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October 15, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 25


photo: reschoolers at St. Michel’s school in Hinche, Haiti.
Preschoolers at St. Michel’s school in Hinche, Haiti.

Haiti twinning gives ‘human presence’

Thanks to the efforts of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha parish in Tabb, the number of students in a Haiti school has quadrupled in the past 12 years, and students are receiving nutritious meals.

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha and Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville, Tenn., are twinning with St. Michel’s in Boucan-Carre, Hinche to improve the quality of life in the impoverished village.

“I think it’s a tremendously important ministry,” said Father Charles Faul, pastor of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. “The parish we are helping there is a very poor parish. I’m glad that we can be of some benefit to them.”

Virginia Cotter, a parishioner who has been working with the twinning program since its inception at her parish in 2000, explained that by teaming with Sacred Heart in Knoxville, the parishes have helped Boucan-Carre in education and healthcare.

“Blessed Kateri has decided to focus its efforts on education through its student sponsorship program involving the primary and secondary students,” Cotter said. “Through the partnership with Sacred Heart, the twinning outreach has brought healthcare to the area through partnership with Partners in Health.”

To ensure they don’t duplicate services, Kateri and Sacred Heart have worked with PTPA and the Haiti Outreach Project, Cotter said.

When Ms. Cotter visited Boucan-Carre in 2000 with then pastor, Father Thomas Quinlan (TQ), and four other parishioners, they found “a very poor area” with a crumbling, overcrowded primary school.

The school, which had 300 children from preschool to sixth grade, crammed 10 students onto benches meant for four, Ms. Cotter said.

“Some of the students were hanging over the seats,” she said.

A new, bigger primary school was built in 2003, and enrollment there is now up to about 1,000 students.

To accommodate so many children, the school has added classrooms which are basically just open areas under tarps. A new or remodeled school needs to be built, she said.

A secondary school for youth in grades seven through 12 opened earlier this month to about 200 students.

Each year at Christmas, Blessed Kateri solicits sponsorships by providing short biographies of the students. Each biography includes the student’s photograph, name, age and ambition.

One hundred dollars a year will send an elementary student to school, and $200 sends a child to secondary school. The tuition also covers one hot meal a day for each student.

“For most of the kids, this is probably the only meal they get for the day,” Ms. Cotter said.

Father Faul added, “I am really grateful so many of our parishioners respond so generously.”

Both children as well as adults step up to help the Haiti parish.

“What touches me is when a child from our parish comes to the ‘Haiti table’ with his Christmas money and peruses through the photos looking for someone his own age to sponsor,” Ms. Cotter said.

“Sometimes you think of Haiti as just a country in the news, but they are our brothers and sisters in Christ,” she said. “From my experience, twinning makes Haiti alive in our hearts.

“It gives Haiti a human presence. We see Haiti as people, not just as one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere.”

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