You visit orphanages, clinics, housing projects, schools and soup kitchens. It’s good to see some people getting help because you’ll also see a sampling of the hundreds of thousands who receive no help. You see adults working like oxen, pulling large carts loaded with heavy material, and you’re told they probably earn just a few dollars, enough to provide a little food for their families for one more day. In the slum of Cite Soleil you see thousands of little shacks pieced together from boards and tin scavenged from the dump.
Cite Soleil from the air.
Eventually you realize the lack of any infrastructure – almost no electricity or telephones, the few roads are so washed out as to be virtually impassable, no viable economy, no workable political structure to even provide hope of improvement.—makes it clear that “fixing” Haiti is overwhelming.
The question becomes, “what can I do?” You leave this beautiful, (while at the same time, ugly) country knowing one thing for sure. You CANNOT do nothing!
In 1999 six parishioners and the pastor of St. Philip the Apostle Parish participated in a Food For the Poor Pilgrimage to Haiti. They spent four days sampling the sights and sounds and smells of Haiti. They went to the same places, saw the same things and shared the same thoughts depicted in the prior paragraphs.
They asked themselves “What can we do?” Food For the Poor told them of a small village with about 4,000 people that was desperate for some medical help. They qualified for a government program to provide weekly visits from a doctor and a nurse. But there was no place to work; the doctor would meet with patients under a tree.
When sharing their experience with their home parish in Lewisville, Texas, they discussed the desire to help these villagers. The people of St. Philip responded generously with funds to build the clinic. The next trip to Haiti included a visit to the village of Boileau. This allowed them to see the clinic
in action, and also to see how much additional help was needed. Quickly the objective grew beyond a clinic and became a goal of helping these folks become self-sufficient.