Lifitha invited us for lunch.
Stan and I walked down the pathway after the previous nights rain. Mud sucked at our feet along the road, so our hosts lead us the long way around – through the planted field – in the hope of keeping our feet dry. After a few minutes we stopped at her home with the cook shack in the front.
Lifitha set us up in white plastic chairs under the short eaves of the home to keep the sun off of our head. Once we were settled, she stooped under a tarp to quickly built a cookfire.
Meal preparation, cutting, cleaning and cooking all took place in the open air as we watched. She occasionally asked us to help out with small tasks – sorting beans, or chopping vegetables – but her discerning eye realized that we felt unfamiliar with the ingredients.
She kept a steady rhythm as she prepared dish after dish. A beautiful meal of rice and beans, fried chicken, plantain, salad and okra. We sat enthralled as she performed masterful culinary feats in her simple kitchen. A couple charcoal fires were kept burning. The unfinished top of a short block wall was her countertop. An open plastic bag became a steamer cover for rice. Her large chef’s knife paring then chopping as the situation demanded.
Tidy and efficient in her movements, the meal took time – as all good meals do.
This is her story.
Lifitha Jean-Amond and her husband Jean Pierre live in a one room house in the village of Grande Goave, Haiti. Their six children range in age from 20 years old to 7 years old. All of them are attending school.
After the 2010 earthquake they lived in a tent as their home and yard were almost completely destroyed. It took them many years to rebuild both their home and garden.
We met them one year after they moved back inside their house.
A hardworking couple
Jean Pierre works six days a week as a fisherman. He leaves early each morning in a boat rowed by two other men, sets gill nets and spear fishes. He showed us a box of single hooks, about the same size we use to catch salmon, but his catch seems to smaller. He arrives home most nights, just before dark, with a fish or two for the family to cook and eat
Any leftover fish is salted to preserve it for those days that Jean Pierre does not make a catch. Anyone who fishes knows the fickle profitability of the sea. In the moments he is not on the boat, Jean Pierre also works as a part time farmer who grows corn, beans, potatoes and bread fruit. Lifitha sells cooked food and fish in the local market as well.
They buy rice when they can afford it. Haiti used to produce a lot of rice until well-meaning aid dumped a glut of over-production of rice into their market. Local rice farmers couldn’t compete with free rice from outsiders. Local farmers stopped growing rice.
After a few years, the free rice also stopped.
They did all their cooking on an open fire until they worked with New Hope Schools to install a smokeless stove in their home.
They were very excited to be able to use it as they were aware of how much the smoke from their open fire was affecting their health and their children – who often help with the cooking.
As we finished the installation, Jean Pierre excitedly cut off the small tarp covering their stove. He planned to raise the structure, to improve the life of his family a little more.
Separated by language we smiled often at one another, expressing our gratitude for the meal. Thankful for the moments we shared together.
Together we dream of a better world for their family.
We dream of how these children will grow up.
reflecting on a trip in November 2017
Perhaps you want to help Lifitha and Jean Pierre to write the next chapter in this story …
Are you ready to help us provide more stoves for Lifitha’s neighbours? It doesn’t take much, consider setting up a $5 per month donation to help us build stoves in Haiti. you get a tax receipt and you change lives.
Will you join Lifitha and Jean as they continue to create beautiful meals for their family?