Home » Our People » Missioners » Profile – Jill Foster

Jill Foster


YEAR JOINED MKLM:
2019

COUNTRY: Haiti

CITY: Gros Morne (Gwomòn)

MINISTRIES: 1) Jean Marie Vincent Agronomy Center. 2) Good Samaritan Home. 3) Child Protection.

MINISTRY AREAS: 1) Sustainable Development. 2) Education. 3) Justice and Peace.

GOALS OF MINISTRIES: 1) Reforestation and supporting the agronomists’ work in improving agricultural activities in the area. 2) Brightening the lives of isolated older persons and teaching students about service and allowing them to learn from the wisdom of their elders. 3) Changing attitudes about children and making sure their needs and rights are met and respected.

Ministry Context:

1) Haiti is one of the most deforested countries in the world and many people subsistence-farm so the health of the environment and the success of harvests are very important.

2) Without any sort of social security, many people, when they grow older and are without family, struggle to care for themselves. Also, many students don’t have opportunities to do service for others and it’s important to foster compassion and learn from their elders older traditions that are important to Haitian culture.

3) About 2 out of 15 children in Haiti are restaveks, children who were sold by their parents to work for a host household as domestic servants because the parents lack the resources required to support the child.

 

Current Ministry:

1) At Grepen, I work mainly in the tree nursery, planting seeds, bagging seedlings, selling, making compost, etc. I also keep track of the finances and make three-month reports on the tree nursery activities, trees made and sold, etc. The center runs over 10 programs including a seed bank and goat program that altogether service over 500 families. I help the agronomists organize data and make it easier to analyze impact over time as there is no one in an admin position to tie all the programs together and organize the work of the agronomists. A sub-project I am working on is an experimental garden using deep-bed farming techniques to reduce soil erosion on mountaintops and conserve rainwater in the soil. We are planning on making formations using this farming technique. 

In 2020, a program called Project Lorax called for 40,000 forest-type trees for a community that was struggling in their harvests due to an aphid infestation. The trees planted can be sustainably harvested to make charcoal to sell and the funds used to help send their kids to school. There is also an ongoing tree-planting project in Gros Morne for which we provide trees. Schools, specifically universities, have come to Grepen as well to gain hands-on experience in agronomy. 

2) The main program I do for Maison Bon Samaritain (MBS – Good Samaritan Home) is a program called Forever Friends. It is a collaboration between MBS and the Jesus and Mary School. Once a month, a group of students visit the residents of the old people’s home, with one student paired with one resident who will be their “friend” for that year. They meet at least nine times in the year, with at least one special outing to a nice location to spend the day. Together, they do activities like singing and dancing, telling jokes and making crafts. This year I will be heading up the lead position with lots of support from other members of the planning committee. All the residents and students have expressed how much they like the program. They enjoy the activities together, especially the residents, some of whom never leave the home. It gives them a little more motivation and lightness to their days, something to look forward to. 

3) The Child Protection program is a grassroots program (jump-started by a special team who are experts in this area) that enters into communities and engages the people there in seminars and activities to foster a greater understanding of children. Using special books that are illustrated as comics, a model in the community will animate the books in small groups. The books cover topics on violence against children, ranging from verbal, physical and sexual abuse by sharing real stories of real children. My job is as a liaison between the team who starts it and the community representatives. I make sure the team has a place to stay and get them to all the communities they need to go. With the representatives, I plan when and where we will meet and explain what the expectations are for the community for when the team comes. 

 

Personal Data:

Jill is originally from Loveland, Ohio, and attended the University of Dayton. She graduated in 2018 with a degree in human rights studies along with three minors: computer science, religious studies and sustainability. It was in college that she started to become more active in social justice, forming a Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Student Ambassadors group to encourage others as well during her final two years. In the summer of 2017, Jill joined a small group of students to Malawi, Africa for two months as part of a research practicum for the non-profit Determined to Develop. Falling in love with the people there, she desired to do something more.

Having met Maryknoll Lay Missioners at a post-grad service fair junior year, their work always stayed at the forefront of Jill’s mind. After graduation, Jill served a year with FrancisCorps in Syracuse, New York, working as an assistant in a L’Arche community, where she learned much about accompaniment and community. During that year, Jill applied to Maryknoll Lay Missioners and was placed in Haiti. When sharing the news with her friends and family, they all responded with positivity and excitement. It seems that God was telling her that is where she was meant to be.

Jill was active in her home parish St. Columban, her university campus ministry, as well as in Assumption Parish in Syracuse, New York.