Three Years After: A Haitian Church for the Future

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It is now three years since the massive January 12 earthquake shook Haiti and ended so many lives. But that day also launched a wave of compassion and generosity for Haiti from Americans. Three years on, Catholics in the US should know what is being done in Haiti in their name.

It is now three years since the massive January 12 earthquake shook Haiti and ended so many lives. But that day also launched a wave of compassion and generosity for Haiti from Americans. Three years on, Catholics in the US should know what is being done in Haiti in their name.

The 2010 quake devastated so many parts of Haitian society. The Catholic Church, which has been a constant in this nation’s troubled history, did not escape. The ruins of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in the heart of Port au Prince remain a monument to Haiti’s loss. We at Catholic Relief Services knew from the start that reviving the charitable services of the church would be fundamental for Haiti’s future.

I share with you information about two exciting partnerships with the Catholic Church in Haiti, work that not only enriches the lives of Haitians but builds a stronger, more effective church in Haiti.

The children of Haiti have long looked to Catholic education for their future, but these schools have few resources. The Haitian church has planned to improve these schools for some time, but it needed to know what was going on in all of the schools: from Port au Prince to humble single-room schools in the country.

This is where CRS, the University of Notre Dame, and a bunch of iPods, came in. We trained 76 data collectors to visit every single Catholic school in Haiti and use the iPod Touches to carry out a complete survey of conditions and needs at all of Haiti’s Catholic schools. The results show just how important Catholic education is for Haiti.

There are more than 600,000 children attending 2,315 Catholic schools in Haiti. That is 20 percent of Haiti’s school-aged children. With the data—which includes teacher numbers, school feeding programs and barriers to attendance—we launched a campaign with the church to improve conditions across the Catholic education system. This includes better teachers through training, forming parent/teacher associations and bringing more financial and material support to schools.

Catholic health is the second area where CRS is working to equip the Haitian church for the future. Saint Francois de Sales hospital in Port-au Prince was severely damaged during the earthquake. Despite this, staff bravely salvaged anything they could and carried out life-saving, emergency surgeries amid the wreckage.

Now the new Saint Francois de Sales is under construction. To be completed in 2014, it will be a state-of-the-art teaching hospital. It will provide the doctors and nurses of Haiti’s future while continuing to serve the poor. The new hospital project is a partnership between the Archdiocese of Port au Prince, the Catholic Health Association of the US, the Sur Futuro Foundation, and CRS.

Working together, Catholics in the US and Haiti are making a real difference to the lives of those in need. We heard the stories of how ordinary Haitians and Americans are achieving extraordinary things at the One Table, Many Partners conference in Washington DC this summer.

This was the first national Catholic Haiti Solidarity conference. Almost 400 people from over 30 U.S. states attended, and every diocese in Haiti was represented. Through this meeting, the parish-to-parish partnerships that link our two countries are now better equipped to succeed.

There is much still to be done. Hurricane Sandy brought terrible damage to agriculture in Haiti and CRS has launched comprehensive disaster response that will provide food assistance, infrastructure rehabilitation, shelter repair and temporary employment for more than 50,000 people in the southern peninsula.

The message three years after that terrible day is that the Haitian Church is emerging with new strength and resources to care for its people.