Bill Schneider, retired Bert Fish Hospital administrator and member of the club recruited one of Time magazine’s 2010 100 Most Influential People – Dr. Valentin Abe for a Rotary club project which right now feeds half a million people in Haiti.
In 1997, under Bill’s leadership, the Rotary Club of New Smyrna Beach received a $300,000 grant through Rotary International to bring a ray of hope to the people of Haiti by creating a fish farm operation. The project’s committee sought the help of Auburn University’s aquaculture department. This led to the appointment of Dr. Valentin Abe as project director for a six month stint to set up the fish farm near the city of Croix des Bouquets near the capital Port-au-Prince. “This project was to last at most three years” said Bill, “our purpose was to feed the hungry while creating jobs in a impoverished area outside of the capital. Luck would have it the man who led the way turned it into one of the most significant economic development projects in Haiti.” Bill was referring to Dr. Valentin Abe.
His six-month assignment turned into his life’s work. “One reason why so many projects fail here is that most people are unwilling to sacrifice for long-term goals. I felt this project was my purpose” said Dr. Abe. This year, his fish farming will employ over 200 families and grow an astonishing 2 million pounds of Tilapia for national consumption. Former president Bill Clinton, a special United Nations envoy to Haiti heard about the project and toured the facilities. He was taken aback with the scope and magnitude of the fish farming operation and nominated Dr. Valentin Abe to Time’s “One Hundred Most Influential People” in 2010.
In the last 13 years, the New Smyrna Beach community has shown its support for the project with a variety of assistance coordinated through the Rotary Club of New Smyrna Beach.