Haiti Outreach Ministry

On Sunday, September 5, 2004, Immaculate Conception Cathedral parish inaugurated a new ministry – a twinning relationship with the parish of Notre Dame d’Altagrâce in the village of Layaye in Haiti’s Central Plateau.  Through the help and support of Immaculate Conception parishioners the ministry has accomplished a great deal in its ten year history.   

Why Haiti?

Before its formation, members of the Haiti ministry were searching for ways in which the Cathedral parish could reach out in a meaningful way to the neediest and most desperate members of our human family. Through much reflection, reading and prayer, we identified Haiti as a place where we could turn. We learned that Haiti finds itself at the top or nearly so of many lists for poor socioeconomic indicators:

  • Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and one of the poorest five countries in the world, with the average Haitian subsisting on just $1 a day.
  • Haiti is the most water-poor country in the world according to the international water poverty index
  • The per capita expenditure for health care in Haiti is only about 1% of that in the U.S
  • The infant mortality rate in Haiti is over 10 fold higher than that of the U.S
  • Over 250,000 people in Haiti have HIV/AIDS, compared with 900,000 in the U.S. a country with a population 37 times larger than that of Haiti
  • Over 50% of the population is illiterate, and only 50% of children receive any elementary education.

These facts and figures clearly indicated a tremendous need in Haiti even before the devastation of the earthquake that struck the country in January 2010.

Accomplishments

With the approval of our pastor, Fr. Val, and the Pastoral Council, we initiated monthly “Haiti Sunday” collections beginning in September 2004 to help provide a baseline level of financial support. We began with the modest goal of collecting just $1 per month per parish family, or about $600 monthly. Over the past nine years, we are delighted to report that the parish has responded very generously by providing an average of approximately $2300 per month in support of the ministry. For this support, we in the ministry sincerely thank the Cathedral parish.

The Ministry provides much needed support to meet administrative, educational, health care, and emergency needs of the members of Notre Dame d’Altagrâce parish. Each year, on average the Ministry provides:

  • Teachers’ salaries and parish administration
  • Bi-monthly medical clinics staffed by a Haitian physician and medical assistant
  • Deworming medicine and vitamins for about 1000 children in and around Layaye
  • Clean water systems and technical support for 800 families
  • Tuition support for children and youth

Ongoing projects

  • Financial support for the parish and schools in Layaye. Notre Dame d'Altagrace parish schools include a kindergarten, four elementary schools, a professional school and a high school in  Layaye and the surrounding villages.
  • You can support this effort.   Learn how
  • Provision of water treatment kits & water purification system. We believe clean water is an essential first step in helping to improve the health of the population and the overall economic situation. Since 2006 we have partnered with Gift of Water, a non-profit organization that has long worked in Haiti, to provide 800 families with low maintenance water filtration units.
  • Financial and material support of a professional school. As in many underdeveloped countries, the lack of job skills drives many people from rural areas into large urban centers, such as Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, where they are far from families and often the targets of exploitation and violence. The people of Layaye identified the development of a trade school as one of their most pressing needs. In July 2009, the school was opened and each year since 30 young men and women from Layaye and the surrounding areas receive training in sewing, tailoring, carpentry, cooking and sign-making -- skills that will help them support themselves and their families. In addition to supporting teachers’ salaries, the ministry provides funds to defray the cost of supplies and materials for the school.
  • Worm treatment program. Soil-transmitted helminthic infections (hookworms, whipworms and roundworms) are a major source of morbidity illness in children in many rural areas throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, including Haiti. A deworming program is one of the regular components of our trips to Layaye. For only about 25¢ per child, we are able to provide effective treatment against these parasitic worms that are a major contributing factor to anemia and malnutrition in the children of Haiti.
  • Medical/Dental mission trips. Until recently, there was no medical or dental care available for the people of Layaye. The nearest hospital, Sainte Thérèse Hospital, is located in Hinche which is a 1-2 hour hike on foot. In 2011 we established a relationship with a local physician from Sainte Thérèse Hospital who has agreed to provide free medical clinics in Layaye two Sundays per month. As an adjunct to these regular clinics, we also organize periodic medical/dental missions bringing health professionals from Memphis to Layaye.

Hope for the future

During his first visit to the Cathedral in May 2004, then pastor of Notre Dame d’Altagrâce, Fr. Ilric, delivered the Sunday Gospel reading from John that, as providence would have it, has become the underpinning for our ministry:

“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

We hope and pray that the Haiti ministry continues to grow and be an important manifestation of the compassion and mercy that Christ implores us to have for our sisters and brothers, particularly those among us who are the most impoverished and vulnerable. An important lesson that we in the ministry have learned is that each of us, irrespective of what our skills and talents might be, have something to contribute to this ministry. Therefore, we invite you to join us as we continue to work to bring compassion and justice to lives of the people of Layaye. We pray that the Cathedral parish will continue to “walk” physically and spiritually, with our sisters and brothers in Layaye.