PUGWASH, NS – When every penny counts, a rise in fuel prices can create chaos.
That’s what recently happened in Haiti.
“Fuel prices were supposed to go up to $5 a gallon. When you make $2 a day that’s significant,” said Joanne Cottrill.
Cottrill, a cook at Pugwash District High School, raises $1,800 a month for a lunch program for 180 students who attend an elementary school in Cazale, Haiti called ‘Repairer of the Breaches.’
“If gas prices go up, then food prices go up and there will be more malnutrition,” said Cottrill.
The International Monetary Fund recently removed fuel subsidies in Haiti, sending prices of gasoline up 38 per cent, diesel up 47 per cent, and kerosene up 51 per cent.
The price increases led to riots in the streets, forcing the prime minister of Haiti to withdraw the price hikes. Also, once calm was restored, he was forced to resign.
Cottrill’s daughter, Jenna Cottrill, works in Haiti at a malnutrition clinic in a suburb of Port-au-Prince called Middle Ground.
“The riots affect them because there was a lot of damage at grocery stores and markets with looting and fires,” said Cottrill.
Her daughter was forced to seek refuge during the riots.
“She went to a restaurant on the Friday night and couldn’t get back home because the streets were blocked. She stayed at the restaurant owners for the night and went home in the morning,” said Cottrill. “The prime minister lives just down the hill from where she lives, so I think that’s why they were protesting there. It’s usually a calm place.”
The riots had little impact in Cazale and the Repairer of the Breaches.
“It’s very rural where the school is, so there hasn’t been any protesting there,” said Cottrill. “There was protesting in the nearest village, and there was no market there because of the rioting.”
Until recently, the cooks at Repairer of the Breaches cooked meals over an open fire.
That changed when, early this spring, Hunter Interior's in Amherst donated a propane stove to the school.
“Schools not in right now but they just love the new stove,” said Cottrill.
If fuel price increases are implemented it could have an impact on the price of propane, but Cottrill hopes prices remain the same and the country remains calm.
Besides raising money for a daily meal, Cottrill also raises money for a daily vitamin supplement called Vita Mamba.
With school out for the summer kids aren’t provided a daily meal but they are provided a daily supplement of Vita Mamba.
“They have a reading club at the school on Monday, so the kids come for the reading club and get seven packages of Vita Mamba for the week,” said Cottrill. “It provides their vitamins and minerals for the week, and a little bit of protein.”
Cottrill first traveled to Haiti in 2010 following the earthquake that left much of the country in ruins.
Upon her return home she raised money to provide kids with the Vita Mamba supplement.
She has visited Haiti every year since 2011, and it was during one of those early visits she decided the kids needed more nutrition, and started a program where the kids got beans and rice every day.
In September of 2016, a trusted friend started Repairer of the Breaches and now all funds raised go there.
The school provides three years of kindergarten, and goes up to Grade 5.
Last year’s enrollment was 180 and could go up to 200 this year.
Cottrill has held fundraiser dinners and often sells baked goods to raise money, but her biggest source of funds comes through bottle donations.
Most her bottles are collected in the Pugwash area, where she has an account at the recycling depot, but she also has accounts set up at recycling depots in Oxford, Tatamagouche and Truro.
Money raised pays for the food, the cooks, the propane, and utensils for the cooks and the kids.
People can also donate online at msccanada.org.
Once at the site, go to projects. Under ‘projects’ is ‘description.’ The fourth project on the description list is Repairer of the Breaches (Haiti). From there they can follow the links to make a donation.
Donations can be made online by cheque or a monthly donation. They send a form to fill out for monthly withdrawals.