Our outreach program in Haiti is guided by the three goals of strengthening the spirit, mind and body of the Haitian people in the country’s Central Plateau. For nearly two decades, in partnership with St. Kateri Tekawitha parish in Tabb, Virginia, we have provided financial support to the two primary and secondary schools in the little town of Boucan Carre. Both schools are managed by our sister parish, St. Michel. Our support pays for teacher salaries and tuition at both schools, and for a daily meal for students at the primary school.
By any reasonable standard, our education outreach has made a tremendous difference. In 2000, students met in horrible conditions, with the primary students housed in a dark, dilapidated structure and the older students meeting outdoors, with a broken blackboard as their only equipment. Attendance was sporadic, and the level of learning was low, even by Haitian standards.
In 2006, the primary students in Boucan Carre moved into a new facility, funded by St. Anselm parish of suburban St. Louis. The school’s initial enrollment was about 350 students in grades K-7. Last fall, enrollment had climbed to more than 900. The enrollment surge was generated, at least in part, by a daily meal of beans and rice that for many children may be their only meal of the day. In 2012, we helped dedicate a new high school facility, a gift of the Xenergy Corporation of Knoxville. The school today has an enrollment of about 250 students. In 2016, St. Anselm funded the construction of four new classrooms to relieve crowding at the primary school.
The success we have enjoyed with the growth of our education outreach has come with a substantially larger financial responsibility. This fiscal year the total cost of operating the two schools totaled approximately $117,000. Providing this significant sum is made possible through an annual program of student sponsorships at Sacred Heart and St. Kateri parishes. On two recent weekends, volunteers worked with parishioners who agreed to sponsor one or more primary and secondary students. A sponsorship is $150 for a primary student and $250 for a secondary student.
With a number of outstanding pledges still to be counted, the donations at Sacred Heart exceeded $55,000. Combined with $50,000 raised by St. Kateri, the totals from this year’s student sponsorships may well meet or surpass the amount needed to continue support of the two schools in Boucan Carre. In Knoxville, the success was made possible by volunteers who met parishioners after Mass, sometimes in very cold weather, to facilitate the campaign. The effort this year also enjoyed great support from Sacred Heart School, where each homeroom adopted and sponsored a Haitian student. The entire Student Sponsorship drive was coordinated by Sonya Mire, whose organization and energy were the critical factors in the campaign’s success. Thanks to everyone who made it happen.
Our next meeting will be on Thursday, June 6, in the library of Sacred Heart School.