It was exciting to see the tremendous progress, but sobering to see how much more is needed. Our 6-day visit to Haiti was very productive. They are entering a phase of their development where our help can open possibilities they didn’t dare dream about a few years ago.
As you know, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The slums of Port au Prince have several hundred thousand families in the most desperate situations – drinking putrid water and eating dirt in a desperate effort to appease the gnawing ache of chronic hunger. Parents can ignore their own pain, but are driven to desperation at watching their children waste away.
Yet, rural villagers continue to migrate to “the city”, apparently unable to imagine how desperate life becomes in Port au Prince. As the hardship of rural life decimates their families with disease and hunger, they abandon the village life which offers no hope, and move to Port au Prince with blind hope that their willingness to do any kind of work will make it possible to take care of their families. There is no work. They become victims of the slums.
We are trying to slow the migration from the rural villages to the city slums. We have adopted St. Therese in Boileau, Haiti as our sister parish. We are striving to help the villagers of Boileau see progress and hope from working within their village. Our goal is to help the village become self-sustaining, to supplement their work with our help to provide hope for their children. We are helping them with basic, essential medical care, drinkable water, education, food, and support for micro-entrepreneurs to fuel the start of economic development.
A small group of Haitian Pilgrims visited our adopted village, Boileau, Haiti in September, 2006. Below is a brief recap of some observations during our trip.
The Medical Clinic is working very well, almost too well. The reception area and waiting room were full. The line of parents and children seeking medical help extended outside the entrance to the clinic. They need additional equipment and staff to keep up with the patient load. They need a new microscope for diagnostics, a matress (patients under observation presently lay on the metal frame since there is no mattress), a blood pressure cuff, medicine, and other basic materials.
The 15 Wells for clean drinking water are the most important improvement to the health of over 20,000 people in the area. The water quality of the wells is excellent, and the clinic reports that water-related disease and deaths are dramatically reduced. Six new well locations were identified.
The School has grown from 250 students to over 500. Of course, there is always a great need for supplies such as paper, pencils, books, etc. The headmaster feels more teachers and classrooms are desperately needed. The quality is high; all the 2006 graduates passed the national standards tests. The present school only takes them through 6th grade. They need some vocational and trade training. Parents need to be taught to read and write so they can help their children.
Agriculture program is working, but not involving enough farmers. The drought and hurricanes last year devastated the initial progress. We established new goals and reestablished funding for the agronomist. It was estimated that crops had a three-fold increase due to improvements taught through this program.
Livestock, even with the drought and hurricanes, we still had sheep, goats, pigs and chickens being raised in the community. The program needs to be expanded to include cows, possibly dovetailed with the MicroCredit program.
MicroCredit loans are being paid back with interest and the money is being loaned out again. There are wonderful stories from people who have had their lives and the lives of their families improved from loans of less than $100.00.
Finally, the new priest for the area had a real educational experience from our visit, he is now better prepared to lead Boileau and the surrounding area.