In October 2012 our visit in Haiti to assess a few projects took us to Baudin, a small village high up in the mountain past the Trouin valley in the South Department. As we turned a corner we came to a fairly large church with wide stairs leading to an open terrace. It was St. Francis Xavier, the parish church of Baudin which welcomes about 700 parishioners each Sunday. The three wooden entrance doors were locked; the top section had a large crack caused by the earthquake, a sign that there may be more damage hidden from our vantage point.
Pere Delmas Camy, mild mannered and soft spoken, came to welcomed us with open arms and a wide smile. He led us to the side of the church where we parked the car. As we entered the church we were amazed at its spaciousness. It had been emptied and looked abandoned. Pere Camy explained that much work will be needed to repair this parish church. We took pictures and video, we measured, walked, poked and scrutinized every crack; we did everything we could think of to help us make a decision once we consult with engineers and architects back in the States.
In the meantime, the parishioners celebrate mass and conduct religious service in a makeshift church on the other side of the property.
My parish of St. Luke in Whitestone has been generous to From Here to Haiti from the very beginning. The pastor, Monsignor John Tosi, helped fund our first project and donated countless statues that now adorn many churches in Haiti. This past Christmas, my parish came through again by adding From Here to Haiti, Ltd. to the St. Luke Annual Christmas Giving Tree run by the Disciples in Mission group. My coordinators were Judy Deangelis and Diane Cantatore. Thanks to them about ten parishes in Haiti received soccer balls, basket balls, tennis rackets, badminton sets and scooters. This past April, I visited St. Raymond School in Anse d’Hainault and had the pleasure of witnessing the fruits of the giving tree.
College St. Raymond is a school of about 500 students and stands half-way up a hill, overlooking the bay and surrounded by trees and because of its location, a constant breeze flows through the classrooms. We arrived as the recess bell rang and watched a flood of blue uniforms spring from each classroom. The children surrounded us and we soon realized that they already knew who we were. They thanked us for the gifts that were sent a couple of months earlier and showed us a couple of acrobatics on the scooter they had received, making sure to inform us that they were the only school in the area with one of those. I smiled, thanking in my heart the Disciples in Mission of Whitestone.
I cannot thank Monsignor Tosi and the parishioners of St. Luke enough for their support. Through their generosity they have made so many children – and adults – very happy.
When volunteers express the desire to join the team on a project they always ask what to bring, how to dress, what we will eat, about vaccinations, mosquitoes… all questions about the necessities of life. My informal answer is to plan as if they were going tent camping in a remote area. At hearing this, some will decline to go but others will embrace the prospect with ardor. I almost always forget to mention to be ready to push our vehicle if needed. Vehicles in Haiti are too often used until their very last breath; and even when they die, parts are re-used in other moribund cars or transformed into interesting artworks that are sold for much more than the entire car was ever worth.
At our very first trip back in 2010, although I had not mentioned “pushing cars” as part of the planning, our team got a taste of it. As soon as we got in the car to leave the Jeremie airport, the driver gave us an impish look with a shy chuckle and asked everyone to get out while he scanned the area for able bodies to help push the car. Joe, Bob and Eddy immediately stepped into gear and join the other volunteers to the front of the car; as if rehearsed they all let out a unified groan and began pushing. Ellen and I were asked to remain in the car.
One, two, three… pooooooouuuuushhhhh… and after a couple of violent hiccups, the car took off. The guys rushed over and quickly got in the vehicle, a few others jumped in the open back while it was still moving for fear that it would stall. We continued on our way to fulfill our plans for the day under the applauds and laughs of a few spectators
Pushing the car was a common occurrence for me as a child, especially when crossing a river and the thought of being stuck in mid stream never left me to this day. We never needed to push any of our cars again but each time we drive through a river, my butt involuntarily rises just a wee bit from the seat as if to lighten the car and keep it from stalling in the water.