An Oliver charity’s struggle to provide 700,000 servings of soup to an orphanage in northern Haiti ended last month after the organization was forced to hand over thousands of dollars to allow the shipment to get through.
Okanagan Gleaners Society treasurer Ed Gowe said the group is now celebrating the arrival of the soup at the orphanage after it sat on a Haitian dock for close to a year.
Everyday the organization processes surplus food donated by local farms and businesses into soup, sending over 7.5 million servings of it throughout the world in 2010 alone.
“Last year, we broke with our tradition,” Gowe explained. “Normally we ship only through registered charities here in Canada. However, because of the earthquake and because the need was so great, we decided to ship a container directly to Haiti to an orphanage over there that desperately needed food.”
But while the children’s dire situation was enough to get the Gleaners to change the manner in which they operate their charity, it was not as effective in getting Haitian port officials to change the manner in which they run their docks.
“It is very different down there,” said Gowe. “Government officials do not get a salary. It is just what they can extract from people is how they get paid.
“We had people negotiating for us. We tried to get our Canadian government to help but they were not successful. So recently a decision was made that we had to pay the amount that they had asked for and that was $8,000 U.S. And so our society paid that.”
According to Gowe, the $8,000 was the last installment in a series of payments of which he can not disclose the amounts. The Gleaners, he said, do not know to whom or where the money went.
He said the society, which runs its large and expansive operation off private monthly donations, had to think about whether it wanted to pay out what amounted to “ransom.”
“In the end, we had to be rational. We dug deep because we had young children at this orphanage that the soup was scheduled to go to that were starving. And that was the criteria for the decision,” he said. “It was hard to understand but we are a Christian organization and we just had to trust that God would look after it. There was much prayer about this and now our prayers have been answered. We are just extremely thankful as a group that the soup reached its destination and the orphanage is finally enjoying the product.”
Because the soup was sent down in 45-gallon drums filled with thermally sealed 12-pound bags, Gowe said it has a shelf-life of over two years and will be edible for a least another year.