by Barbara Wander CoL
Barbara Wander is a Loretto co-member who has been working with the Little Sisters of St. Therese in Haiti for many years. This is an excerpt of a dispatch from her most recent visit.
I arrived in Port au Prince in early May. While driving through the city it was amazing how much has not changed. The tent cities with hundreds of thousands of people living in them are still evident. Each time I have returned, I notice new layers of plastic or anything that can provide shelter has been added on top of the shelters. The rubble is still quite evident as well. I worried when we drove by some “repaired” buildings that do not seem too sound and I don’t even want to think what would happen if there is another earthquake.
PATIENCE, FAITH, PATIENCE, HOPE, PATIENCE, PROGRESS, PATIENCE
The words above kept coming into my mind during this trip. I will now try to tell you about some of the things I experienced during my stay.
On our way from the airport we stopped to pick up some rice for the school at Baudin. They are getting some food (primarily rice, beans, and bulgar) for schools from other organizations like Catholic Relief Service. We use some of our donations to purchase vegetables a few times a month and maybe once every few months a little meat. It is truly a happy day for both students and teachers when they are able to serve a meal at their schools.
I met with some of my artist friends, purchasing jewelry from Gerry LaTouche and other crafts from Artist Dou Dou. I will sell these items and the money will help the Sisters continue their work. I selected more stone sculptures from Derival for sale here. I sell these for him, and he supports his brothers and sisters. Derival is also attending a university studying architecture. He has a year and a half left. It has been a struggle for us to keep him in school but it is worth it. We sat together and Derival told me how he still could not believe that he had gotten this far in his life – a poor peasant who would one day in the near future be designing buildings.
In addition to Derival, we have 6 students in university studying medicine, science, computers, business, and 2 nursing students (and 15 on a waiting list); 5 students in secondary school (and 13 on a waiting list); and 2 afternoon primary schools (for very poor students many of whom are older and just beginning their education) with 263 students at Riviere Froide and 100 at Riviere Mancelle. Thanks to a donation from a retired teacher in CA, 37 of the children in the handicapped program at Riviere Froide will be able to attend the morning and afternoon schools at Riviere Froide next September. This is a true challenge but a real investment in the future of Haiti.
We stopped by a school, orphanage, and convent on the outskirts of Port au Prince one day. I was so impressed with the progress they had made at rebuilding. Then I found out that it was run by an order with their Motherhouse in Italy and I understood. The Little Sisters do not have this kind of support, but nevertheless they have every one of their schools open and functioning (some under trees, plastic, or corrugated metal) and 41 of the 42 missions are in operation. I sometimes refer to the Little Sisters as the “loaves and fishes” Sisters. They can do more with a little than anyone I know.
The Milagro Foundation donated money to the Sisters to use as they saw fit. They are using this money to repair a vehicle that flipped over on earthquake rubble in January, provide scholarships and school supplies for children attending their schools (in most of their 31 schools only about 50% of the students are paying), the infirmary needed a refrigerator and stove (both run on propane), and a young girl I met a few months after the earthquake with a badly injured leg and her mother and little sister desperately needed a place to live. They were in one of the tent cities and witnessed many rapes and heard gunfire at night. We were able to rent them a room for one year for $320. They will be able to stay in this safer place until December.
The Hilton Fund for Sisters has funded several projects for the Little Sisters. Some of these were from before the earthquake and we needed to report on their progress. They have helped pay teachers at a school up north, buy food for several school, put a new roof on the dispensary at Riviere Froide, and helped finish the security wall there as well. This last one was bitter sweet as we had been working on this wall for 10 years and in seconds the earthquake brought down 90% of it. If it weren’t so heartbreaking it would almost be comical. We are beginning the wall again.
I began with the following words and share them again with you as I think they are the keys to the future in Haiti: PATIENCE, FAITH, PATIENCE, HOPE, PATIENCE, PROGRESS, PATIENCE