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Haiti: Strength of Spirit

HAITI - Léogâne and Port au Prince (May 17, 2011) - An earthquake, a hurricane, and a cholera outbreak would be enough for many people to give up and stop trying to rebuild their homes, their schools, and their community. But the people of Haiti are strong in faith and spirit, so despite all they’ve endured, they continue to pick up the pieces and begin again. Your donations have directly provided the tools for them to do so. Your prayers have fortified their spirit.

Now, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), through its Haiti Response Team (HRT), is shifting its focus from immediate disaster response to providing a long-term, locally sustainable plan for the people of Haiti.

Paul Jeffrey, ACT Alliance

This multifaceted effort will include rebuilding portions of Holy Cross Hospital, which was built by Presbyterians and currently provides medical care for 100 to 150 people daily; repairing FSIL a nursing school in Léogâne that offers the only program in Haiti for training registered nurses; building housing so those living in “tent cities” can move into permanent and safer structures; continuing to support sustainable agriculture and farming; and rebuilding two schools that filled critical roles in Haiti.

The Future of Haiti

Holy Cross School is the only locally supported school in the city of Léogâne. Haitian mothers and fathers scrimp and save to ensure their sons and daughters can attend this school. Their hope is that their children will be able to use education as a way to escape the poverty they were born into in Léogâne. HRT recognizes that many of these children will be the key to providing a better future for the people of Haiti.

Providing Health Care

In addition to rebuilding Holy Cross Hospital, the PC(USA) is providing support for the training of nurses in the area by focusing on rebuilding the Faculty of Nursing Science of the Episcopal University of Haiti (FSIL), the nursing school in Léogâne. FSIL is the only baccalaureate nursing program in Haiti.

But there is a concern. Holy Cross School was badly damaged in the 2010 earthquake, and students from kindergarten through 6th grade are now learning in tent classrooms or temporary wooden structures.

In response to this need, HRT is committing $1.3 million in donations received for Haiti to rebuild Holy Cross School’s foundation, plumbing, and roof, in addition to the security wall to ensure the children’s safety and berms to protect the school from flood waters. Therefore, another $1 million is needed to completely rebuild the school.

Helping the Marginalized

Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince sits about 25 miles northeast of Léogâne, but it takes two-and-a-half hours to reach the city’s edge. Traffic moves slowly and the roads are narrow. Much of the rubble from the January 2010 earthquake has been cleared from the main roads by people living in Port-au-Prince, but many of the buildings remain badly damaged or destroyed. One of those buildings is St. Vincent’s School for the Handicapped.

The school is the only one of its kind in Haiti, and before the earthquake, it provided care and an education for about 350 disabled children. Now, the school can only safely manage 200 students. In Haiti, disabilities are not seen as challenges to be overcome or adjusted to, but rather as family misfortunes. For that reason, St. Vincent’s is vital to the lives of some of Haiti’s most marginalized children.

Our team is now in Haiti assessing what is needed to rebuild this school to provide for the 350 disabled children who relied on it before the earthquake— and for an additional 150 children.

How You Can Help

The Haiti Response Team is now working out what can be done and how you can take part in helping rebuild these two schools immediately. We’ll bring you more details in the coming days as plans are finalized and tell you how you can involve your family, your friends, and your own local schools in providing a place for the children of Haiti to learn.

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