, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and friends are planting 400,000 trees in Haiti, with nearly 25,000 planted on 1 May 2013. Another 75,000 trees are scheduled for planting by year's end.
Haitian leaders have identified reforestation of the country as an important priority, and the Church has offered to help. Thanks to Latter-day Saints’ donations, shade and fruit trees (each tree being one- to two-feet tall) were purchased. “Members of the Church have talked about reforestation as a special project since the earthquake,” said Elder Wilford W. Andersen of the Church’s Caribbean area presidency. “So the convergence of the two interests has come together now at the right time, and this project has taken shape.”
Wednesday, 1 May 2013, was a national holiday in Haiti, so more than 1,800 Mormons and their neighbors arrived early at meetinghouses across the country to pick up saplings purchased at local nurseries. They were then divided into small teams before traveling to both rural and urban communities to begin planting.
Trees are being planted in five cities, including three townships near the capital of Port-au-Prince.
The planting sites, chosen by the local Latter-day Saints and their neighbors along with help from government officials, will maximize impact, such as beautifying large park and recreational complexes.
Large numbers of families were relocated to camps in sparse desert areas north of Port-au-Prince following the destructive quake. Now, trees will be planted in newly constructed neighborhoods in the area where the Church has built more than 150 sturdy family homes over the past three years.
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Volunteers worked more than 11,000 combined hours in near 90-degree temperatures Wednesday, digging holes, forming work lines and planting the first batch of 100,000 slated for this year.
The mayor of the Petion-ville Township said it was a “godsend” to have 7,000 trees planted in her community Wednesday, with more than 4,000 to be planted in the coming months. “I [am] happy, very proud,” said Mayor Minerve Yvanka Jolicoeur Brutus. “[I’m] not surprised because it’s a good deed, and that is what the Church is all about."
Port-au-Prince Stake President Gerzino Milford says: "Planting the trees is a means to touch the lives of each brother and sister in the areas we chose. That's the way, not only to plant the trees, but also to prove that we love them and want to protect them."
“This is encouraging,” said Christian Dieugerville of Petion-ville. Gesturing to a ravine with no vegetation, he continued, “It was so dense you couldn’t walk through the woods because of so many trees. Now, … when it rains the water washes down and floods the whole street.”
Haiti Mormon missionaries were some of 1,800-plus volunteers who planted trees in the reforestation project.
Fruit tree recipient Roselaine Saintil of Port-au-Prince notes that the trees "are green, but they are going to ripen when yellow. You cut it off, you can eat it, you give it to your kids, you make juice. You use it in different ways."
In April, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints marked its 30th year in Haiti. On a hill high above Port-au-Prince in 1983, President Thomas S. Monson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, dedicated the land for the preaching of the gospel. The country is now home to nearly 20,000 Mormons.
In colonial times, Haiti was called the “Pearl of the Antilles” because of its rich natural resources and prosperous economy. Theodore Berthony, a local volunteer project manager for the Church in Port-au-Prince, has a dream shared by many Haitians. “The vision is to see Haiti return to be the Pearl of the Antilles,” he said.