Louw brings help and hope with KORE Foundation.
About five years ago local resident Katherine Louw found herself at a crossroads. She had always been an active volunteer and, in fact, had previously worked in fundraising for eight years with Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Yet, she still felt as though she was seeking a greater purpose, “All the volunteer work I’d been doing was great but it left me feeling spread thin, not really fulfilled. I was just saying yes anytime I was asked.”
When a new neighbor moved two doors down; Louw couldn’t have imagined how life was about to change. That neighbor was Jennifer Bratton Farber, the daughter of Dr. Dennis Bratton, founder of KORE Foundation. Bratton Faber began asking her to join their cause but Louw says, “At that time Haiti and chicken farming were the farthest things from my mind.”
Chicken farming is exactly how KORE provides sustainable solutions to the extreme poverty in Haiti. KORE was founded in 2010 after Dr. Bratton, a former pastor, reflected on the missions he had supported over the years. He found the same problems continued year after year and set out to do something that targeted the source rather than treating the symptoms. Having worked in Haiti and understanding the challenges, it seemed like an ideal place to start.
KORE helps Haitians become chicken farmers through loans which include a coop, 400 chicks and chicken food. Extension agents also provide training and teach business and stewardship principles. In as little as six weeks the farmers can sell their fully grown chickens in the marketplace, creating an income for themselves.
Louw says, “I was always so intrigued by the sustainable approach; that KORE would not have to rely on outside funding forever. As farmers pay back loans, the money is reinvested to start new farmers.”
To determine who becomes a farmer, KORE identifies the poorest of the poor in the two regions in which they currently work. They partner with groups that know the communities and interview people who’ve been recommended to determine those with strong work ethic and integrity and the best sites for a coop.
“About 50 percent of Haitians live on $1 day or less. It’s not that they don’t want to work. It’s that there is so little economy, so little opportunity and just no resources, they can’t be industrious,” states Louw.
As for Louw herself, after her neighbor “kept knocking on my door” she began to feel this might just be the purpose she sought. “So I went to Haiti and I fell in love with it. Instant compassion for the people there; but also so much hope with what was happening on the ground.”
Now director of development for KORE, Louw shares that they currently have 185 farmers in 11 different villages. Their most successful farmer is Magalie. The mother of five children, she used to come to one of the campuses in which KORE works weekly to beg for food because she had no way to make an income.
KORE made her a chicken farmer three years ago and Louw explains that now, “When you meet her she just beams with pride. She has so much dignity because she is able to pay to send her kids to school and to buy them food.” She goes on to say, “She’s such an entrepreneur. She has even taken some of her income to start a fish business too.”
The numbers also speak volumes. Louw states that 110 million pounds of poultry is imported to Haiti every year, with about 40 million pounds produced domestically. KORE farmers are collectively raising 10 to 15 million pounds of that 40 million making them one of the largest chicken producers in the country. But there is tremendous opportunity for growth.
KORE’s mission also extends beyond their farmers to health and nutritional needs. They buy chicken from their newest farmers to feed over 2,500 school kids and orphans each week, through their 6.25 Project. It’s aptly named because it costs just $6.25 to feed a Haitian child chicken for an entire month.
Louw shares that these kids lack the animal protein they need in their diet to help with cognitive and physical development.
“Most of these kids live on a meal of rice and beans a day.” Louw continues, “Generations of people in Haiti have been malnourished from birth and their brains have not developed properly because of that. We feel if we can nourish these kids, help them develop fully, then they will be more equipped to fend for themselves.”
You might say Louw has started her movement locally. “People want to be involved in something greater than them, something that matters and is changing lives,” says Louw.
She continues, “KORE’s sustainable aspect is attractive because you don’t want to just give clothes or food and have nothing to show for it. There’s a time for that with the hurricane and other relief efforts; it’s much needed. But there is a time when relief has to turn into development and long-term thinking.”
The message is resonating as numerous local groups from church groups and friends to youth groups and students are heading to Haiti to help with construction projects and in the orphanages and schools in which KORE partners.
Money is always needed as well. Whether it’s for the 6.25 Program, to buy supplies or for hurricane relief, KORE believes in purchasing as much as they can in Haiti to support the local economy.
For Louw, one of the greatest successes is showing doubters of KORE’s sustainable approach “that it really can be done, that these people are eager to work and take so much pride in it. It’s amazing.”
Through KORE Louw has clearly found her purpose and it’s one that may very well speak to us all.
Photography by: William Combes
To learn more about KORE and how you can help, KoreFoundation.org.