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Haiti Committee

 

Visiting Fond Pierre

What does a trip entail?

Here is the itinerary from the last trip in November, as prepared by Father Malherbe and the team.

November 6-12, 2008

Thursday:
Fly to Port-au-Prince from Washington-Dulles; stay at Matthew 25 House

Friday:
Depart for Fond Pierre; arrival; rest and dinner

Saturday:
6 AM: Mass with the Legion of Mary Breakfast
9 AM: Pastoral Meeting with Lay Leaders of the Chapels and Parish Center
12:30 PM: Lunch
4 PM: Meeting about medical clinic for students
6 PM: Meeting about elementary and high schools
7 PM: Supper

Sunday:
7 AM: Breakfast
9 AM: Mass (St. Peter’s Church, Elementary and High School) “Theatre” (Skits, Songs and Dances) after Mass (Students)
1 PM: Lunch with teachers of Fond Pierre and Tierramuscady
4 PM: Fond-Pierre Area Visit (Pareidon)

Monday:
7 AM: Breakfast
8:30 AM: Visit to the Elementary School Classes
1 PM: Visit to the High School classes

Tuesday:
Visit to Casse Visit to Tierramuscady School
Return to Port-au-Prince

Wednesday:
Return to Washington-Dulles; Lexington

There is ample time for visiting local houses, fields, sampling local coconuts and mangoes, studying Kreyol, and other experiential activities.

 

Report of the Trip to Fond Pierre November 7 – 11, 2008

By Deb Organek (St. Rose of Lima, Freeholt, NJ) A team of parishioners from St. Rose of Lima, Freeholt, NJ, and St. Patrick’s, Lexington visited our sister parish at Fond Pierre, Haiti in November. Participants were Deborah Organek (St. Rose), Bruce Young and Josh Harvey (St. Patrick’s) and Dr. Walter Kerschl (Lexington Presbyterian). Their visit took place November 7 through 11, 2008.

Since the inception of our twinning relationship in 2000, we have witnessed steady progress; the original school, which was literally built of sticks, has been replaced with a proper school facility. A one-room rectory has since been replaced with a proper parish center. The Church building, which was a crumbling and unsafe structure, has since been demolished and the formation of a new Church building is emerging.

The small group was warmly received into the community by the parishioners of Fond Pierre Parish. The Parish of Fond Pierre consists of the main church and 6 separate chapels over a sizable area. Father Malherbe visits the chapels as his time permits. On Saturday, November 8, the American group was invited to join a meeting with the sacristans and various ministers from the 7 chapels. Approximately 50 people attended the meeting, some of whom had walked up to 4 hours. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss various problems they were encountering in their respective chapels and to schedule Father Malherbe’s visits.

The duties of the chapel ministers and sacristans are vast since the chapels operate without a resident priest. Duties include Baptismal preparation for those who are not Catholic, similar to our Rite of Christian Initiation. The sacristans are also responsible for First Communion and Confirmation preparation, ministry to the sick and homebound; maintenance of their chapels and various prayer services. The challenges encountered in our sister parish are similar to what we experience here in the US. The ministers were very concerned over the loss of parishioners. They are aware their parishioners are attending other faith services. The ministers are troubled by couples who choose not to marry. They are concerned with youth who have children outside of marriage. These young parents have incomplete educations and no job prospects. They become an additional burden to an already strained family. The Haitian ministry looked to the Americans for answers. We told them we share very similar concerns for these same issues. We believed the answers are in the letters of St. Paul to the early Christian communities. St. Paul’s letters are similar to a tapestry in that the threads are so connected they create a vision for life. His advice to the early Christians is that by their example, they will show their communities the Christian way of life. This is St. Paul’s vision of Christian community; exemplary living. We lead and therefore teach each other by example. St. Paul’s advice is timeless in that it applies today to our sisters and brothers in Haiti and to us in the US as well.

The Primary School in Fond Pierre has two pre-school classes and grades one through six. Primary school ends at the 6th grade. At that point, the children must pass a national test to attend high school. The primary school begins at 8AM and ends at 12 noon. The children walk a distance to school, many without the benefit of a meal. There are no school buses in Fond Pierre. The school does not have a cafeteria or vending machines or water fountains or bathroom facilities or computers or electricity. The children learn strictly from books and they work out all math problems without the benefit of a calculator.

The students of Fond Pierre Catholic School warmly received the American visitors. Many classes sang a song of welcome. Young students gladly recited their “times table” and older students summoned up the courage to work out a math problem on the board. The students were generally enthusiastic, loud at recess, and eager to smile. The boys wear uniforms of white-checkered shirts and navy blue trousers while the girls wear either blue skirts or jumpers with white-checkered blouses. There are about 400 students in the primary school at Fond Pierre.

The thirty-five high school students use the school facility from one o’clock to five o’clock in the afternoon. There are fifteen students from the graduating classes of 2006 and 2007 and 20 students from 2008 who now attend high school. Their studies include: grammar, algebra, geometry, biology, physics, Spanish, English, social studies and catechism. The tuition for each student is the approximate equivalent of one dollar per month. Not a small amount for the families in Fond Pierre.

The other primary school for which Fr. Malherbe is responsible is in Tierramuscady. One building is in total disrepair as the roof has collapsed. There are two other poorly constructed buildings for the pre-school students and grades one through four. The remaining students are taught in the Church. In Tierramuscady grades one and two share one teacher, as do grades three and four and five and six. Two grade levels are grouped together in the same classroom. The students graciously welcomed the American visitors. The visitors all felt heartbroken to witness students learning under such austere conditions. Again, consider no running water, bathrooms or any facility for food handling.

Most of the parishioners of Fond Pierre and the outlying chapels live on small subsistence farms. The farming is not mechanized; all is done by hand and farm animal. Some of the cash crops include sugar cane, coffee and tobacco. The farm products are brought to market mostly on farm animals, such as donkeys. When one visits Fond Pierre Haiti, one has the opportunity to look back to a time before mechanization, electricity and paved roads. As quaint and simplistic as this may appear, the reality is that in an industrialized, computerized global economy, the parishioners in our sister parish cannot compete and cannot partake. Illiteracy is high. The average life span is 50 years. Medical care and treatment is non-existent.

Our twinning relationship has offered the gift of education; the collective knowledge which has been handed down from generations from as far back as Euripides to Galileo to Copernicus to Einstein. An education can never be stolen or bartered away. The education the children are receiving from your generosity will enable them to take a small step into the world we take for granted. As we look ahead a few short years, we can envision these High School graduates seeking and recognizing opportunities realized through education. We believe these young graduates can impact favorably on their community at large. As a parish we must continue to maintain this vision and direction. We have begun the journey. Some of us will witness the resulting progress in our lifetimes. Already we see that some teachers have had the opportunity to build more suitable housing for themselves and their families.

Since we began the Haiti Committees, we have already witnessed remarkable changes. We again implore our parishioners to take pride in our collective commitment and discuss our twinning relationship among your family members, friends and other associates. There are monthly meetings—all are welcome to attend.

In closing, the students, teachers and parishioners of Fond Pierre are very grateful for all we do. They have unknowingly contributed to our own well being by giving us the opportunity to fulfill our Christian obligation to serve.