In the wake of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, a loyal supporter of Salesian Missions approached us with an idea -- one that will provide hundreds of school children with the tools they need to build a brighter future.
This supporter is Mr. Giancarlo Oderda -- and his dream is to build nine classrooms in the impoverished village of Bergeaud (Les Cayes), where Salesian missionaries already run a vocational training center for older youth.
“Even before the earthquake, Haiti was one of the poorest countries in the world,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “The disaster only worsened the blow for an entire generation of girls and boys already facing a future with little hope. Education is one of the most crucial factors in determining whether or not a child can escape a lifetime of poverty. Yet in an instant, tens of thousands of children were robbed of the opportunities it promised.”
When Mr. Oderda saw and understood this, he was moved to act -- in an incredible demonstration of selflessness that will have positive repercussions for years to come.
“My aim is to help a devastated country by building a school where young people can learn the skills for a real job -- one that will allow them to become independent and free from the chains of poverty,” Mr. Oderda says.
Ultimately, this school will be comprised of nine classrooms as well as a laboratory, library, infirmary, bathroom facilities, a teachers’ lounge and complete furnishings. Here, 360 students ages 6-15 will pursue the basic education they need to enter the Salesian-run technical school at the same location.
“Mr. Oderda chose to partner with us on this project because of our nearly 80 years of service in Haiti,” says Fr. Mark. “Education has been the cornerstone of that service, so the fit was natural.”
To date, Mr. Oderda has generously underwritten the construction of four of those nine classrooms -- and is hopeful the final five will soon be complete. To learn more about the meaningful legacy he is creating -- and how you can become part of it -- we invite you to watch this video, created and filmed by Mr. Oderda himself.
These efforts are just one bright spot of many for Haiti’s school children since the earthquake. Recently, more than 700 students received crucial classroom and bedroom furniture thanks to a partnership between Salesian Missions and Asset 360 -- a U.S.-based environmental surplus company working to repurpose furniture and other goods. Most of these students had previously been homeless, and attend Salesian-run schools where they also receive clothing, food and shelter.
“It’s difficult to overstate how important this furniture has been,” says Fr. Mark. “Students find it much easier to concentrate on their studies in a structured environment. And the bedroom furniture gives them a sense of dignity they never had before -- a dignity that further motivates them to succeed.”
“This is like a dream for me!” agrees one young student at a Salesian-run shelter and school in Port-au-Prince. “When I was on the street before, I never thought that one day I would have a bed for myself.”
To date, thanks in part to the sustained effort of Salesian missionaries to rebuild the educational infrastructure in Haiti, three million children have returned to school. More than 200,000 of them attend Salesian-run schools. You may learn more about our renewed commitment to Haiti on our dedicated Progress in Haiti website.
Our mission brings new hope through education to vulnerable children around the world. What’s your mission?