19th Sunday in OT (B)
August 3, 2021
Synod as listening
August 3, 2021

Internat Sainte Madelaine – hope in Haiti

Haiti has been in the news recently, unfortunately not for good reason. But here’s a sign of hope from the HaiT&T Foundation.

The proverb found in the Old Testament “Where there is no vision, my people perish” (Prov 29:18), resonates down through the ages and comes to rest on our most current issue confronting us in the Caribbean—Haiti.

As Catholic Christians, we can feel the wisdom and warning of this proverb as Haiti once again flares before our eyes. Unless the people of Haiti embrace a vision, they stand in danger of perishing.

With the mystery of the President’s assassination yet unsolved, and the vision for the future at this time so obscured, we of the HaiT&T Foundation are sensing this urgency which must be addressed.

Deeply moved by the news of the 2010 earthquake, our Foundation was established later that same year by a small band of T&T citizens, spearheaded by Dr Paula Henry and endorsed by the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny.

Not knowing quite where to start, we set sight on the 100-year-old St Madeleine Orphanage first re-located when the Central Bank of Haiti ordered it to move from downtown Port-au-Prince to an equally cramped space just outside the Central Business District.

When the 2010 catastrophe struck, it was just another thorn in its side. Lying on a major fault-line, it had to be demolished. The HaiT&T Foundation made a promise to build back better.

The generosity of the Trinidad and Tobago population enabled the Foundation to purchase over six acres of prime land in the rural location of Monte-à-Cabrît, Croix-de-Bouquet, being the nearest town.

A robust “impenetrable” wall (built with funding from one corporate Trinidad and Tobago client), ensured that Internat Sainte Madelaine had become a “fortified city”, within war-torn Haiti.

Now, endearingly called ISM, built by the hands of the Cluny Sisters, having attracted funding mainly from the Catholic Christian international diaspora, it now becomes a beacon of Hope where there was none.

As part of the decentralisation national plan, the government of Haiti built a nearby, low-income housing complex, where ventilation for each living unit is made from concrete fensters. Families began pouring into the area, for the sole purpose of receiving a Cluny education.

A primary school houses 20 classrooms, for children ages 6–16; the live-in dormitories cater for 100 girls. Basic meals are provided by Food for the Poor, an ecumenical Christian nonprofit organisation. Rations are scarce, but hungry bellies are filled with rice and beans. The broth from boiled herring gives the sense of a meal replete with fish.

The physical structures are impressive: an IT room, library, kitchen, laundry, detached dining-room that can feed the present cohort, housing for the Sisters complete with chapel and living facilities for all ancillary staff except security. Enough water for annual consumption—except for potable water—is provided by two man-made wells and rainwater harvesting, while solar-power augments the unreliable electrical supply.

In stark contrast stands: the bakery donated by French doctors, fully equipped but never having sold one loaf of bread; and a wide expanse of unused land, destined for a chicken-farm and plantation crops.

This project has been a labour of love. The individuals in our team have selflessly sacrificed time, resources, and skills to bring this project to the stage where it can serve as a practical and functional model to support further development of the ISM.

At no time has any of these volunteers asked for payment or accolades, but out of goodwill and wishing to ‘give back’ and contribute to our wider world, they have quietly driven the project forward.

The HaiT&T Foundation has achieved its goal, yet the vision remains. There is further work to be done in Haiti. Haiti took the hit, for all us enslaved and colonised peoples. Now is the time for unity. Let us not miss the mark one more time!


For more information on the work of the HaiT&T Foundation and to make contact, visit www.haittfoundation.org