COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Dec. 11, 2023) – In the two years since a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, the Institution Sainte Therese de Boileau, a school in southern Haiti, still struggles to recover from damage sustained during the quake.
With the help of Fr. Medard Laz, retired pastor of Holy Family Parish in Inverness, Ill., generous Food For The Poor (FFTP) donors will help rebuild the school and create an environment where students can focus on learning.
On Monday, Dec. 11, FFTP began its annual Building Dreams virtual campaign to rebuild the school in the second of a three-phase construction project. The project will impact 602 school students, teachers, and staff and an anticipated enrollment of up to 850 students.
Located in the southern department of Haiti within the commune of Cavaillon, Boileau was one of the areas most affected by the 2021 earthquake, leaving hazardous conditions that create safety risks for area residents. The quake left the Institution Sainte Therese de Boileau severely damaged, with major structural cracks that require repair or demolition.
“The school is in terrible, terrible shape,” Fr. Laz said. “The people are so very poor, and they make so little money. This project gives us an opportunity to help the students have consistent access to their school, get an education and have a better opportunity to succeed in life.”
Classes are held in overcrowded temporary shelters near buildings within the same compound that the earthquake rendered structurally unsafe. With no cafeteria, school administrators use an improvised outdoor cooking space to prepare lunch, ensuring that students receive at least one hot meal a day.
“Originally, the school was built in 1994 out of straw. Then, we received a donation and built the building we were using until now,” explained Fr. Descarde Christelhomme, the priest at the Sainte Therese Parish and a school administrator. “The August 2021 earthquake, unfortunately, damaged it and put us in a tough situation today. It would be a blessing for all of us to find a solution and get our school back on its feet because whenever it rains, there is no possibility of having classes.”
FFTP is partnering with St. Philip The Apostle Church in Highland Village, Texas, to provide a safe and enriching learning environment for students at the Institution Sainte Therese de Boileau. The Building Dreams campaign will provide enough funding to build two classroom blocks with a total of five classrooms and 10 chalkboards, a fully equipped playground, and a kitchen with a cafeteria that includes a 1,065-square-foot covered outdoor sitting area that will accommodate 64 people.
The campaign also covers the cost of an administrative block with a computer lab/library, office space and a small bathroom, additional masonry work, and transportation.
Boileau is home to 30,000 residents who earn less than a dollar a day and live on one meal daily. They reside in homes made of metal sheets and mud that offer little protection from the elements, insects, and rodents, exposing them to illnesses and diseases.
“In addition to the community’s continued effort to recover from the 2021 earthquake, Haiti is in an ongoing struggle to overcome extreme poverty, gang violence, and political instability,” FFTP President/CEO Ed Raine said. “Rebuilding this school will provide a safe environment where students can learn and ultimately build a better life for themselves and their families. We are so grateful to Fr. Laz and the people of his parish for their continued support and commitment to Haiti and its citizens.”
For the past 18 years, Fr. Laz, founding pastor of Holy Family Parish, has helped to fund numerous projects in Haiti through FFTP. Past fundraisers took place in person in suburban Chicago until the COVID-19 pandemic. Like the last three years, this year’s event will be virtual, and the goal remains the same – to bring help and a sense of hope to those in desperate need.
“Many charitable organizations have left Haiti because the conditions are so challenging,” Fr. Laz said. “I feel that Food For The Poor is there to stay, in the sense of doing their best to work around the problems and the violence, and I give them so much credit. They are not abandoning Haiti, and we’re so grateful.”
To learn more about the Building Dreams virtual fundraising campaign and to make a donation in support of Institution Sainte Therese de Boileau, please visit foodforthepoor.org/buildingdreams.
Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry children and families living in poverty primarily in 17 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, water, medicine, educational materials, homes, support for vulnerable children, care for the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. For more information, please visit foodforthepoor.org.