Ice cream adds sweet taste for peasant farmers in Haiti
By Verna Gates
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - Entrepreneurs from one of the grittiest cities in the United States have joined forces with peasant farmers in Haiti to help transform the country's bitter poverty into delicious and life-sustaining ice cream.
A white former human sexuality professor from Alabama and a black Baltimore gourmet ice cream maker are being recognized for their efforts to help Haitian farmers find a market for their high-value vanilla beans and cacao in a product they like to call "ice cream with a purpose."
The unusual pair teamed up two years ago to market Haitian vanilla-flavored ice cream to upscale Baltimore area restaurants.
The Vanilla Project, which provides income for some 650 farmers in rural Haiti, on February 1 earned its creators the Citizen Diplomat Award from Global Ties U.S., a non-profit partner of the U.S. State Department.
The vanilla venture owes its origins to a chance encounter 14 years ago when Alabama mother and daughter Anne and Stephanie Reynolds befriended a Haitian street artist.
They decided on a lark to join the artist, Gracia Thelisma, on a bus trip to the north of Haiti to visit the mother he had not seen in years.
The mother-daughter duo was struck by Haiti's beauty and its people - as well as its poverty.
After they returned to Alabama they collected clothes to send to Haiti and raised money to start a school in Thelisma's home town of Plaisance. Continued...