The Year in Review
2020 started on a very promising note for BonZeb. Haiti was reopening after months of political strife and protests. During our January trip we built the foundation for our kiln and prepared to move it from Port au Prince to Bernaco. We had many fruitful meetings with Notre Dame Universities in Hinche, Cap Haitien and Gonaives. We also began building relationships with the Salesian schools in Cap Haitien and Gonaives, as well as with the Novitiate and Boys and Girls Club in Tabarre. We left on a high note having interviewed 9 candidates for our HEAR scholarships at Concordia University in Portland. We also presented a scholarship to one person, who was to start this past fall. It was a wonderful way to start the year, even with a hint that all things were not well in Haiti.
February was a completely different story. Concordia University Portland unexpectedly decided to close its doors after 115 years of operation. After dealing with many disappointed prospective students, we reached out to all the schools who took in the 5,000 students displaced by the closure and inquired about one of them also accepting the 2 HEAR scholarship candidates each year. None was responsive.
At our spring board meeting, we decided to refocus our efforts on scholarships for students in Haiti and we are delighted to say we have four scholarships for the Salesian Trade and Technical schools in Cap Haitien and Gonaives and one scholarship for Notre Dame University Bioscience school in Hinche.
Then Covid-19 hit, and our March trip was canceled as were plans for June, September and even January 2021. Unrest flared once again in Haiti and the country ground to a halt as people sheltered in place to avoid the violence in the streets and the pandemic.
Amid all this we were able to purchase a team of oxen and a plow for our neighbors to use in preparing their fields for planting. Over a dozen farmers took us up on our offer and were able to plant crops more quickly and in deeper furrows, which we hope will provide larger yields in the spring. We increased the number of acres under cultivation on our farm and continued our discussions with Fuller Homes about building an office and guest house. They have selected a location on the factory property, but with the postponement of our January trip we have not been able to finalize the plans.
This past fall we finally had a well digging company visit the site, but we were told that the road was not in good enough repair for their truck to make it to the site. Every year when the rains come the road becomes an off-roaders paradise. This year the record number of tropical storms and hurricanes made them even worse. We hired local help to fill the potholes, divots, ruts, ditches, furrows, and canyons caused by the water runoff.
Even with the road repair there are two curves that are too tight for the well digging truck to maneuver. Thus, no well. So, on to plan B, building a spillway on the stream next to the property and hopefully the neighbors will let us run a 400-meter pipe from the river to the property. We will also have to install tanks to store water for our use and the neighbors’.
As the year came to an end, we were extremely excited to finally be able to return to our project and visit with our friends and colleagues. But alas, our January 1st trip was postponed by the airline and then the country was raised to a level 4 “do not travel” warning by the US State Department.
So, to sum up our year, it was like everyone else’s 2020 filled with hopes, dreams, planning, frustration, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, and more waiting.
We thank those of you who have helped us this year with your generosity, your prayers and your ongoing support for our vision.
May God bless each of you and your families in 2021.
Tom Stein, President of BonZeb, Inc.