Help for Haiti
I made my first trip to Haiti with Fonkoze USA in 2002. Loretto had been involved with Fonkoze through loans to its loan fund. Haitians’ faith, hope and perseverance under very dismal conditions were inspirational and challenging.
Reading about Haiti and being there were very different experiences. At the time the country had a population of about 8.7 million, and many poor Haitians were leaving the countryside in search of work in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other urban areas. Unemployment was very high and government assistance was nonexistent. Many people lived in slums in the cities. Fonkoze, a microfinance organization, was working to provide individuals with small loans to set up microbusinesses and create income-producing opportunities. Their efforts represented a concerted effort to walk with and work with people, to move them out of poverty and create new educational and health opportunities for their children.
In August 2002 I moved to Haiti to work with Fonkoze and with a small organization that provided a neighborhood clinic, a school program, lodging for visiting church and service groups and hospitality for poor Haitians who were in Port-au-Prince for ongoing medical treatment.
Twenty years later, the need is still great, and several organizations are doing all they can to ramp up operations and serve as many people as possible. The last two decades have seen devastation from two large earthquakes, multiple hurricanes and political upheaval.
For the last three years I have been part of a group that provides an annual retreat experience to a group of organizations serving the poor in cities and rural areas throughout Haiti. In 2020 and 2021 the retreats were held online because of the coronavirus. It is a humbling experience to share spirituality and reflection with people who are so committed to assisting those who are poor in Haiti under some of the most challenging circumstances.
Sèvis Finansye Fonkoze (Fonkoze), the microfinance bank founded in Haiti in 2004, lists Loretto as an original investor and has grown to become a major financial institution in Haiti. Currently Fonkoze has $58,000,000 in assets, 45 branches across the country and 58,000 solidarity borrowers who now have the opportunity for individual enterprises. It was the first bank back in operation after the 2021 earthquake.
Fonkoze serves thousands through programs that provide health services, adult education and literacy, as well as an 18-month program to accompany people out of poverty.
We have endured an unimaginable amount of loss due to hurricanes, earthquakes, unrest, floods, poverty, and corruption. AND STILL WE RISE above with hope.Fonkoze
The Sisters of St. Antoine, an indigenous religious community founded in 1996 by two Haitian sisters in rural Haiti, has grown its mission activities to include an orphanage, two clinics, parish ministry, preschool, elementary and secondary schools, a restaurant and hospitality services for visitors.
The Association of Peasants of Fondwa, started in 1988, is now working throughout the country as an NGO to establish local development committees in all 572 rural communities in order to rebuild Haiti from the ground up. The group’s aim is to transform rural Haiti by empowering one community at a time and to create jobs and business opportunities for everyone in each rural community. Currently the organization has 30 programs in rural communities.
The University of Fondwa (UNIF), founded in 2004 as a gift to the country during its bicentennial, is committed to creating new generations of Haitian citizens who will lead sustainable and integrated development of their country with a sense of citizenship. UNIF offers degree programs in agronomy, business management and veterinary services. Students come from rural areas across the country; it is hoped they will return to their towns and villages to provide much-needed services.
These organizations and their dedicated staff have overcome security, safety and transportation issues, earthquake and hurricane damage and a complete lack of nationwide infrastructure to continue to serve the people of Haiti in urban and rural areas. I am thrilled to be of some support in my small ways and so glad that Loretto invested in Haiti from the start of these programs. It is work like this that will expand the opportunities for Haitians in spite of the multitude of barriers.
Last year I came across this quote: “We have endured an unimaginable amount of loss due to hurricanes, earthquakes, unrest, floods, poverty and corruption. AND STILL WE RISE above with hope” (Fonkoze). That is the reality I experience whenever I work with Haitians who are trying to strengthen the country and move impoverished Haitians to economic self-sufficiency. Check out these organizations online to learn more about their ministries.
To read all the articles in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Loretto Magazine, click here.