Population:10 millionLiteracy Rate:49%Religion: Roman Catholic (80%)
The Salesians of Don Bosco began working in Haiti in 1935 in response to the Haitian government's request for a professional school. Since then, Salesian missionaries have expanded their work to include 10 main educational centers and more than 200 schools across the country. The primary 10 centers each have a number of primary and secondary schools, vocational training centers and other programs for street children and youth in need. Salesian programs are located throughout Haiti, including in the cities of Port-au-Prince, Fort-Liberté, Cap-Haïtien, Les Cayes and Grassier. Today, Salesian missionaries in Haiti are the largest source of education outside of the Haitian government, and their programs serve more than 25,000 Haitian children.
Provide Disaster Relief
Salesian missionaries are providing disaster relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Once the immediate danger from the storm passed, Salesian missionaries living and working in the country's local communities launched direct relief efforts. And, because of the leadership role these missionaries assumed in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, they are well positioned to make an immediate impact. With schools and programs throughout Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the response has been efficient and comprehensive. Salesian missionaries are providing relief kits. Each kit contains rice, beans, salmon, sugar, olive oil, milk and soap and will sustain five people for four days per kit. In addition to the food provided, clean water and soap will be essential if there is a hope to contain a cholera outbreak.
In the initial aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, Salesian missionaries were instrumental in emergency response and relief efforts. An integral part of the infrastructure in Haiti prior to the earthquake, they were among the first responders—providing shelter and medical aid; means to securely transport, store and distribute relief supplies and clean drinking water; and, perhaps most importantly, an understanding of how to get things done in Haiti. Salesian missionaries have continued their relief and reconstruction efforts long after other relief efforts have subsided to help rebuild Haiti and provide support to its people.
More Missions in Haiti
Since the arrival of Salesian missionaries in Haiti, building schools has been a priority. Salesian Father Bohnen, a Dutch native, came to Haiti in 1954 and was so touched by the great poverty and the lack of schools in La Saline, he encouraged local school teachers to form little schools for the children. Today, OPEPB, a Salesian development project committed to working for the improved social welfare of marginalized youth, serves more than 18,000 poor youth living in the slums of the Northern Bay of Port-au-Prince each year. OPEPB supports 192 Little Schools and six elementary schools where reading, writing, mathematics, science, music and arts are taught to children ranging in ages from 7 to 15 years. These educational centers serve more than 15,000 children every year.
In addition in 2014, more than 3 million Haitian children returned to school with 200,000 of them educated in Salesian-run institutions. Salesian missionaries are continuing to rebuild their own educational centers and offer support to the country that had 90 percent of schools destroyed during the 2010 earthquake. For Salesian missionaries in the country, schools in Haiti fulfill an important socio-economic mission by providing a foundation of lifelong learning for poor youth and teaching them valuable skills and trades to help them escape poverty and establish a sustainable livelihood. Through donor support and ongoing relief efforts, Salesian missionaries rebuilt schools.
Street children in Port-au-Prince are cared for in the rebuilt Lakay House for Street Children. The Lakay program for street children feeds more than 600 youth every day in Cité Soleil, the poorest slum in Port-au-Prince. This indispensable Salesian-run center provides shelter, education and food to hundreds of street children with nowhere else to turn. The facility was completely destroyed by the earthquake, leaving the children without shelter. Today, Lakay is back in operation and home to nearly 150 former street children in addition to the hundreds of other youth it serves by providing educational opportunities and hope for better futures.
In addition to providing clean, safe water during times of disaster like Hurricane Matthew and the 2010 earthquake, Salesian missionaries provide ongoing access to safe water at their local programs. In Les Cayes, the Salesian community has a mini-center that provides purified water to the students and teachers for free. The program also sells the water to the local community to raise funds for the school. During reconstruction of the Salesian Youth Center in Fort-Liberté, Salesian missionaries created a new water purification plant that provides clean, fresh water at affordable prices to residents of surrounding communities. Without it, the local drinking water wouldn’t be suitable for drinking.
Salesian sports programs in Haiti focus on youth between 5 and 18 years of age. Students are able to take part in programs that offer recreational activities such as treasure hunts, play educational games and sports, and take part in sports-focused workshops that teach the skills needed to play soccer and volleyball. Sports programs teach valuable skills to youth both on and off the field. They offer unlimited opportunities for growth by simultaneously developing leadership, teamwork and social skills.
In Haiti, efforts are always focused on preventing an outbreak of disease—especially helping to stop and prevent cholera. During relief efforts, Salesian missionaries and volunteers have distributed water purification tablets for treating water. They have also distributed relief kits that contain soap and clean water. In 2014, Salesian Missions received and coordinated a donation from Soapbox Soaps who donated more than 10,000 bars of soap for children and families in need in Haiti to prevent cholera and other disease. Children who take part in Salesian feeding programs also receive education and resources about personal hygiene during school. In addition, Salesian missionaries operate the School of Nursing at Fort-Liberté—one of the only schools of its kind in the country—to help prepare nurses to provide critical medical care in the country.
An estimated 340 young people are currently training in agricultural schools and vocational training centers in Cap-Haïtien. The agriculture education provides students with a basic education as well as advanced studies in the latest agricultural practices and modern technologies while moving toward efficiency in farming by exploring and testing new techniques in agriculture, horticulture, floriculture and animal husbandry. The school provides both classroom education and hands-on agriculture and livestock training on a working farm on the school campus.
Salesian-run technical and vocational training centers focus on providing youth with the educational opportunities and social support they need to succeed. In Fort-Liberté, the Don Bosco Technical School accommodates 2,000 youth, preparing them for jobs through traditional and professional training courses in the areas identified as most in need—including hydraulics, masonry, cabinet making, tailoring and administrative work. In Les Cayes, the Salesian-run Diocesan Center of Arts and Trades (CDAM) opened its doors to the poor youth of Haiti in 1983. CDAM provides technical/vocational training for the youth as well as educational and sports programs.
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