Harvesting Hope

Print Friendly

Long-Term Mission Effort Changes Living Conditions for Haiti Community

Written By Emily DeVries (’16)

A service trip to build a fish farm in Haiti deeply impacted the hearts of the Gardner-Webb University students who traveled there and brought life-altering change to the Haitian orphanage that is now reaping its harvest.

Dr. Don Olive, GWU Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy, desires to instill a spirit of service in the hearts of his students. A chance conversation with the father of a first-year Gardner-Webb student introduced Olive to a unique service opportunity to do just that.

Olive had the chance to create a student team to lead a service project in Haiti through a South Carolina-based ministry. The Higher Quest Foundation (HQ) is a non-profit organization whose purpose is “to educate and equip.”  HQ strives to fight world hunger in a manner that is sustainable. One of the sustainable, resource-providing options promoted by HQ is fish farming, which provides a continual and sustainable influx of resources.

Another crucial partnership for the project was the relationship built with Crosslink Methodist Church (Rutherford College, N.C.), the home church of GWU student Kailey Robinson. The church funds Haitian-based Real Love Ministries International, which oversees an orphanage in Minoterie, Haiti. In discussions between the GWU team, HQ and Crosslink Methodist Church, it was determined that this orphanage, located about an hour from Port-Au-Prince, would be an ideal location to build the fish farm.

Over Christmas break of 2014 Olive traveled to Minoterie, Haiti, to confirm the aptitude of the location site and to take soil samples. He met with the group who runs the orphanage as well as the children who live there. Olive also met with a potential fish farm manager and evaluated how to acquire the appropriate resources for their return trip, for which the team would require sufficient training.

In anticipation of preparing teams to undertake these projects, GWU students visited a HQ training facility in Orangeburg, S.C., during the spring of 2015. They learned, among many things, that building relationships during the next trip to Haiti would be incredibly important in their success.

Less than a month later in May, Olive returned to the build location with students Nikole Roland, Collin James and Brooke Rampy. During this week, their team encountered several unexpected hurdles, which prevented them from being able to finish several of the tasks they intended to complete during this trip.

Although this series of events was discouraging, it did not diminish the significance of their time spent there. “We had an amazing week,” Roland recalled. “Instead of the physical labor that one expects from a normal mission trip, we watched, listened, observed and engaged in conversation with those serving at the orphanage as well as members of the local community.”

Through those conversations, the team gained a greater understanding of fish farming and a deeper knowledge of the service area. The group also worked hard to develop new relationships every step of the way, just like they had been instructed during their training.

By the time the trip had concluded, new contacts and resources were established and the pond hole was ready to be filled by the follow-up team from Crosslink Methodist and GWU student Robinson, who traveled to Minoterie later that summer. During their time there, the pond was stocked with tilapia and the orphanage was outfitted with the fish feed and other necessary supplies.

This international missions trip was a first for Robinson, who was amazed by the passion and beauty of the Haitian people. Following the experience she overflowed with excitement. “I couldn’t believe we added the fish on our first day there!” Robinson admitted. “The group was able to get to work almost immediately, which allowed us to have the opportunity to spend time with the children and learn more about fish farming from the local community.”

The orphanage workers and fish farm managers have continued the work since the teams’ last visit with much success. In early 2016, the community in Minetorie, Haiti celebrated their first harvest, which provided hundreds of pounds of tilapia to be used not only to feed those at the orphanage, but could also be sold as a source of income. The fish farm will continue to grow with the ability to be harvested every month.

Since the conclusion of GWU’s active assistance on this project, Olive has sought out ways to continue the partnership with HQ as well as provide service opportunities for other students, departments and communities within the University. “I don’t think I can do it alone,” Olive admits. “I need GWU collaborators and students.”

As an incredibly active member in this first project, Roland formed a unique perspective throughout the process. She had never been on a mission trip prior and explained that this trip defied her definition of an ordinary missions trip. “We are creating something that is sustainable,” she reflected. “We aren’t just going to get them in a situation where they can only receive. With this project, we are giving them a way to help themselves.”