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Helping women develop employment skills

In July 2011, UPLIFT Haiti volunteers led a 4-day seminar in food handling and food preparation for women in a vocational training program in Baradères, Haiti.

The seminar, at the Fr. John Maxwell Vocational School, focused on safe food handling and exposure to a variety of food preparations, table settings, garnishing techniques and cake decorating.

In Baradères, a Catholic community of Haitian sisters, the Little Sisters of St. Theresa, operates the Maxwell Center. 

Twenty-five local women are enrolled in the center's 2-year study program.  As many as a dozen more audited our daily seminar sessions. 

In early November 2011, another UPLIFT Haiti team will visit will visit the Maxwell Center to conduct training in sewing and embroidery and repair a half dozen sewing machines.  Part of the team will travel to a mountain community south of Baradères, to continue work on a project to establish a solar-powered community computer center.   


UPLIFT Haiti can carry out its projects because of our U.S. and Haitian volunteers and because of the continuing generosity of our supporters who donate cash and materials.

You can make tax-deductible donations here. We are grateful for your support.

Our volunteers for the July visit were Judith Nestor, Chris Nestor, Nick Victor, Evelyn Brewer, and our two chefs, Pam Reid and Suzanne James.  In addition, Maico Joseph, a Haitian who lives in Port-au-Prince, volunteered as an interpreter.  

The culinary sessions began Monday morning, July 25.  Most of the first morning was devoted to techniques for safe food handling.

This is especially important because some of the women aspire to careers in the food service industry, which sometimes involves feeding foreign visitors as well as catering businesses or work in households, restaurants, and hotels. Safe food handling is a unique challenge in Haiti, where refrigeration is often unavailable. 

All the women received booklets—in Haitian Creole—explaining safe food handling, with emphasis on sanitation of the kitchen and all utensils used to prepare foods.

The women thoughtfully raised issues of cleanliness and exposure of food to disease-causing microbes, such as whether sand could be used for washing hands if soap is not available. In fact, sand and ashes have been used for centuries as a substitute for or complement to soap.

The second session on Monday morning covered culinary esthetics such as napkin folding and table settings.  We demonstrated five decorative napkin folds that the women practiced using the cloth napkins we provided.  Some students showed creativity in going outside and cutting flowers to put onto the folded napkins!

The rest of the sessions through Thursday afternoon explored experiences in creative cooking, using local produce to provide variations on foods familiar to the women. At times, we translated and wrote on the blackboard some recipes that we brought with us, and the women copied the recipes into their notebooks.

Maico encouraged the women to consider starting their own catering businesses and selling homemade food in their community, instead of  limiting themselves to working in a restaurant,  hotel or private residence. 

During the week’s sessions, the team helped the students practice preparing a wide variety of foods including guacamole, plantain chips, pizza, banana muffins, hummus, cornmeal fritters, plantain tarts, falafel, coconut cookies, chocolate and carrot cakes—even pineapple upside-down cake! 

We also guided the women in practicing preparation of a variety of cakes and decorative techniques.  We showed them how to prepare four types of cake frostings (buttercream, boiled marshmallow, royal frosting and fondant).  They also practiced using cake decorating bags and methods of creating decorative designs for cake toppings. 

The seminar concluded on the afternoon of Thursday, July 28, with a banquet and graduation ceremony. 

Foods the team and students prepared for the banquet included scalloped potatoes, Asian chicken chop suey, and a vegetarian dish of eggplant, black beans and corn. 

Each woman enrolled in the vocational program received a certificate of completion and a gift bag of cutting boards, cloth napkins, paring tools and decorating bag and tips.  We and the participants all felt great joy and satisfaction in how the seminar enriched the Home Economics Program.

While the culinary sessions went forward, three of our volunteers traveled to Kay Mak, a remote mountain community south of Baradères, to lead two days of teaching young adults word processing and spreadsheet software.  To help show the usefulness of spreadsheets, for example, the volunteers showed how to easily record, calculate and compare farmers’ production of various fruits and vegetables.

This work was part of our collaboration with a Kay Mak community group to establish a solar-powered computer center.  It will provide community access to the Internet, computer based training opportunities, and business services – a sort of rural mountaintop Kinko’s.  

UPLIFT Haiti team with Sisters of St. Theresa, from left to right: Sr. Derogene, Sr. Doc, Pam Reid, Nick Victor, Judith Nestor, Sr. St. Hilaire, Maico Joseph, Chris Nestor, Evelyn Brewer, Sr. Miguelina, Suzanne James.
Team photo


Suzanne James demonstrates use of an electric mixer to prepare batter for pineapple upside-down cake.  UPLIFT Haiti had provided the Maxwell Center with the mixer and its portable solar-power unit, along with a propane stove/oven the center uses for baking and cooking. 
Suzanne using mixer


Pam Reid (right) mixes ingredients for hummus while Maxwell Center students grate carrots, other vegetables, and nutmeg.
Preparing food


Clockwise from top left: Chocolate cake, on which a paper stencil cutout was used to frame the confectioners sugar; some of the garnishing techniques practiced during the seminar; wedding cake, with layer leveling, rods for support in the multi-layer cake, and parchment paper used to smooth the royal frosting; and another chocolate cake, glazed on top and finished with decorative piping and writing.  



Sister Miguelina and Maxwell Center students making a local favorite: yucca fritters.
Making yucca fritter



Students slicing plaintains for making fried plaintains - to be served with guacamole dip in foreground.
Slicing plantains



A student receives her certificate of completion from Maico Joseph (left) and Suzanne James (right).

Unite People to Learn, Inspire and Form Together."

© UPLIFT Haiti