If community involvement is a learned action, Rosedanie Cadet is a careful educator.
Helping Hands Noramise, an non-profit based on Orcas dedicated to empowering young people to develop and sustain intentional local industries is partnering with Orcas Island School District’s Farm to Classroom program to reinvigorate the Farm Education and Sustainability for Teens program, also known as F.E.A.S.T.
Nine years ago, Helping Hands was founded by Cadet, a native to Haiti who lives on Orcas. In earlier years, the organization developed Haitian relief operations in aquaculture; clean water; sanitation; waste management; permaculture; and micro-lending, all with a mission to educate and empower. In 2010, Orcas Island’s high school F.E.A.S.T cohorts traveled to Haiti with Helping Hands Noramise. Now, Cadet is focusing efforts on “food matters.” She works as a volunteer in the Orcas public school garden to get to know the students and to observe operations.
In the Farm to Classroom program, elementary K-5 students to spend a minimum of one hour a week in the school garden turning soil, harvesting a variety of seeds, herbs, brassicas, pumpkins, snap peas, strawberries, lettuce and edible flowers. During the winter months, the program moves indoors where students develop culinary skills and learn about nutrition, herbalism, art and now, “video calling with kids from around the world.” F2C also has an opt-in exploratory class for grades six through eight. The class visits farms and takes on projects and experiences that reach far outside the classroom.
Cadet and Colleen Stewart, the Orcas Farm to Classroom gardener and coordinator who works with children grades K through 5, said F.E.A.S.T will now become an engaging middle school program, operating under the revived name “Food Education and Sustainability for Teens.”
“The middle schoolers can really give back to the garden in a more advanced away,” Stewart shared.
Additionally, elementary students will be corresponding with school garden programs in Haiti this year, sharing recipes and traditions via bi-monthly video conferences. Cadet makes it clear she’d like the program to help fifth-graders focus and become mentors as they enter their middle school years, ideally cultivating a place for enthusiasm to grow.
“That’s the class I’d like to be communicating with the students in Haiti — the fifth-grade class,” Cadet said. “These children are going to become adults. They will be our senators, our mayors, our politicians, our policy leaders. If we start educating them early on to see how they are connected with their food source, they will be more likely to be stewards of our environment.”
TeacHaiti, a school with locations in St. Michel and the large city of Port-Au-Prince, operates with the mission to empower Hatian students to emerge from poverty through education. Both TeacHaiti locations are partnering with Helping Hands Noramise to develop student-led garden programs. Cadet sees the garden in Port-Au-Prince serving as a small, educational space, while the larger, acre garden in St. Michel will serve as a foundational building block of the school’s growth. The garden is not only a way to feed people but offers a model for Haitians to grow their own personal gardens and become food literate. Cadet has observed in previous years that work in the garden helps cope with stress.
“Students can share their garden experience and also their school experience. It’s a cultural exchange. Eventually we’d like to have the middle school F.E.A.S.T students travel to Haiti, which is a lot easier than having Hatian students come here due to the bureaucracy of the American government,” Cadet said.
Two years ago, Cadet connected with TeacHaiti’s director Miquette Denie at a Rotary club meeting in Port-Au-Prince. Both are active international Rotary members. Recently, Helping Hands Noramise helped TeacHaiti raise money to acquire goats and chickens.
The Orcas public school’s garden will soon have chickens as well, a parallel path to working together and sharing culture that Stewart postulates was already paved.
Haiti, an island in the Caribbean with a population of over 10 million people, is the first black nation to win its independence. Over 80 percent of Hatian people are unemployed with a gross national income per capita of $650 U.S., or $62,300 Hatian Gourde. Over half of Hatian children do not go to school due to financial hurdles and less than one percent of high school graduates attend post-secondary education.
“A lot of the reasons why people suffer from food scarcity is, by design, due to big agricultural businesses in the United States. The U.S. occupied Haiti for 15 years and during that time there was forced labor. This is one of the reasons why Hatian people don’t want to work the land. Some of them have parents who had to do forced labor. To them, plantation work is slave labor. Presently, due to soil depletion, the land is not producing what it used to because it was monocropped for sugar cane for so long. Our farmers don’t have the education to understand that they have to replenish the land in order to reap what is needed. Part of our program is geared toward educating young people that agriculture is a viable business if it’s done right. How do we help students or future generations provide food security for themselves?” Cadet said.
Cadet is hopeful the program will allow young people in Haiti to see value in community service and view it as an important part of belonging to a community.
Stewart added, “It’s such a need here too for having kids who live on a small island in Washington to see outside their bubble. This is a powerful concept to introduce to kids on Orcas who may feel false food security.”
Cadet is working to submit a grant request to the San Juan Rotary Club for $5,000 to be used for teacher trainings, curriculum development and the purchase of garden tools, seed and materials. On Oct. 23, Helping Hands Noramise, Father Berto and participants from Orcas Farm to Classroom hosted “Food Matters,” an evening of Hatian and local fare, music and conversation surrounding international policy that affects food issues globally. To support F.E.A.S.T or be involved, visit www.noramise.org.