Holding Hands With Haiti
St. Stephen Parish entered into a twinning relationship with St. Francois d’Assise in 2004. Looking back at what we have accomplished, we are thankful for the many blessings we have received. We can trust in the Holy Spirit to be even more committed and effective going forward.
The goals at the start of this journey were to build solidarity with our sister parish, create a stewardship model for sharing time, talent and treasure, provide humanitarian relief to the people of Cerca la Source, and cultivate their unique spiritual gifts so that we, too, would grow in the Spirit. In seeking to meet these goals, our initial focus has been on the school at St. Francis, which will continue. Donations pay the costs of its teacher’s salaries and one meal a day for its children, currently numbering 670 in grades 1-12. Because of developments, noted below, that effort is now being challenged.
Holding Hands with Haiti Ministry fosters learning at the school in other ways, such as providing school supplies and money towards the cost of painting the school. On Tuesdays, St. Stephen students wear Holding Hands with Haiti T-shirts to show solidarity. Photographs, posters and bookmarks are exchanged to adorn the walls of the two schools. We recently sent a copier which will increase both the school’s and the parish’s efficiencies.
Our outreach is also to the larger community of Cerca la Source. Holding Hands with Haiti hold drives to collect not only material for the school, but for shoes, dental, personal hygiene products and musical equipment, as well. Thanks to special donations, two generators for electricity have been donated, the last at a cost of $13,000. Donated computer equipment helped establish a learning lab at the church’s community center and in 2006 we provided a satellite internet connection.
Finally, every year members of our community have traveled to Haiti to meet members of St. Francis and to form stronger relationships between the two communities. In 2007, the largest group of 11 travelers, made the difficult journey. This past February, three people made the trip, helping to gather information for three youngsters in need of medical assistance which we are seeking for them in the U.S., as well as gathering information to plan the next five years of our relationship.
The most immediate challenge is to continue to fund our commitment to the school. Because of costs increases, many associated with the devastation caused by the four hurricanes which struck Haiti in 2008, the $2000 a month we send is insufficient to pay salaries and a meal a day per student. The schoolchildren are now being fed three of the five school days each week. We have sufficient funds to raise our monthly contribution by $100 but would like to raise funds even more in order to restore the meal per day for all the schoolchildren.
The current location of the computer lab is not adequate and should be moved to the school to be more effective. We estimate the cost to create the kind of environment which will assist the students to master the computer skills necessary for today’s world to be approximately $10,000.
In the Fall, names and photographs taken in Cerca la Source in February will be exchanged with St. Stephen students who are candidates for confirmation, in the parish’s youth programs and in the 8th grade, to promote pen pal relationships. We are seeking information to evaluate assisting post-graduate studies for selected St. Francis students, and will continue to work on medical cases already initiated or brought to our attention in the future.
As in the next five years, we will conduct drives for needed materials, such as shelving and beginning reading books for the school, and work with OFANV, a woman’s co-operative, to provide jewelry-making tools and assist in marketing its products.
As part of our annual assessments of our relationship, Holding Hands with Haiti ministry will develop a relationship with St. Francis’ parish counsel, so that when a change in pastor occurs, the transition will be as seamless as possible.
To ascertain whether an extension of our mission is feasible, we will seek to learn as much as possible about economic strategies which could lead to greater economic stability for our friends in Haiti. No commitment will be made, particularly financial, without their enthusiastic endorsement and our determination that it is sustainable. Some initial work along this line is available to those who are interested in it.
What you can do
Pray: Prayer is the foundation of all we have done, all we hope to do. Get involved. Come to our meetings, which are announced in the bulletin. Pick an area you are interested in and let us know, or come up with your own idea of what might further the relationship.
Liturgy: Working with the parish liturgy committee on ways to develop solidarity with liturgical celebrations and ways to encourage prayer by all groups in the parish.
Communications: Assisting with regular communication to both communities, St. Francis and St. Stephen, periodic bulletin announcements, arranging speakers, programs.
Finance: Working with St. Stephen’s bookkeeper, arranging wire transfers, preparing financial reports.
Fund raising: Developing ideas, making contacts, matching donors with particular needs, getting the word out about those needs.
Mission: Keeping track of our goals and how our efforts match them, looking into needs and capabilities beyond our current mission to see if there should be further development.
In any of these areas, you do not need to be responsible for all tasks, only those you feel comfortable with and choose to do. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide. Please contact Brittany Bissell (moc.hsirapnehpetsts@llessibb) for more information.
My Dear Friends in Michigan,
In the name of the parish, I want to thank all of you for your effort in reaching out to us. In the parish, we continue to pray and work to keep the parishioners motivated to pursue their faith. Day by day, the members are becoming more involved in the activities of the church (despite the hectic situations we are facing). Lack of economic means keep us from taking care of important necessities. It almost never rains in the community, leaving the people unable to harvest anything from their crops. This situation has created a lot of hunger in the surrounding areas, and it becomes hard for the parents to afford their children’s tuition.
This school year, we have a total of 500 students and 15 teachers at the primary level (preschool through 6th grade) and 170 students and 24 teachers at the secondary level (7th grade through final year). This year started well as we received some help, which allowed us to cover the remuneration of our teachers. Usually, we are able to pay the teachers through the help that we receive from you. The people in the community are poor and cannot afford to pay a reasonable amount that would be able to meet the payment need of our teachers. It is with a lot of struggle they happen to contribute just a little amount of the tuition.
