Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean wraps up Haiti trip with visit to devastated farms

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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ENNERY, Haiti Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean broke into tears several times on the final day of a visit to Haiti as she witnessed scenes of devastation Sunday in her native country.

The last day of Jeans four-day trip to Haiti brought her to parts of the country that were hardest-hit by a series of hurricanes from which residents are barely beginning to recover.

She buried her face in her hands after she left a meeting with farmers who described how deadly floods forced them to sleep for weeks on the tin rooftops of their neighbours homes.

Four successive hurricanes last year drowned out crops, killed livestock and left villagers fearing they would starve.

The floods that killed hundreds of people only fuelled Haitis food crisis and already drastic levels of malnutrition.

Its a people with a lot of courage, the governor general said, as she walked through a farm.

The resilience of the people is amazing. What they have been through is a real catastrophe but, with their work, we can see that things are growing back.

The governor general spoke to farmers who received crop seeds from the Canadian government, along with two cows each to replace those killed in the storms.

A $450,000 Canadian-funded program will provide cattle to 300 families and crop seeds to almost 2,000 more.

A husband and wife stood in the midst of the bright-green banana and bean crops that were growing on land that just a few months ago resembled a lake.

Just a stones throw away from those fields, a collapsed bridge bore testament to the power of those storms.

We lost everything, said farmer Rosaline Raphael, whose cows, goat, chickens and crops were wiped away in the storms.

My children would have starved to death. This (donation) gives us some hope for them. We can live.

As with rest of her four-day trip, Jeans stops Sunday were designed to highlight slivers of hope in a place so often sapped of it.

She saw police officers discussing their new ethics department this in a country where government police had beaten her father and used their stations as their own personal torture chambers.

She walked through a slum that she was told she could not visit during her last trip, just two years ago. Crime rates have plummeted in that Port-au-Prince neighbourhood, which was so violent that until recently not even police dared enter.

Jean saw agriculture programs aimed at making the country more self-reliant, and on Sunday she saw efforts to rebuild the flood-damaged farming communities.

One common objective to all of those stops was to examine how Canadian aid money is being used to help the poorest country in the Americas, which borders the Dominican Republic and lies just south of Florida.

Canada has promised Haiti $555 million over five years, but the magnitude of the challenge was laid bare at every stop on her tour.

The visit to a Port-au-Prince slum on Saturday still required a large security detail and a team of UN peacekeepers to ensure the safety of the Canadian delegation.

And, on Sunday, Jean cried after staring out a helicopter window to survey the monumental wreckage from the storms.

Boats can still be seen floating just below the oceans surface. The landscape is dotted with lakes that didnt exist a year ago.

There are roads cut apart by flood waters.

The city of Gonaive remains caked with mud. That layer of encrusted dirt over the coastal community is a monument to the mudslides that followed last years storms.

Jean told a news conference that its easy to become overwhelmed by grief and discouragement over Haitis prospects.

She added, however, that several bright spots like the countrys improved security, are proof that progress can be achieved.

Even the sense of frustration over a lack of progress, felt by Haitians and donor-weary nations, can be a positive step, she said, because it means people are demanding better for this country.

Jean returned Sunday afternoon to Port-au-Prince, where she visited an orphanage and left for the airport.

But before heading back, she stopped at a monument to Toussaint Louverture, the leader of the slave rebellion that made Haiti the worlds first black republic.

Jean laid a wreath and told a group of school children in her native Creole that only education would make them free.

The children sang a song for the visiting delegation.

The lyrics went: Welcome. Come here to share in our joy.

Organizations: Dominican Republic, UN

Geographic location: Haiti, ENNERY, Port-au-Prince Americas Florida Canada Gonaive Creole

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