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South Florida organization brings modern fishing technology to primitive Haitian villages

COCONUT CREEK – Destitute fishermen in Haiti who once struggled to feed their children can now catch 300 to 400 pounds of fish per day, thanks to a recent gift of state-of-the-art fishing equipment from Food For The Poor.

“They only want a better life for their children. These fishermen used to row leaky boats a few hundred feet from shore and catch fish you could fit into a small aquarium. Now they’re hauling in hundreds of pounds of queen snapper that can feed a small village,” said Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor Inc., Florida’s largest charitable organization.

The south Florida charity installed three model fishing villages in impoverished communities on Haiti’s north coast in May. Poor fishermen were outfitted with everything needed to catch deep-sea fish such as queen snapper, kingfish and yellow-eye snapper. Each fishing village received four 24-foot fiberglass boats with outboard engines, 100-quart coolers, safety equipment, a locked shed for equipment storage, global positioning system (GPS) fish finders and kerosene freezers to store catches and sell them to local markets. The villages were funded by generous donations from churches and donors in the United States.

Food For The Poor also mapped the coastline of Haiti to find the best fishing areas and trained the fishermen on how to use the GPS systems and market their catches. Each boat is commanded by one captain and up to five men or women. Like crop rotation taught to farmers, the fishermen were trained to prevent over-fishing and depletion of fish stock.

Mahfood explained that the fishermen are required to contribute a minimum of five percent of their catches to feed the community’s poorest residents and are also responsible for training the younger men and women so they can pass along the new fishing skills on to the next generation. Food For The Poor’s staff in Haiti monitors all of the fishing villages.

The poorest country in the Western hemisphere, Haiti loses one out of three children to the deadly effects of malnutrition, according to the United Nations.

Haitian Fishermen dressed in their Sunday best spread their arms in appreciation to Food For The Poor’s donors. These fishermen from Petite-Anse feel blessed by the opportunity and duty to provide for their community.

Food For The Poor started humanitarian aid in Haiti in 1985. The third largest relief and international development organization in the nation, Food For The Poor works in 16 countries across the Caribbean and Latin America. Since 1982, they have provided clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and emergency relief to the poorest of the poor across these countries. More than 96% of all donations to the organization go directly to programs that help the poor.

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