May we continue to pray for one another and grow in brotherly friendship, and may God lavishly bless every single one of you.
Peace and Love!
Fr. Alphonse Tanelus
(At the request of a young Haitian, the Taizé Community is asking people worldwide to remember his country in prayer on the 12th day of every month. The day of prayer, beginning Feb. 12, will commemorate the Jan. 12 earthquake that destroyed the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.)
Prayer for Haiti
God our hope, we entrust to you the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.
Dismayed by the incomprehensible suffering of the innocent,
we ask you to inspire the hearts of those who are trying to provide the aid which is so indispensable.
We know how deep the faith of the Haitian people is.
Help the dying; strengthen the downhearted; console those who are weeping;
send your Spirit of compassion on this people which has been so sorely tried.
NOTE: Emmanuel Miraclude is 48 years old and has lived in Cerca la Source, Haiti longer than any other person in the village. Miraclude’s father died when she was eight. Her mother became handicapped. Miraclude's seven sisters and four brothers cared for her. She currently has four children, three of her own and one adopted child. This interview was conducted by Cathy Forslund, a St. Stephen parishioner, in March 2008 with a follow-up in February 2009. Translation is by Junior St. Vil, Tainos of Translation Services.
Q - Where does your family live?
A - She lives close to St Francis School & Zanmi Lasante, Partners in Health clinic.
Q - What is your work in community?
A - Mericlude teaches at St Francis School part time in preschool & 2 & 3 grade. She also is the leader of “Le Femme” a women’s co-operative. IN addition she helps out with a Literacy program for adults.
About the Village
Q - How old is Cerca La Source?
A - Cerca La Source was named & developed in 1898.
Q - Explain some of its history?
A - The town was first La Source, meaning the spring. In this location there were frequent floods so the people moved to Cerca, meaning circle, near the spring. Hence the town received its name “Cerca La Source.”
Q - What was your childhood like?
A - She was raised in CLS. Her Dad was always sick. She watched her mother struggle to raise the family. Mericlude had a cousin who was a captain in the Haitian army. He supported her in school. Mericlude dropped out of school in 10th grade & left after her cousin was denied as a girlfriend. She remarried after marrying a military man.
Q - What is the role/impact of government in CLS?
A - The national government does not have a strong presence. One national post was present in CLS. The local government just completed a road project that led to some of outlying chapels. International & other organizations (NGO) are more prevalent in the area.
Q - Historically, when did CLS see its most growth? (New construction, prosperity)
A - Three or four years ago when some Canadians worked & improved roads.
Q - How does that time compare with today?
A - Recently groups of organizations joined together to construct solar powered street lights throughout the village. In addition, the Digicell Company placed a cell phone tower in the village so many people have cell phones.
Q - Is it unusual to see visitors (like ourselves) in CLS?
A - Yes, it is not on a regular basis, only on certain occasions.
About St Francis of Assisi Church (our Sister Church in Haiti)
Q - When was the church built?
A - The church was built 60 years ago.
Q - Was the school built at the same time?
A - No, the school was built approximately 20 years ago.
Q - How many small chapels does St Francis support?
A - 6 chapels.
Q - Describe what it’s like at the Fall Feast Day?
A - St Francis feast day is Oct 4th. The Bishop of Hinche comes along with 30 priests. The celebration is bigger than Christmas & Easter almost. $ Goats chickens & pigs are slaughter for the party.
Q - How is Christmas celebrated?
A - This celebration Pere Bertrand slaughters a cow & we celebrate with mass & feast.
Q - Easter?
A - Mass & celebrations occur. Carnival in preparation of Lent (our Mardi Gras) is celebrated with the school & throughout the village. This is the only other time a cow is slaughtered for a feast. There are many parades, costumes & parties for this event that can last up to a week.
Q - Confirmation?
A - Many children from the parish & chapels come to St Francis to be confirmed, approximately 200 children a year. This is a 2-3 day retreat- it is the feast of the spirit.
Q - What events have been at the church?
A - There is a lot of music and singing. Conferences & educational sessions for the chapel take place.
The church roof has leaks & will need to be repaired soon.
Developing Economic Stability
Q - What is…beside your people…your greatest resource?
A - Raising animals, certain crops like mangoes.
Q - What do you think could help CLS the most?
A - Commerce. Both men & women of the village need to help improve the town.
Q - When did the bridge wash out?
A - There was a small, poorly made bridge that got washed out some time ago.
Q - Will the bridge be rebuilt?
A - No plans that she knows of.
Q - Do you remember having a plane land in CLS? (Old maps show an airport)
A - Mostly helicopters landed there established under Duvalier around 20 years ago. Hadn’t been kept up, used as soccer field. Recently the area has been cleared again and it is believed a mining company is going to build an airstrip.
Q - What do you see being done to improve people’s health?
A - Zanmi Lasante has been a big help to achieve this.
Q - What do you hope to experience in your lifetime?
A - Good roads, factories, industry, be able to earn money, improve living conditions. Be united.
Q - How have computers, electricity and cell phones impacted life here?
A - Best thing there especially for the young people
Q - What would you like to see changed?
A - Improve electricity. Recently many people have obtained solar panels to help with energy including Pere Bertrand. People may need to change too and not be set in ways.
Q - What would you like to stay the same?
A - St Francis School to continue to stress education.