NEWS-_Island_Creek_Haiti-grey“People say one person can’t change the world. I say one person can change the face of a country. But only with a lot of support.”

Bringing the well-known proverb to life, Dr. Valentin Abe is teaching Haitians to grow fish in a sustainable aquaculture program that has created over 200 jobs in the poverty-stricken country.

In his third trip to Duxbury, Dr. Abe focused his presentation on what the Caribbean Harvest Foundation and Island Creek Oysters Foundation (ICOF) have accomplished in the past two years. As part of an annual fundraising trip that included a dinner at the Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston, presentations at Cambridge Rindge and Latin, Fenway High School and Duxbury High School, the presentation at the Duxbury Bay Maritime School acted as a progress report to bring donors and inter- ested community members up to speed on how the program is working.

“The community of Duxbury has been so supportive of our program that I thought it would be nice to show you all what your support has done,” Dr. Abe said. “The relationship between the Island Creek Oysters Foundation and Caribbean Harvest has been wonderful. It’s a marriage made in paradise.”

Dr. Abe credited the success of the Tilapia Fish Farming program in Haiti to the similarity between the mis- sions of the two foundations. The mission statements for both foundations are similar in that they believe aquaculture would play an important role in meeting food production needs in underdeveloped nations.

“We are using sustainable aquaculture and environmentally friendly techniques to feed people and improve their lives,” Dr. Abe said.

Over the past two years, ICOF has raised over $200,000 for the aquaculture program in Haiti. Michelle Conway, executive director at ICOF, said at the end of 2013 that number will rise to $300,000. In those two years, the program has created 210 jobs. With those jobs, each farmer is able to feed their family plus an extra 1,000 people.

“When we look at those 210 farmers that have a sustainable income and food supply now, they are feeding 200,000 people,” Dr. Abe said.

Conway said her favorite part of the partnership between the foundations is the support of school children and the push to help children eat two meals a day at school. Many children in the Tilapia Fish Farming program live in villages where the nearest school is over two miles away. For children in the younger grades, that is too far of a walk, so the program built a small school for kindergarteners through second graders to attend. The funds for the school came from two large community tilapia-growing cages, which reaped nearly $20,000. With the money, the schools are able to provide children with two meals a day.

Once children get to third grade, they are old enough to attend the schools that are miles away, but often do not eat breakfast. Dr. Abe said he wanted to make sure the children in the program were fed at school, but only some of the children at the school were part of the tilapia program.

“You can’t ask a school to feed 32 out of 400 children,” Dr. Abe said. “So we fed the whole school.”

The program has also teamed up with the University of Florida to create medical records for farmers and their families. In the past, there have been no medical records, or even birth certificates, for residents.