Helping Haitians Help Haitians

Board Trip to Haiti      

The Outreach to Haiti Board had its December Board meeting in Haiti, from Nov 30 to Dec. 3.  The Board meets quarterly, and every other year, a Board meeting is in Haiti. This allows the Board to maintain the connection to Haiti, and allows them to maintain a connection with the staff.  All Board members pay their own way to Haiti, and contribute to the cost of their visit, so that donations meant to help Haitians are not used for this trip.

 

Executive Director Dan O'Sullivan went down a couple of days early to have more detailed meetings with staff, but, more excitingly, to meet with contractors and the management company to sign contracts to get the building process going.  He met with UGC, who has done the design work to date, will do the demolition, and likely the construction, FBC, who will assist with the detailed design work, and PROCHE, who will manage the project.  Contracts were signed for detailed design, demolition, and project management.  The construction contract will be awarded after the detailed design.

The contracts were signed Tuesday morning, and the pictures below show what the remaining building looked like Wednesday afternoon, and then Friday morning. The portion of the building that was left was used for office space, but recent studies showed it was not safe for ongoing use, and needed to be demolished, or have significant money put into it.  Demolition and rebuilding was an easy choice when all the factors were considered.

         

 building just before demolition                      Two days later

 

 It was an incredible feeling to see the process finally starting that will give us a strong foundation for our ministry in Haiti for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday were staff meetings and Board members arriving.

Thursday morning started with mass at 7:00 AM at the mission house, followed by breakfast and then a trip to Saintaard.  St. Anne at Saintaard, is a parish that is twinned with St Josephine Bakhita parish in Rocky Hill, through Outreach. The parish pays for teachers salaries for the school in Saintaard. School was in full session, and it was great to see all the activity, but our primary reason for going there was to see the new fishing boats.

 

Saintaard

      

Ste Anne - Saintaard at recess                Welcome to Fr Frank and Board

 

Saintaard is on the sea, and the primary occupation is fishing.  When Hurricane Matthew devastated so much of Haiti in 2016, the village had no warning or the approaching hurricane, and the fishing fleet, at least 60 vessels, was left at normal anchor.  The huge storm surge almost completely destroyed the fleet.  Hurricane relief donations to Outreach, along with donations collected by St Elizabeth Seton in Rocky Hill, formed the basis of a replacement program.  The pastor of Ste Anne's met with the two local fishermen associations, and worked out a plan to replace boats.  The men who got the initial boats pay into a fund to help more boats be built to go to other fishermen.  That process is underway, and we got to see some of the new boats, and one of the old boats come in with a catch.

   

   

          

          

          

The Board had a wonderful lunch with Fr Johnson and a couple of his assistants in the parish.

Earthquake Memorial

      

 

      

 literally - "Nothing will erase you from our memories"

On the way back to the mission house, we stopped by the Earthquake memorial that has only been in place for a couple of years. During the earthquake clean-up, bodies were loaded onto dump trucks, driven to a huge hole outside Port-au-Prince, and buried.  The memorial is on top of that mass grave.  Thinking of the massive loss of life (~300,000) and the devastation to property that is still being recovered from was certainly a very sobering moment, but also motivational.

 

That afternoon, we met with senior staff and talked about their hopes for what we might be able to do in the future in the areas of education, clinic, nutrition, and twinning.  It was great input to have before the Board met Friday morning to discuss those same things. 

Thursday wrapped up with the Board taking the senior staff out to dinner, with the dinner generously paid for by one of the Board members.

 

Friday morning started with many of the Board members accompanying Fr Frank to the Missionaries of Charity for a 7:00 am mass, which he celebrated, followed by breakfast at the mission house.  Breakfast was followed by a spiritually based look into values, and ideas for the future.  It was led by Fr. Chris Pappas, and was very uplifting, while still being revealing in terms of what direction the Board felt we should be going in moving forward.  

 

 

The Board then visited two schools that sponsored students attend.  The first was Nouveau College Concordia (3 students) , and the second was Institution Mixte Foyer Chrétien (IMFC) (15 students).  Both were K through secondary schools. and have excellent reputations.  Our part-time education liaison, Jimmy Kervins, came through our program, attended IMFC, and said in his class, there were 9 students his last year of secondary school (called Philo year).  All 9 passed the test at the end of the year for completion of secondary schooling - a very big accomplishment, and, even more significant, 7 of the 9 qualified to go to the State University, which is tuition free, and is extremely competitive to get into.

      

 

  

 

     

 

Friday afternoon was a meeting with staff, then a meeting of the Board with the construction oversight firm and the contractors, followed by a buffet lunch with all!  Given the late lunch with staff, Friday evening was snacks with a reflection session, again, very spiritually uplifting and renewing, led by Sr Ellen Flynn.

 

Saturday morning again started with mass at the mission house, followed by our normal quarterly Board meeting, and then meeting with University students in the program , and other groups of students. Some of the Board left Saturday afternoon, and the rest left Sunday after mass at Citi Militaire, a parish twinned with St Mark's in Westbrook.  It is the typical place groups go to attend mass when they are there on Sunday morning, and it is always energizing to see the packed church full of very involved parishioners of all ages.

          

View of Choir across congregation                      Overflow crowd outside

 

                               

 

 

 

While the time in Haiti was important to maintain relationships with staff, see our programs first-hand, and stay connected with Haiti generally, it was equally important to reground us spiritually and emotionally for our mission to serve the people of Haiti in the spirit and values of the Gospel.

 

 

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