You might remember hearing a lot about micro-credit when Muhammed Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize for establishing micro-credit programs in Bangladesh. Well, micro-credit also works in Haiti. The Micro Credit Facility is a very flexible form of help which provides loans to local entrepreneurs. Loans are based on the decision of the loan committee of the villagers, and should help the borrower make money while fulfilling an economic need in the local community. Most loans are under $100.
Boileau is one of many, many villages throughout the country sides of Haiti. There are about 1,00 poverty stricken families, most of whom live off the land. There is very little employment available. Boileau is in the deep south, about 17 mile northeast of Les Cayes, the only city of any size south of Port au Prince. Cavalion, the largest village in the area is less than 2miles from Boileau. The names in blue on the map are parishes in that area. Typically, one priest will cover from 5 to 12 parishes.
Satellite photo of the village center of Boileau. The road is a one lane dirt trail which crosses the river (creek) at water level about ¼ mile west of the village center. The red A, B, C markings in this photo show the location of the Clinic, Church and School. (The church building is being built with money from sources other than St. Phillip.) The many houses in the area indicate their locations by the bluish roof tops.
As stated earlier, the people in Boileau are poverty stricken There is no electricity, running water, sewers, public transportation, telephones and on and on. Feet and bicycles are about the only transportation.
They are good people. Church is very important to them. Their attention to every aspect of the 90 minute mass is amazing. (Could this be that there are no cell phones to interrupt them?) The singing is special and sometimes accompanied by dancing in the aisles. In spite of their lack of resources, they find a way to ‘dress up’ for mass. (Don’t tell Fr. John about the 90 minute mass.)
These are the people that St. Phillip parish committed to assist in raising them to self-sufficiency. The focus was on Health, Education, Food and Economic Opportunity, following the classic approach of successful development.
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.