March 2017 brought together sisters, associates, and Mission Haiti staff for another look at the Federation initiative to sponsor 10 girls from elementary through secondary school and beyond. Mary El-len O’Connell, (Boston), Karen Cavanagh (Jamaica, NY), Jeanette Bussen (Baden), Mary Ellen Gondeck (Kalamazoo), Janet Tinoco (Orlando), Dorothy Russell (Philadelphia), Brooke, Sydney, Bren, Sarah Whitten (Noblesville), Judy Iantosca (LaGrange), Sue Torg-ersen (Minneapolis), Shelley Butler (Minneapolis) and Jean Garry our faithful driver, translator, and companion travelled, lived, and prayed together for a wonderful week described in reflection as rose, thorn, and bud.
The focus of our trip was the girls and the Companions of Jesus, the Haitian Congregation who sponsor Annunciation School where our 10 girls are being educated. The rose is that the girls are do-ing very well and the faculty is stable. Six of the girls are in 5th grade, four are in the 4th grade. A bud is that the enrollment is in-creasing which means a second floor needs to be added to the school. While we were there the students were taking tests for competency to move to the next grade.
We spent an afternoon with the students on the playground dancing, blowing soap bubbles, taking pictures, and just enjoying being together. It was de-lightful to have some of the women from the Village of Jesus which is on the same property as the school join us. It was really good to have the girls inter-act with Sydney, Bren, and Sarah as other young women closer to their age.
We also spent time with the women at the Village for some “spa” time with hand lotion, nail polish, hugs, pictures, and lots of smiles. These are women who have no family to care for them but who have a home at the Village under the care of the sisters and a wonderful staff. Part of one of the dormitories has recently been equipped as a clinic for the health needs of the women… a rose
College Couer de Marie was also a rose on our journey. We followed the students of College Coeur de Marie into the secondary school in Leogane. These students from the grades 6-13 are bright, full of life and eager to learn. They were eager to greet us, often with song. While they spoke with us about what they were learning, algebra, sci-ence and history and more, we wanted to learn of their hopes for the future. Teaching and accounting, the desire of a few, but doctor and nurses won out in many classes. Hearing their dreams for their futures was hope-ful. However, it was painfully clear that while an education will benefit them in many ways, choices and opportunities in Haiti are limited. At present, only 2% of Haitian students go to a university. This leads us to ponder…How can we help the stu-dents coming out of grade 13 who are eager to make a difference in the world?
The University of Notre Dame in Port-au-Prince of-fers another rose and some buds. Sister Alta, Pres-ident of the Companions of Jesus, is the executive secretary for Monsignor Andre, President of the University, a great connection that can help our girls. Another bud is that Janet (Orlando) is a professor at a university there focusing on Leadership Development, another great connection.
We visited L’Ecole Foyer another school where the sisters are present, though not sponsoring it. This was a sadness, a thorn. This school is in a very poor and dangerous part of the city. There are 300 students in 6 classrooms. An-other intention for our prayer lists.
In addition to our focus on education, we also visited two places where members of the travelling team had a connection. They are important as part of the environ-ment that surrounds and impacts the whole of Haiti. We are all one.
At Santa Chiara we experienced the total generosity of Ecarlatte and Gerry Straub who opened their hearts, lives and home to those in need around them, offering hope as they rebuild their lives. The center is “home” to 48 young children whose parents have no other possibility but to take them with them to a very crowded market, lend or rent them out for the day to a family where they work the entire day and get a bowl of rice in return for their work. Seeing the faces of the children from 6 months of age to about 11-12 was a delight. They not only provide food and shelter for the children, but also offer hope in a place “ for kids to be kids.”
St. Damien Pediatric Hospital—The healthcare programs of NPH (Our Little Brothers and Sisters) opened in 1988. The initial goal was to build a permanent home for orphaned and abandoned children. A large number of children were dying from treatable illnesses and showed a desperate need for a hospital that could treat chronic and other debilitating pediatric illnesses. The doctors, nurses, staff are Haitian, a rose. The thorn is the number of deaths every day from cancer, TB, HIV/Aids, infections, cardio vascular disease, kidney infection, malnutrition.
We ended that day with Compline/liturgy in the chapel.