The Episcopal Church and Haiti
Numerous Episcopal schools serve rural communities on the central plateau of Haiti where education choices are few.
Haiti is a country of aspiration, faith and perseverance, with beautiful people steeled by adversity.
The history of Haiti is intertwined with that of the United States and the Episcopal Church. The late 18th century American, French and Haitian revolutions all addressed the rights of people to be free of tyranny. One outcome of the overthrow of the colonial French slave economy in Haiti was a French retreat from the Americas and sale of the Louisiana territory to the U.S.
The Episcopal Diocese of Haiti was established in 1861. In 1862, with slavery ending in America, the U.S. recognized Haiti as a sovereign state. Today the diocese is part of Province II of the Episcopal Church, that includes the Diocese of New York and New Jersey. It is the largest diocese in the Episcopal Church, with over 83,700 members, seven times the size of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real. The Diocese, as a Haitian institution, provides healthcare, education, cultural and community support -- educating more students than does the government.
Episcopal schools in Haiti are especially important because many of them are in poor rural communities that otherwise do not have schools. With almost half of school aged children in Haiti not in school, schools can be powerful community assets. Episcopal Relief and Development reports that just 55% of children attend primary school and only 20% go on to secondary school. Students are eager for a chance at education in a country where the adult literacy rate is 50 percent.
Education is a foundation for meaningful social progress
Education carries the promise of sustainable development for a society in need. Eighty percent of the population of Haiti live in poverty. In the face of this, the church through its teachings - and parishes, missions, stations, health centers and schools - embraces the people of Haiti in their struggle to address fundamental human needs and build a better future.
Above is a special video dedicated to Haiti - Pre and Post Earthquake - by Haitian composer and producer Jean Jean-Pierre. Maestro Jose Antonio Molina leads the Dominican Republic Symphonic Orchestra. Actor Danny Glover provides a special introduction. (If the video isn't visable in your browser, click here.)
In 2008, St. Jude's was introduced to the Diocese of Haiti by helping support a school lunch program for Saint Andre's Episcopal school in Hinche, Haiti -- a 30 plus year outreach effort of St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Carmel Valley.
St. Andre’s school enrolls students from pre-kindergarten through high school. The lunch program serves over 900 students, with what for many is their primary sustenance of the day.
St. Jude's parishioners initiate a partnership
Support for the feeding program led to Dianne Rhudy and Liz Jones of St. Jude's joining a St. Dunstan's trip to visit St. Andre's school in the fall of 2010.
During the trip they also visited St. Patrick’s mission and its Pre-K through 6th grade school in a remote area of the Central Plateau of Haiti . Without electricity or running water, the school serves 250+ students from families who struggle to survive as subsistence farmers on small plots of land.
Returning from their trip they shared what they learned and inspired the begining of a partnership between the Saint Jude's parish community and St. Patrick's. Their work led St. Jude’s to join with Good Samaritan Parish in San Jose, All Saints Parish and All Saints Day School in Carmel, to form the "California friends of Saint Patrick."
As a first step, the CfSP underwrote the drilling of a well to provide a reliable source of safe drinking water for the school. The existing well at the school, hand dug and 40 foot deep, was dry. The well effort was begun in December 2010, but the challenge of equipment reaching the site delayed completion until April 2012.
In 2011, CfSP agreed that their first priority would be to ensure the staff of Saint-Patrick school was paid their monthly salaries. Previously, teachers had gone months without the little pay they were promised, undermining their commitment and ability to rely on teaching to feed their families.
Because of CfSP, since the 2011-12 school year teachers and staff at Saint-Patrick have been paid for each of the 10 months of the school year.
In 2013, planning was begun to make long overdue structural repairs to the classroom buildings at the school. Since then, the generosity of individual donors has led to sufficient funds being raised to enable work to begin in 2015.
There is more to do - building and sustaining a relationship
Staff salary support continues as the first priority, while the CfSP also consider how to help with the many other needs at Saint-Patrick. They include:
- Major structural repairs, including new hurricane resistant roofs for the classroom buildings
- Enrichment materials to better equip the teachers at Saint-Patrick to engage their students
- Completion of an unfinished new classroom building to enable middle school classes to be added to the offerings at Saint-Patrick
Visits are encouraged, at least once annually, and open to all. Our next trip could be in May 2015.
Whoever you are, wherever you are on your journey of faith, you are welcome here.