Who We Are and How We Came to Be

Bob and Denise Snyder are members of the St Francis Cabrini Parish in Lebanon, TN. They are celebrating their 27th-year commitment as lay members of the Salvatorian family.

The seeds for The Haiti Project were planted in the mid-1990s when Denise, with Bob’s help, led a youth group on an annual World Vision 30-hour famine over several years. The intention is to help the youth experience sacrifice and to empathize with the poor of the third world.

When Bob and Denise’s children were graduating from high school, they became aware of their own church's twin parish in Haiti and asked their priest, Fr. Jim Bretl SDS about it. His response was “I don’t know, let’s go find out.” Denise responded, “I don’t know where Haiti is.” And Fr. Jim told her, “You better look at a map.”

Bob and Denise made their first trip to Haiti in the fall of 2000. They discovered that when you see some things, you cannot unsee them.

When they returned to the States, they started raising money for children to go to school. Next, they started collecting money during Lent to buy food to feed the children lunch.

With the help of the Salvatorian Family and so many other generous partners, the Snyders soon found themselves in the middle of most aspects of the community—from medical missions to water projects to helping build church and school buildings, clinics, houses, and an agriculture center.

Now 23 years later, they would like to share some things they have learned.

What We Have Learned

We have learned that poverty is defined by both a lack of resources and a lack of choices. The poorest of the poor have few options with few resources. They are faced with options like, “Do I spend the only five gourdes I have on clean water and go hungry, or do I buy a piece of bread, and drink from the polluted river?”

With little if any education, how does someone know how to make a good choice, such as, “When I sell my vegetables in the market, do I buy more food, or do I buy my child a “treat” such as a Tampico?” (Tampico is a sugary fruit-flavored drink with little or no nutritional value).

Sustainable change does not begin with asking people, “What do you need?” Instead, we must ask, “What problems do you want to solve?”

We have found that people need to value what they have. Even if it is little.

  • If you do not value what little you have, it will be taken away from you.
  • If you do not value your water, it will become polluted.
  • If you do not value your trees and cut them down, you will lose your soil.
  • You must value your education opportunities to avoid ending up in ignorance, destroying future generations as well.

But, even if you have little, if you use it wisely, it will grow, and you will have more. Small seeds grow into big trees.

Bob and Denise
Bob and Denise
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