Our work in Haiti is made possible through a wonderful partnership between Sacred Heart Parish in Knoxville and St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Tabb, Virginia. On June 3, the St. Kateri Haiti Committee held its annual banquet to celebrate the committee’s progress over the last year and to highlight the successes and challenges of our joint “twinning” with St. Michel Parish in Boucan Carre, Haiti.
More than 100 parishioners and friends--a number larger than anticipated--filled the church’s fellowship room on a Sunday evening despite a hard rain, the remnant of Hurricane Alberto. The event was coordinated by Bill McDonald, who has been a terrific leader of the St. Kateri group. Together with Judy Townsend and Virginia Cotter, he has helped spearhead one of the most successful Haiti programs in the Richmond Diocese. An encouraging aspect of the banquet was the growth of the parish’s Haiti Committee and the genuine interest among new members to visit their work in Boucan Carre.
St. Kateri’s fundraising efforts included their annual 5K race, which despite the December cold raised more than $17,000. The proceeds were added to about $33,000 in sponsorships for elementary and secondary students in Boucan Carre. The funds raised by St. Kateri are an impressive amount for a small parish, and speak to the energy and commitment of the parish’s Haiti committee.
St. Kateri’s donations, together with school sponsorships at Sacred Heart, make it possible to provide tuition, books and food for an elementary school that has tripled in size since the current facility was opened in 2006. Volunteers from St. Kateri and Sacred Heart are planning a visit to Boucan Carre to explore ways of expanding the skills taught to some 40 young women in the local vocational school.
In Knoxville, we owe a special debt of gratitude to Leslie Adams. Leslie made the nine-hour trip to the St. Kateri banquet even though the event fell on her anniversary. Back home, she exhibited extraordinary patience in working through the confusion that accompanied our group’s recent transfer of funds for two schools, St. Michel’s Parish, and our clinic in Bouly. Banking problems in the US are a hassle, but in Haiti they can literally mean the difference in whether children have enough to eat. After days of phone calls, emails and language challenges, Leslie succeeded in sorting out an international banking transaction and getting the correct funds deposited in our Haitian accounts. The funds will be used, among other things, to pay teacher salaries and provide daily meals for the elementary school students. Leslie’s commitment of time and patience this week was incredible and made a lasting contribution to our mission.
Anyone interested in learning more about our program can visit our website at https://www.haitioutreachprogram.com. We welcome anyone who would like to attend our monthly meetings to join us. Unless there is a special reason, we usually meet on the first Thursday of each month at Sacred Heart School. Call 865-310-7833 if you would like more information.