Patricia Désir (’08, Haiti)
Since returning to Haiti in 2009, Patricia has been focused on strengthening the capacities of farmers, increasing rural incomes, and promoting equity in Haiti. After a year with the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture, Patricia joined Catholic Relief Services first as a project manager, and later as a program manager. From those roles, Patricia worked to improve incomes for mango, cacao and coffee farmers working on a range of issues such as crop disease management, access to credit, and environmental certification. In 2015, she took a position as the Regional Program Manager for the Canadian cooperation organization, Centre for International Studies and Cooperation UNITERRA, in Haiti’s Les Cayes district. There she oversees capacity building work with local partners, government and farmers cooperatives serving some 2,000 mango, coffee and cacao farmers, as well as 1,000 artisans and textile workers.
Patricia has seen a lot of change in the cooperatives she’s supported. For instance, they are now able to manage budgets, make accurate harvest projections, and have earned the respect of buyers. She is also seeing an increase in the participation and leadership of women within these organizations.
“There is still a lot to do, but you can see that the work we have done is producing results, and this motivates me to continue forging ahead to generate change. One day, in this community you are going to see a total change and people will be able to advance on their own without help from aid organizations,” remarks Patricia.
Patricia supervises an agronomist on her team, and oversees between 30 and 40 Canadian volunteers at any given time. She works with volunteers and community members to define and implement projects to increase incomes, build capacity, and empower women and youth. She also leads a collaborative effort with NGO’s in the region to develop joint actions to address key challenges facing producers.
Patricia notes that in addition to promoting respect for the environment and equity, one of her biggest contributions has been in her ability to unify people.
“At EARTH, it was like a family and I have taken this with me into the teams I have worked with and out into the community and cooperatives,” she says.
Patricia admits that she was deeply influenced by the values inculcated in her during her time at EARTH. To this day, she can still recite EARTH’s seven values without effort.
“EARTH changed me. My values weren’t so clear before EARTH. And it wasn’t just studying the values; it was living them. Now I live them in every day in my work. I carry them with me everywhere,” she adds.
The significance of the opportunity she received to study at EARTH is ever-present for Patricia, and for her family: “Every time my mom sees me, she thanks God. This opportunity changed my life and that of my family, and it gave me a chance to change the lives of thousands of people.”