We are pleased to share with you an interesting story … UWI graduates, Mike and Mary McLaughlin were born in Jamaica and have founded the Trees That Feed Foundation (TFF). They have donated over 75,000 fruit trees to Jamaica and Haiti. It is well known that if you "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime". This is one of the guiding principles of TFF, a non-profit America-based organisation whose mission is to plant trees to feed people, create jobs and benefit the environment, first established operations in Jamaica before expanding to other developing countries in the Caribbean.
Most recently the foundation held a week-long programme with seven Haitian agronomists visiting Jamaica Hthe island to learn about fruit tree propagation. Armed with that knowledge, the men will return home to further the ongoing reforestation efforts in their country. Mike McLaughin believes that rather than giving charity, the recipients should be creating local industry. They are therefore taught to produce products from the trees like breadfruit flour. He notes that the foundation donates trees and equipment and then also buys back the finished product. It also assists with packaging, labelling and distribution, but only temporarily, until groups become self-sufficient by building their client base and scaling up production.
Mike, who is an actuary, said the idea to volunteer through the use of trees was the brainchild of his wife, Mary, a former petroleum geologist, turned artist. They wanted to give something back, and decided to plant trees, as if you plant fruit trees it's good for people as well, because food means jobs.
Interestingly Mary’s works have been commissioned by the US State Department, the Clintons, the Bush family and the Obamas.
TFF is seven years old and receives funding primarily from donations, which go towards the purchase of trees or equipment for making flour. Financing for the week-long programme with the Haitian farmers came from a grant by the Clinton Family Foundation and the Conservation, Food & Health Foundation in Boston.
The foundation also works closely with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) through which most of their trees in Jamaica are routed. There is also a programme with Rotary Jamaica, where they partner with Rotary Canada and are planting trees in every school in Jamaica which wants trees.
We found this story inspiring and hope that you did too!