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Sami watering cedar tree saplings for a reforestation program.

After several years of exploration, discernment and groundwork, Maryknoll Lay Missioners in October 2018 planted its first seeds for a new mission commitment in northern Haiti. Since then, lay missioner Sami Scott, who previously served with Maryknoll Lay Missioners in Cambodia and Venezuela, has been developing her new ministry at the Jean Marie Vincent Agricultural Center in Gros Morne, a project of the Monfortain Priests along with the RJM Sisters (Religious of Jesus and Mary).

Sami Scott (left) and Abby Belt set up a new cover at the tree nursery of the Jean Marie Vincent Agricultural Center in Gros Morne, Haiti, to provide shelter for tree saplings.

Sami is applying her expertise in finance, management and administration to help the center expand into new areas of environmental stewardship and service to the community.

She likes that much of her work in Haiti is hands-on. “I like getting back to more physical labor,” she says, adding that that was something she had missed during her recent ministry in Cambodia. “I actually find the physical labor more prayerful. Working side by side with the people helps me make better and closer connections with them through the labor.”

Among the many projects she helps tackle are a reforestation program, erosion control measures, composting, good animal husbandry, organic pest control, and the planning and management for a new block factory and a new bakery.

Once a week she also makes a two-hour walk each way to help manage the Father Jim Bretl Agricultural Center in Boucan Richard, which is focused on showing that agriculture can be done without cutting down trees and solving agricultural and environmental problems identified by the community.

Sami at the Citadel during a trip with teachers from the Jesus and Mary School.

One of the first large new projects Sami has been working on is a new hen house to help provide the town of Gros Morne with a more stable, economic and safe supply of eggs. Until now, women have had to travel five hours to the Dominican Republic, cross over the border, buy eggs and then pay to get them shipped back.

“Just recently, the country was rocked again by demonstrations for about 10 days to 2 weeks,” Sami says. “The interruption in the supply route underscored the need for local production of eggs. After things quieted down again, the eggs imported from the Dominican Republic were mainly rotten.”

Sami prepared the budget and business plans and secured grant funding for the financing. The hen house is scheduled to start operation with 1,000 hens in the summer of 2019.

While starting her new ministry, Sami also prepared the way for other Maryknoll lay missioners to come to Haiti. In early January 2019, Abby Belt joined Sami to teach, consult and develop sports programs at the Lekòl Jezi Mari (Jesus Mary School), the Catholic grade school in Gros Morne. Other new missioners are expected to arrive in early 2020.

Photos courtesy of Sami Scott and Abby Belt

Meinrad Scherer-Emunds
Meinrad Scherer-Emunds is Maryknoll Lay Missioners' director of communications.