Farm Progress

Fill the Ship seeks aid for hungry in Haiti

Hembree Brandon 1, Editorial Director

November 15, 2016

4 Min Read
<p><em><strong>Efforts are under way to secure enough damaged corn, soybeans, and rice to fill a ship to help feed the hungry in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, recently dealt another catastrophic blow by Hurricane Matthew, which wiped out most of the nation&rsquo;s crops and food-producing trees.</strong></em></p>

How’s this recipe sound: First, take a bag of dirt from the mountains that costs $5 for 50 lbs. and is supposed to have mineral/nutrient qualities. Then add some butter (if you have) it, some sugar (if you have it), a bit of salt, and water. Stir, until it forms a soupy gray “batter,” then mold into concave patties and spread in the sun to dry (hoping all the while that a sudden rainstorm doesn’t come along and ruin them).

When dry, collect and feed to your children.

That, however yucky it may sound, is what takes place daily in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere — its poverty and squalor made all the more severe by a devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed 316,000, injured another 300,000, and left 1.5 million homeless or displaced, and the more recent destruction of Hurricane Matthew, just a month ago, that killed hundreds and left more than 1.4 million in desperate need of food.

Hurricane Matthew, just a month ago, that killed hundreds and left more than 1.4 million in desperate need of food.—Getty Images/Spencer Platt

The storm also wiped out must of the nation’s food crops — in some areas, a total loss. Worse are the long-term losses due to destruction of food trees, such as coconuts, mangoes, and bananas, which will take time to be replaced and reach productivity. Boats, needed for fishing, were also destroyed.

“We can’t imagine feeding our kids mud pies,” says Thomas Swarek, Biloxi, Miss., oilman and farmer, who has made Haiti’s plight a personal mission “since God gave it to me” following the earthquake six years ago. “But the mothers do what they can to try and keep their children’s bellies full and ease their crying from hunger.”

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Even before these disasters, an estimated 50,000 Haitian children died of malnutrition each year.

Marilyn Hickey, who operates a Christian aid ministry in Colorado, tells this story:

“God opens the most unusual doors for us. Several months ago [in 1984], a man called our office, stated that he had just bought a ship, and wondered if our ministry had any food that he could deliver to any country in the world for us — free of charge!

“I knew when Tom Swarek walked into my office that God’s hand was on him in a very unusual way. In addition to blessing him financially, God has blessed him spiritually with a vision to feed the world. All he asked in return was, ‘Fill my ship.’”

"Mothers do what they can to try and keep their children’s bellies full and ease their crying from hunger.”—Getty Images/Joe Raedle

When he heard from Hickey of the desperate need in Haiti, Swarek says, a song kept running through his mind: “Come and dine, the Master calleth; come and dine…” The end result: Tom’s ship was filled with 300 tons of bulgur wheat, enough to provide nutritious meals to 8,000 of Haiti’s children for one year.

Now, concerned about the current plight of Haitians post-Hurricane Matthew, many living in remote mountain villages, he’s working on a new aid project: seeking damaged grain to fill a ship for Haiti.

“There is a lot of grain — broken rice kernels, corn that may have some mold, damaged soybeans — that is worth very little to farmers in terms of income, often less than 10 cents on the dollar, but still is nutritious and will be welcomed by those in desperate need of food,” he says.

He’s hoping farmers will help by selling their damaged grain for the project, or using a partial payment/tax credit arrangement.

Although world aid organizations are sending food to Haiti, Swarek says, “It’s not nearly enough. And because the aid food is packaged, there is a lot of looting, so it doesn’t get to the people who desperately need it. Looters don’t bother with loose grain like we’ll be sending. When our ship gets to Haiti, we’ll lease trucks for delivery to the remote villages.”


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“I’m not a preacher,” Swarek says. “I’ve had success in farming and oil, and this is something God has led me to do. If others in the farm community can join in this effort, I know they will be blessed.”

You can watch the Haiti mud pies video and obtain information at or telephone 228/313-8020


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About the Author(s)

Hembree Brandon 1

Editorial Director, Farm Press

Hembree Brandon, editorial director, grew up in Mississippi and worked in public relations and edited weekly newspapers before joining Farm Press in 1973. He has served in various editorial positions with the Farm Press publications, in addition to writing about political, legislative, environmental, and regulatory issues.

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