Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Prayers for Haiti

Please remember in your prayers the people of Haiti, on this first year anniversary of the earthquake. May we continue to find ways to reach out to them as they rebuild their lives.

A very special fundraiser for Haiti is scheduled at HNU on Thursday March3, at 7:30. More details tba.

Today we received a letter from Barbara Wander, who is presently in Haiti. Barbara Wander offered her first-hand account of the earthquake and the work being done in Haiti at HNU last spring:*

Dear Friends,

As we near the first anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, I wanted to connect with you. THIS IS NOT A REQUEST FOR DONATIONS. I really wanted to let you know how much the Little Sisters of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Haiti and I appreciate your support. They pray for every one of you each day. You have helped in so many ways but mainly your encouragement has been most valuable.

The Little Sisters of St. Therese of the Child Jesus is an order of nuns that was founded in Haiti in 1948 by Camelia Lohier and Father Farnes. It was the first indigenous order started in Haiti. Their mission is to spread the word of God; to educate poor children and adults; to teach and use environmentally sound agricultural techniques; to help meet medical needs; and to provide programs for the promotion of women. They have about 200 members and 42 missions scattered throughout all of Haiti. They work with almost 150,000 Haitians each year in their elementary and secondary schools, teacher preparation center, hospitals, clinics, programs for handicapped children, professional centers for young women, orphanages, homes for the elderly, farms, and adult education.

Eighteen of their missions were effected by the January 2010 earthquake. 150 students, 4 Sisters, 4 teachers, and 4 young women as well as other workers lost their lives at their missions. Cholera has now also claimed the lives of more students and their parents.

The Little Sisters have reopened 41 of their 42 missions. Every school is operating with some under trees or tarps, but they are educating children. Every penny given to them is used to continue their work.

You can see by the information above why I have been working with the Little Sisters for over ten years. They are remarkable women of faith and action. After the earthquake they paused, learned about earthquakes and PTSD, reassessed and got right back to work.

I have often been asked what other organizations are doing in Haiti. I can only comment on what I have seen: Catholic Relief Services has helped the Sisters with some temporary housing and food; Food for the Poor has helped transport the materials to construct a new building for the handicapped children; Hilton Fund for Sisters has continued to help and was one of the first to give funds to sustain lives after the quake; the Sisters of Loretto have offered much support and provided a means for people to make tax deductible donations; Doctors Without Borders, Partners in Health and Miami Medical Team have helped with getting medical treatment for some of those injured; Inveneo is trying to help with communications; Kinder Not Hilfe is going to replace the school at Riviere Froide. Most of the help has come from individuals who have given what they can to help.

Some of the rubble has been removed from Port au Prince. Over a million people are still living in tents or shelters made with tarps and yes some of the stories about violence in these are true as well as people being washed out to sea from them after heavy rains.

These are the realities of the situation but we do not use them as excuses for inactivity. I continue to try to convince people that investing in indigenous groups like the Little Sisters who have a proven track record and no ulterior motives must be part of the solution. Some governments or groups who have promised help are not giving it because they are afraid it will be misused or use it to make purchases for their staffs.

This has been a busy year for all of us. I have been invited to share the Little Sisters’ story to many groups and will continue to do this. Over the past ten years my belief that there are many good people in this world has strengthened, but 2010 has magnified this. My respect for the Little Sisters in Haiti and their ability to carry out their mission has also deepened. I am so grateful that I can participate in some small way and act as a conduit for you to Haiti.

With deepest gratitude,

Barbara Wander

*Many the Sisters of St Theresa were educated as school teachers when the SNJM Sisters founded the Teachers School in Papaye in Haiti twenty-six years ago.

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