LAKE WORTH — Two years after a massive earthquake hit Haiti, the country is still dealing with disease, starvation and lack of clean drinking water.
Here in South FLorida, the Haitian American Tree Trust (HATT) is responding to the ongoing tragedy by joining a large-scale reforestation project that will plant hundreds of thousands of trees in that country.
HATT President Lovelie Moise, who was born in Haiti and raised there until age 15, says she did not realize how great the need was until seeing the devastation first-hand.
“We went to Haiti after the earthquake and the people did not have clean water or food to eat,” Moise said. “When you go there, you know you can’t change the whole country but maybe you can help a family.”
An estimated 300,000 people died after the earthquake hit on Jan. 12, 2010, including four students and two professors from Lynn University in Boca Raton.
HATT’s goal is to plant one fruit tree for each life lost, Moise said, at a cost of $5 per tree. Seedlings will be cultivated in a nursery in Haiti to avoid the large expense that would be incurred to ship plants from the United States.
HATT’s website notes that Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and has lost about 98 percent of its tree coverage, one of the worst cases of deforestation in the world.
HATT is also looking into helping in other areas, such as clean drinking water, the absence of which is blamed for a major outbreak of cholera that has killed 5,000 people.
The acute infectious disease of the small intestine is caused by bacteria and symptoms include profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, muscle cramps and severe dehydration.
“We are trying to help people get clean water and we encourage everybody to volunteer and work with us,” Moise said.
The Lake Worth-based group held its first Remembering Haiti Walkathon on Jan. 14, attracting nearly 400 participants.
Supporters, including state Reps. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, and Mack Bernard, D-West Palm Beach, and Lake Worth Mayor Pam Triolo, walked from Lake Worth City Hall to the Lake Worth Municipal Beach to help raise funds for the reforestation project in memory of the quake victims.
HATT settled on fruit trees because the people of Haiti would not cut them down, Moise said. They knew that the trees would eventually provide a source of food for their children and families, she said.
Ten varieties of fruit trees would be included, such as apple, guava, lime and oranges.
Moise said members of HATT and volunteers travel to Haiti regularly to do what they can to help.
For information on HATT and the reforestation project, call Lovelie Moise at 561-598-3864 or visit HaitianAmericanTreeTrust.org
Kyoto Walker may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: CAROL PORTER/Photos FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES
READY TO MARCH: Residents and officials gather in front of Lake Worth City Hall Jan. 14 to mark the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti with a walkathon to raise funds for a large-scale reforestation project led by the Haitian American Tree Trust.