St. Francis Haiti Outreach
Staunton, VA 24402-2563
Volume 5 No. 1
This month’s pictures show Dr. Bill Fox and Dr. Linda seeing patients in the rural fishing village of Lotorre Boukan and Jeanne Branch with one of the children this ministry sponsors.
Trip report from Dr. Linda
I visited Haiti in January. Other travelers were Jeanne Branch from St. John the Evangelist, Dr. Bill Fox, a Charlottesville internist, and Steve Metzler and Leo Mulcahy, two engineers who had worked with us previously on water projects on LaGonave. We had planned to go directly to the island, but, because of a plane delay, we had to spend our first night in Port-au-Prince. The city has shown some improvement since I was there in May. There are signs of rebuilding, but the tent cities remain in many areas. We arrived in Port-au-Prince on January 11 th, the day before the one-year anniversary of the earthquake. The churches were filled with people maintaining an all night vigil in preparation for a national day of mourning on January 12 th.
We arrived in Pointe-a-Raquette in time for noon Mass on January 12 th. It was a very moving experience. Just about everyone in the church had lost a family member or friend, had a family member severely injured, or had themselves been injured in the quake. Although it was a somber occasion, the people gave thanks for God’s blessings. Fr. Roosevelt was assisted at Mass by Abbe Fritzner, a seminarian who is assigned to St. Louis Parish. Abbe is a very humble young man who will be ordained later this year. Fr. Roosevelt hopes that his bishop will allow Abbe to remain at the parish following his ordination.
Our Lady of Pointe-a-Raquette Catholic School
When we arrived at the school on the first morning, we were greeted by all the students who were gathered on the stage to perform songs in French and English. Don Herve Isaac, a fifth grader representing all the students, read a letter of welcome that he had written in English. Jeanne and I spent a great deal of time at the school observing the children and their teachers. Although the methods are different, and the teachers lack many of the materials we would take for granted in the United States, they are very proficient, and the children are amazing. The littlest ones were having a lesson on colors and shapes and the noise of fifty 3 year olds shouting out the (correct) answers was overwhelming. One of the things we have tried to encourage is the teaching of spatial concepts. We brought some magnetic shapes that could be used to make three dimensional objects. It took the children about a second to realize that they could make a soccer ball with the forms.
I spent a very interesting half hour teaching arithmetic to the 3 rd graders. These children do not hold back. Everyone wanted to call out the answers and write on the chalkboard. The children are thriving at Our Lady of Pointe-a-Raquette Catholic School thanks to your support. They would not have this opportunity without your generosity.
We met with Sister Mary the principal, the 4 th and 5 th grade teachers, and the parents of the 4 th and 5 th graders to discuss their children’s progress and their plans and hopes for their children and the school. To a person, they thanked everyone at St. Francis for their support and asked that we try to continue the school past the sixth grade. It is unusual for most Haitian parents to have any input into
school administration or teaching. The meeting was so successful that Sister Mary plans to form a Parents’ Council which will meet quarterly to address any concerns or issues related to the school or the children.
We have been blessed to have parishioners at St. John the Evangelist become interested in our twin parish of St. Louis. Several sponsor children at the school, and the parish as a whole has become interested in working with Fr. Roosevelt to provide for specific needs. St. John’s purchased a sterilizer for Bob’s Clinic which we took down with us. This equipment will allow Dr. Medgine to have consistent access to sterile instruments for the minor surgical procedures she performs.
Our group traveled to Lotorre Boukan, a rural fishing village accessible only by boat or on foot, and Dr. Medgine, Dr. Bill and I held a 2 day clinic. The people of the village rarely come to Bob’s Clinic because it is a difficult trip. We saw about 200 patients and also provided a workshop on infant and toddler nutrition. We brought powered milk, a very expensive and rare commodity in Haiti, with us and taught the mothers how to use it to supplement their children’s diet.
While we were in Lotorre Boukan, Steve and Leo looked at the broken cisterns there. There is not a well in Lotorre Boukan, and the people walk about 2 hours to Lotorre to get water. When the cisterns are usable, they can collect rainwater during the rainy season. This makes life a little easier for at least part of the year. We weren’t there long enough to repair the cisterns, but they were repaired after we left.
Dr. Medgine had a cholera patient in the clinic while we were there. He was only the fifth case seen in Pointe-a-Raquette since the outbreak started in October. Four of the five patients recovered, but one elderly patient arrived too late to be helped. Since we left, there has been a cholera outbreak in Lotorre Boukan. Several people were brought by boat to Bob’s Clinic, and Dr. Medgine has set up an isolation ward for these patients. World Vision had done a very good job of providing information about cholera, instruction, soap, and hand sanitizer to villages across La Gonave, and the people seemed to realize the need for good hygiene to avoid contact with the cholera germ. However, lack of available water and lack of latrines make it difficult for them to keep it up. We hope the number of cholera patients on LaGonave will not continue to grow. Please continue to pray for the people of Haiti that they will be able to recover from this most recent disaster.
There is much more to report, and I will continue in next month’s Newsletter. As always, thank you so much for your support. You truly cannot imagine the difference you make in the lives of so many people.
If you would like to learn more about what is happening throughout Haiti thanks to twinning support from the Catholic Parishes in the Diocese of Richmond, the Annual Haiti Gathering will be held on Saturday, March 26th, at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Richmond. There will be a group going from St. Francis. If you would like more information about the Gathering or about our programs on La Gonave, please feel free to contact me at 540-885-7763 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Men anpil chay pa lou. Many hands make the load lighter. Bondye beni ou. God bless you