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Haiti orphanage nears reality
Three years after the devastating earthquake which destroyed Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010, Dr Paula Henry, director and co-ordinator of HAIT&T Foundation, and the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny from Haiti and Ireland have teamed up to build an orphanage at Lilavous, in the parish of St Therese.
The Sisters of Cluny (Ireland) have pledged €100,000 (TT$854,000 approx) to the project via funding from Mission Cara (a subsidiary of Irish aid to developing countries). It is expected to replace La Madeleine Orphanage which was destroyed by the earthquake which claimed about 300,000 lives and rendered millions homeless. Coupled with the epic tragedy, UNAIDS estimates 200,000 Haitian children under the age of 15 had lost one or both parents to Aids by the end of 2001.
Last week, Henry and T&T-based Sister Mary Jean Ayow visited Port-au-Prince to engage in continuing dialogue on the humanitarian project which is expected to assist displaced orphans. Ireland was represented by sisters Louis Marie Gowen, Maeve Guzman and Rowena Galvin. Haiti was represented by Marie Yannick, who was a patron at the fund-raiser hosted by HAIT&T Foundation in November 2011.
Asked about the project, Henry said: “They have agreed to pledge 100,000 euros to the project. Basically, the purpose of the meeting would be to meet with the leadership of the Irish Christian community who have experience in funding and putting together projects for poor communities and working with an emphasis on education. Digicel has promised to build the school with nine classrooms.”
Henry also said the emphasis was on mimicking the family unit by creating cellular units. “The emphasis will be on cellular units rather than a whole hall. The emphasis is on family. The children will be from ages six to 16. It will be meant to reach the poorest of the poor and displaced children. It would be built to accepted standards. There will be a lot of discussion between the developer and the development.”
Apart from academics, there would be emphasis on vocational training schools and equipping them with life skills. “We would be educating them from primary school. They will be taught tailoring, cooking and sewing. They will be taught life skills like good etiquette and hygiene.” Additional emphasis has been placed on sustainability.
The orphanage would not be built in isolation. The stakeholders felt it was necessary to have land whereby vegetables could be planted and harvested. The project is very important to sustainability. We want to expand educational programmes. We want to engage in training of teachers,” added Henry.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, both Sisters Gowen, 82, and Guzman visited Haiti. They introduced temporary interventions like feeding programmes and makeshift schools. But their hearts were burdened for the children of Haiti and they felt it was necessary to make a more significant contribution.
Asked about the project, Gowen said: “We are at the stage where we felt the need to come together with the sisters of Haiti to clarify how best to proceed with this project. And hope as a result of this intervention in the very near future, the project would be up and running to support the children of Haiti. After the earthquake, I had the privilege of meeting with the sisters in Haiti. And I asked them to identify first-hand what we might do as a community to support our sisters in Haiti.
Back in Ireland, Guzman said the Irish people contributed about €.75 million (TT$6.4 million) via concerts. “We decided to expand on the orphanage which we thought was a worthwhile project. We have to be careful of “cultural colonisation.” We have to tailor it to fit the needs of Haiti. We are all singing from the same hymn sheet,” said Guzman.