In early 2010 -- shortly after a devastating earthquake shook Haiti to its core -- Salesian Missions was determined to raise funds for the construction of the Salesian Youth Center at the Politechnique Don Bosco (aka DB Tech) in Fort Liberté. Five years later, that promise has been realized -- thanks to the remarkable generosity of our many friends.
First opened in 2002, the center offered a broad range of formal and informal educational programs for local youth. It housed agricultural, vocational/technical education school programs, as well as radio/television stations. It also housed one of the country’s only nursing schools.
Salesian Missions was tasked with leading the worldwide Salesian efforts in Haiti for recovery and reconstruction. As a result, Fr. Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, has traveled to the country multiple times since the disaster. His most recent trip included a visit to Fort Liberté -- where he participated in a dedication ceremony for the newly rebuilt and re-opened youth center and dormitory complex.
While there, Father Mark saw first hand the miraculous difference this particular construction project has made in the lives of the Haitian people. He also saw how this project opened more doors of opportunities to enhance other programs and services.
For instance, with the assistance of Salesian Mission Offices and NGO’s around the world, Salesians in Fort Liberté have been able to expand and improve the facilities of the agricultural, nursing and vocational/technical schools, as well as establishing elementary, high school and teacher training (Ecole Normal) schools.
Also DB Tech has installed a new water purification plant which provides some 1,200 plus students, faculty and staff with clean, fresh safe drinking water. The Salesians also make this water available to people in the surrounding community.
“Water isn’t suitable for drinking otherwise,” says Fr. Mark, who notes that the plant enjoys a steady stream of daily visitors. Since sustainable, clean water projects are a global priority for Salesian Missions, he is especially pleased by the plant’s inclusion in the rebuilding project.
Plans are also in the works to construct a health clinic on or near the campus, which will provide more than 160 nursing students with the practical training they need, without having to travel great distances.
“Of course, this specific project at Fort Liberté is but one of many Salesian-run facilities that have been rebuilt and revitalized all around Haiti,” he continues. Fr. Mark also had time to visit works in Cité Soleil, Fleuriot, Port-au-Prince, Gressier, Thorland and Cap Haitien.
Additionally, the new Provincial Center at Fleuriot now includes several large rooms that may be used for and rented out as conference space, providing much-needed income.
“The Provincial Center is not only a simple beautiful structure,” says Fr. Mark, “but most importantly, a solid construction which now meets the standards for being earthquake-proof -- which ensures that funding has been spent in a responsible, sustainable way.”
At Cité Soleil, another new purification plant will soon provide water to local, impoverished residents. And, in order to support the crucial demand, training opportunities in the field of clean water and sustainable systems design will be added to the curriculum offered by the nearby Salesian technical school.
In Port-au-Prince, the Salesian-run National School of Arts and Trades (ENAM) is up and operational after having been completely destroyed.
In elementary, high school and technical training classrooms and adult literacy programs at the Vice Province of Philip Rinaldi, students have been eagerly pursuing knowledge and skills that will be crucial to Haiti’s rebirth.
“We could not have made such remarkable progress without the ongoing, and exceptional, generosity of our many friends,” concludes Fr. Mark. “On behalf of our Salesian missionaries on the ground -- and the people of Haiti -- I am so grateful.”
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