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The Story of Haiti Marycare
Literacy and education are vital for the future of the people of Haiti.
In Jacquesyl, Haiti Marycare provides support for teachers’ salaries and school materials for Our Lady of Mercy School. Without this school, some 240 students would have no chance for primary school education. Classes are held in a building never intended to be a school. It is small and dark, with little ventilation. In 2007, we are hoping to build a new school, along with a children’s library and adult literacy center.
We also support a school in Port au Prince. While in the capitol, we visited one of the worst slums of Haiti, Cite Soleil. As I crossed gullies teaming with garbage, human waste and who knows what else, looking at hundreds and hundreds of dwellings made of cardboard, tin, or whatever people could find to make a shelter, I was faced with mothers and their children seeking help for a rash, a burn, hunger, and disease and they were no longer statistics, but human beings born into unimaginable poverty. They were mothers desperate to help their children, living in conditions no human being should have to live in. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by what I saw as much as a terrible sadness. They didn’t need expensive drugs or medical equipment, the conditions that made these children sick could be cured with food, soap, clean water, antibiotics, a floor, and cinder-block walls.
Abner Romelus in Cite Soliel (left); the old school in Cite Soleil
The person accompanying us through Cite Soleil is named Abner Romelus. He was an orphan raised by the Sisters of Charity and has worked for the poor of this slum his entire life. I was thinking of all the medicines available in emergency room where I work in New York City that could decrease some of the misery all around me. But Abner saw something different. He turned to my husband, Tom, and spoke words we will never forget, “And none of these children are in school; no one is getting an education.” From where I was standing, I could see at least 50 kids, and this slum goes on for miles.
New school for 300 children of Cite Soleil and La Plein,
provided by Haiti Marycare and its supporters
Later that night, Tom began questioning Abner about the cost to rent the building he had been using for a school. The rent was $2,000 a year, due in full each September. Abner didn’t have enough money that year, so there was no school. After a moment, Tom asked Abner what he thought it would cost to build a school. Tom started drawing and asking more questions about classroom sizes and soon I realized he was drawing plans to build a school. I was a little surprised. We work mostly in the north of Haiti, and we barely can scrape enough money together for our projects there. With Abner’s knowledge of where to purchase materials, his ability to find good workers willing to work so their children could go to school, and with generous donations, we managed to build and furnish a school for 300-plus children a year later.
Abner and the kids
We pay the teachers when we can, but even when we can’t, they continue to teach. We also try to provide one meal a day for the kids, which is usually the only food they have all day. But even when there is no food, the children still come to school. And even when Abner’s “tap tap” (truck) was stolen at gunpoint by rebels in 2005, he and the children’s parents found a way to get them to school.
Education is extremely important to all Haitians. In fact, the one thing people beg us for (besides our shoes) is money for school.
Next: Optimism & Hope
Why We Work in Haiti
Grassroots Economic Development
Optimism and Hope