At Our Core, Community

Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
John F. Kennedy

We looped around the island before dipping in for a landing. Outside my window, the ocean encircled beaches that faded into turquoise water.  Tropical trees covered most of the land except where the mountains rose out of the earth inviting us to visit.  This was my first trip to Haiti.  My anticipation rose as we neared the landing strip and exited the plane. I was excited to visit this country that I knew very little about except for piecemeal Google searches and a novel I bought before I left the States.

I spent the last week of October traveling with my dad to learn about Med and Food for Kids.  MFK (now I know them well enough to call them by their “nickname”) is an organization based out of St. Louis, MO and Cap Haitian, Haiti.  Dr. Pat Wolff founded MFK in 2003 after seeing children there needlessly die of malnutrition throughout the 1990s. The organization’s mission is “saving the lives of Haiti’s malnourished children and other nutritionally vulnerable people.” By using Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) pioneered by Mark Manary in Malawi, MFK is largely responsible for cutting the malnutrition rate in Haiti by 50 percent.  You might want to read that last sentence again. It’s impressive.

As I reflect on my trip, a slideshow loops in my mind and it is beautiful.  In the poorest nation on the planet, there is vibrant life. As I absorb my experience, I recount the stories on each slide to start to make sense of a life very different than my own.

Among them, I am grateful for:

    • The staff at Med and Food for Kids who risked bringing me, a foreigner, to an unpredictable country and interrupted their work to help me see Haiti through their eyes;
    • The nearly 30 mothers from a small mountain village who brought their children (beneficiaries of  theMedical Mamba RUTF )to meet us, even though their malnutrition clinic was held two days before.  This means that they took time out of their days to trek to the village center to show their gratitude. In turn, I am grateful for their patience with my minimal Creole, for their smiles, and for their sweet babies;
    • The transformational programming at MFK does not hinge on ego but on partnership.  It became clear over the course of our visit that malnutrition is caused by deeper economical and historical issues. Therefore, children’s medical treatments are also supported by 2) Jobs, 3) Training, and 4) Agriculture programs to create systemic change;
    • Patience.  Change is slow.  In Haiti there are twists and hurdles with every move but progress can be made. Patience and persistence reign supreme;
    • And finally for my dad who took a week off work to bounce in the back of a Toyota truck up untended mountain roads to parts of the world that are unfamiliar and untouched.

This week, Cultivation Center launched our core values.  As an emerging company our values will drive how we build our culture, our relationships with clients and, who we hire, among many other things. So developing our core values took nearly a year to finalize. But through the process one thing became clear – we dig deep.  As a team we challenge one another to meet goals not only through hard work or adoption of “best practice” but also by stepping out of our comfort zone to uncover the greatest potential of our fledgling company. We hope this inspires our clients to do the same.

My trip to Haiti was not for leisure or for work, but simply to learn and observe– to dig deep into the unfamiliar. In many ways, Haiti was a trip that helped get me back to my roots of community work where people help each other first and foremost. The country reminded me to be true to who I am.  To always be compelled by the work of building community: To connect with people, soil, and challenges that are so different from my own– to open my eyes wider.

What recent experiences have inspired you to dig deeper?