In Haiti, Fraternite Notre Dame works in the Western Circumscription, East of Port-au-Prince, in the mountains near Petion Ville. There is no road, no water, no electricity. The population come from very far away in the mountains, to receive assistance from our Missionaries.
Fraternite Notre Dame has been working in Haiti for more than 17 years: a school, orphanage, health care center, food distribution for malnourished children and breast-feeding mothers, help for agriculture and various community projects.
Fraternite Notre Dame also takes care of a Kindergarten, primary and secondary school for more than 300 students with a program of school meals and medical follow up for immunizations.
The school was opened upon the request of the population from the mountains because the parents had to send their very young children to the city in order to study correctly, for there were no schools for them in the mountains. These children were cut off from home too young, more or less left to themselves or under the responsibility of a remote relative or friend, who would not properly take care of these young children.
During the earthquake in Haiti, the school and dispensary were completely destroyed, as well as 70% of the houses in this mountainous area.
Miraculously, none of the students were injured.
The population in these mountains was living under conditions of terrible poverty, even before the earthquake. They have now lost the very little they had.
A few days later, Most Reverend Bishop Jean Marie, Founder of Fraternite Notre Dame, asked for more religious to assist these populations in need, including a Sister who is a medical doctor.
Fraternite Notre Dame sent first-aid medicine and medical supplies, food, water, vitamins, tents and camping equipment, blankets, a water purifier, basic tools to set up the camp and start everything over again.
On site, our Missionaries were able to coordinate humanitarian relief for the forgotten population in the mountains: hundreds of metric tons of food, water, hygiene items, tarps, blankets were distributed there, with support from the US and Canadian Army Forces, USAID, WFP, IOM, UNICEF and other International and Non-Governmental Organizations.
The dispensary was soon reopened, first under a piece of tarp, and then, in a tent donated by UNICEF. People have to walk a lot to come for consultation: up to 5 or 6 hours on foot, sometimes even longer.
When the patients are too weak to walk normally, they arrive on the back of a horse or donkey. The consultations are given free of charge, and so is medication; they are so poor they cannot afford consultation fees nor medication at the hospital.
Much remains to be done and the conditions of life are very hard, but life started again and the presence of our religious who accept to share their life generated hope among these destitute people and boosted their energy. They are always ready to help for community projects and they pray with us to all the intentions of our benefactors.
Just one month after the earthquake, on February 12, we were able to reopen the school, with support from UNICEF which provided tents and school kits.
Three additional large tents were installed near the first one, but schooling conditions are still hard: only 3 damaged, recovered blackboards for 8 classrooms, hardly no chairs nor desks, no salary for the teachers because the township laid off its entire staff…
Only 5 benches were not crushed in the earthquake. Most of the students are sitting on crates that came as packaging for the tents, or on a plank spread over rocks, but it is just hard to write in such conditions, and learning how to write is even harder!
After the emergency rescue in the first month following the January 12, 2010 earthquake, Most Reverend Bishop Jean Marie continues to encourage the efforts of our Missionaries as they are still working in Haiti.
Little by little, life tends to come back to normal, even though the population is still very traumatized by the earthquake.
However, many difficulties remain to be overcome. Rainy season started and because of the declivity and lack of infrastructure, the children's feet are in the mud. We certainly have planned to rebuild the school, using long-lasting materials, but we have to raise funds for that. For the moment, it would be urgent to pour a concrete slab onto the ground for drainage, and to keep the floor of each tent dry and clean.
- UNICEF provided latrines for the school at the end of April. The teachers, parents and students participated in the set up. They worked together gladly for this community work, in order to improve their school.
The US military helped to make 40 school benches with tables; an Irish school decided to help us make some more and provided blackboards, pots and pans for the school kitchen.
This week, for the first time, we were able to serve school meals! Since the reopening of the school, on February 12, we had only high-protein biscuits given by the World Food Program to feed the children as lunch. Last Wednesday, we were able to start serving our first real meal to all the students, thanks to the generosity of Haitian friends who offered enough rice and beans for one month. As for next month, we leave it to Divine Providence!
We accompany the trucks conveying for us the pallets sent from Chicago by Most Reverend Bishop Jean Marie. The river is still high. Our friends from Mayette open the way, walking in the river bed to look for places where the water is not so deep. A difficult and sinuous crossing, but we finally make it to the other side, and so do the trucks! What a joy for us to discover all what they sent us from Chicago! Poorest families from the mountain, those who lost everything with the earthquake, will be spoiled! Thank you a million to His Excellency Bishop Jean Marie!
...But the most important in all our support efforts, is prayer, the Sacraments, Holy Mass. Since we arrived, we heard again and again, as a leitmotiv:
"We thank the most Holy Virgin Mary, thanks to Her, we are still alive",
"God protected us"...
People were eager to thank, to intensify their religious life.
Each morning, the Holy Sacrifice of Mass is celebrated; each morning people come for it, some times walking more than 4 hours round-trip to come and pray!
On Good Friday, more than 800 persons participated in the Stations of the Cross in a big procession stretching over several kilometers! 200 persons attended Mass on Easter Sunday, and the next morning, our religious had to hike and climb for 8 hours, to go celebrate Mass on Mount Chacha, a far mountain across the river: apostolic fatigues, but how greatly rewarded!
- The problem of water is crucial. Some springs located on top of the mountains were dried up by the earthquake. Specialists say that some faults have formed in the process, and they modified the course of underground water.
Currently, the local residents and the Religious of Fraternite Notre Dame have to walk for 2 hours in order to fetch a bucket of water!
Our Missionaries have prepared a project to convey the water all the way to the area. An enormous task needs to be done. Meanwhile, they try to set up temporary installations to collect rain water in small 500-gallon reservoirs, one for each group of houses. The cost of this basic installation is USD 1,000 per unit, and they hope to set up 20 of them.
-After the emergency relief during the first months, Fraternite Notre Dame coordinated food distributions with the World Food Program, and security with International Police Forces of the UN. More than 132 metric tons of food were fairly distributed between each family of the 6th rural section of Petion Ville in the Mountains, South East of Port-au-Prince. This represents about 2,500 families fed over a 2-month period.
-In coordination with FAO, Fraternite Notre Dame organized tools and seeds distribution to the 1,000 most destitute families. This aid was even more appreciated than the food distribution itself. Giving somebody means to work is restoring his dignity as a human being!
-The temporary shelters were not really waterproof and during the rainy season, the situation became very difficult. This had serious consequences on the population's state of heath:
Bronchitis; chronic pulmonary infections; asthma; sore throat; flu…
Our dispensary is overcrowded. Patients walk for more than 5 hours through the mountains to come for consultations. If they cannot walk, they come on a horse or donkey. Health care and medicine are free. And if they need to consult a specialist, we take them to a hospital in the city.
Very often, they come to call the Doctor-Sister for a very sick person they cannot transport, or a delivery that did not go well: 2 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours of hiking in the mountains to provide health care to these people, comfort them, pray with them…
At the dispensary, besides medical care, 1,500 children benefit from a nutrition program. The specter of cholera is lurking now, to worsen the situation.
There is no doubt about it: more than ever, we need help for our Haitian Brothers and Sisters.
Thank you for your concern. We thank you for your support and really hope you will continue helping our action.
Every day, we pray for our benefactors.