Last month we enjoyed one of the most successful mission trips since the Haiti Outreach Group was organized almost twenty years ago. A group of eighteen adults and high school students--the largest we have ever taken--spent a week in Boucan Carre at our sister parish, St. Michel. The group included students from Knoxville Catholic High School and leaders of the Haiti group from St. Anselm Parish in suburban St. Louis.
St. Anselm has been a wonderful partner for our work in Boucan Carre. Their participation has been absolutely critical in providing the facilities for a primary school that serves 1,000 students. Last year the school dedicated four new classrooms funded by St. Anselm to relieve overcrowding. Discussions in the recent trip included efforts to repair the primary school’s leaking roof as well as how the school's crumbling vocational classroom might be replaced. The extraordinary capital contributions from St. Anselm, combined with the operational contributions of St. Kateri and Sacred Heart, have helped make possible one of the most vibrant educational partnerships in Haiti's Central Highland.
Those on our most recent trip stayed at the new rectory, also funded by St. Anselm. One advantage of the new rectory is the ability to host larger groups in facilities that are clean and comfortable. St. Michael's rectory will make it possible for larger and more frequent mission groups to participate.
As always, the trip was a combination of projects interspersed among a variety of new experiences for those visiting Haiti for the first time. Our students used six cameras donated by Sony to take photos of the students at the primary and secondary schools. The photos each spring are a valuable tool in promoting the school sponsorship programs at St. Kateri and Sacred Heart. The Knoxville students spent considerable time with their younger counterparts, conducting an art camp and showing movies such as the Lion King in the town square where dozens of Haitians saw a movie for the first time in their lives. Prior to the trip the Knoxville Catholic students raised about $1,200. In Haiti they donated the funds to connect both Boucan Carre schools to the internet.
Not all the experiences were anticipated. A nearby fire had to be contained by people frantically carrying buckets of water in a town suffering from drought. The next day a woman feinted during a church service with what appeared to be a serious illness. The severe shortage of social services in rural Haiti was evident when the only way she could be transported to a doctor was between two persons on a small motorcycle. Despite this incident, there is evidence that our efforts to provide basic medical care in the mountainous region have taken root. The March report from our clinic in Bouly indicated 172 patients, including a significant number of pregnant women, visited the clinic for the first time. Leaks in the clinic roof have been repaired, and the next package of medicines for the clinic have purchased, thanks to the support of generous donors here in Tennessee.
By all accounts the trip was a success on multiple levels. The students had a life-changing experience. We strengthened the partnership with our friends at St. Anselm. Most of all, we continued to nurture our bond with the people of a small town in rural Haiti.