Here are some images of activities during the Christmas season this year in Haiti
This past July 4th, we held a graduation ceremony for our Becky DeWine school's first graudating class of 129 students.
Without the dedicated efforts of Fran and Mike DeWine and our DeWine family of donors, we would not be able to share this good news. Both were present at the ceremony and Attorney General Dewine gave the closing address.
The ceremony was presented by Bishop Mesidor WaWa (Diocese of Fort-Liberte) and contributions were provided Bishop Yves Marie Peon (Diocese of Gonaives).
Fr. Tom Hagan, president of Hands Together, delivered a message to the graduates and parents discussing the great mile stone these children have achieved and reminded the gradutes of the fundamental belief that they are truly loved by God.
Doug Campbell, executive director, spoke about the long journey and many challenges he has faced with this class:
"From the creation of the school to surviving the earthquake, hurricanes, cholera outbreaks, and the everyday violence of Cite Soleil you have formed a community in God’s love."
Doug explained that the "time for receiving was coming to an end and the time for giving has begun." He has implored the graduates as they continue their successful journey that they always remember where they came from and the support and hope Hands Together has brought them, and reminded them they are always welcomed members of the Hands Together family.
Attorney General of Ohio Mike DeWine gave the closing address.
Our 2013 Annual Report is now available in PDF format. Click here to download.
The Hands Together 2013 Annual Report provides the most current information on our work in Haiti. It's a great summary of the work that began 28 years ago and a testimony to the sacrifice, commitment, and vision of Fr. Tom Hagan, Hands Together Founder and President. We hope that by sharing a little of our story with you will strengthen the bond between the many struggling people of Haiti and all of you who have done so through your prayers and support. Most of all we wish to leave you with an honest, accurate, glimpse at the harsh reality of work with the poor.
Table of Contents:
A note from Fr. Tom -pg 3
About Hands Together-pg 4
The Becky DeWine School - pg 5
Keeping it all running -P-au-P - pg 9
The Reality of Cite Soleil - pg 10
Other P-au-P outreach programs - pg 12
Outreach beyond P-au-P, HTG Projects- pg 16
Keeping it all running-HTG - pg 22
Donor Support - pg 23
Catholic Mission Appeal Support - pg 24
Financial Summary - pg 25
Trustees - pg 28
Top Ten Needs - pg 29
“Wherever the very poor are, that is where we will be. We will follow them and stand alongside them.” Fr. Tom said in response to questions about long-term planning from a recent visiting delegation from the United States. This, of course, is not our entire long-term approach, but it truly reflects our spirituality and mission when considering what we are doing in Haiti. And it is the foundation upon which all our projects rest.
Fr. Tom, in a moment of honesty summed up his feelings about working in Haiti, 'I don't like it here in Haiti and I never did but I am not ready yet to "throw in the towel". I have a dream that our schools will be good examples to others of what education should be. I still have a dream that our schools will be extremely clean and orderly, with many good programs and activities. This dream keeps me getting up each day and it also keeps me thinking young."
As "Carnival" ends, marking the beginning of Lent, our students returned to their classes, today - February 14th, after a few days off. We have set many goals for this Lenten journey, hoping to purify and simplify things within ourselves and within our projects. As Fr. Tom writes, 'There is so much here to do. I am setting up a teacher's committee, with representatives chosen by their peers, in hopes that we can have a system for dialogue and for resolving grievances and conflicts. I will be working on modified contracts that require teachers to assist in classroom and cafeteria monitoring, something we really need as there is too much disorder now. I am trying to set realistic goals for each day!"
Becky DeWine School News
Hands Together's Becky DeWine School contains 5,000 students dispersed among 8 separate campuses in 7 different neighborhoods. All of the locations are considered part of Haiti's largest and poorest slum, Cite Solei, where the poverty and violence make it impossible to really implement any consistent programs. Here is a recent email from Fr. Tom to Doug Campbell about the typical daily situation he faces in Cite Soleil, "Yesterday, we had to close two schools early because of all the shooting. It has intensified over the past two days as two wars are going on simultaneously. Solei 19 against Ti Haiti and bran Neuf against Druillard. Two who were shot are participants in our Dismas program. If it keeps up, we wont have to pay any salaries to these guys because they will all be shot." It is with this constant instability and unrest that we open the gates of our campuses each day - praying for God to help us through another day.
Here are some of the recent programs and needs for the January - June school term:
St Franswa High School
The violence and threats to our staff and students that plagued us in October and November decreased significantly, thanks in large part to our outreach to the local gangs through our special "Dismas" project that combines labor, studies and spiritual development among young people enmeshed in gang life. The real challenges at the high school are with the staff and administration. It is hard to find qualified teachers and administrators who are willing to enter Cite Soliel. Some of this year's notable accomplishments include:
- books and uniforms submitted to all students;
- a hearty daily meal for all students and staff, thanks to Mary's Meals;
- started a student government that involves the upper-class students in special activities and study sessions;
- created a parent/community leader committee that meets regularly to discuss and respond to problems and needs of the school, such as local violence, or community clean-up and support - 10 parents come each day to help at the school;
- established internships for our senior class at Radio Boukman - students spend 6 hours per week learning journalism, broadcasting and radio basics,
- conducted a leadership retreat/conference at our formation center in Bassen Haiti for 24 student leaders and 4 high school professors - covered spirituality, responsibility and leadership;
- started a "barefoot school" program for 175 children who never went to school and are between 8-13 years old. They come in the afternoon for a daily meal and our recent high school graduates teach them basic literacy;
- continue to feed 150 elderly each day, with last year's high school graduates helping out.
Most Pressing Needs:
- improved computer lab, internet access and computer tech/teacher;
- solar energy for the school;
- funding for teacher training and formation;
- roof top garden installed on the main building;
- after-school, extra-curricular programs and better religious education programs - including music program, dance, sports,etc.;
- funds for supporting alumni graduates to come back and help and teach - giving stipends.
DeWine Family Scholarship Program
Thanks to the generosity of the DeWine family, we now have a special scholarship program for our high school graduates. Hands Together forged a partnership with the University of Notre Dame Haiti - and their 8 different colleges, so that scholarship recipients would receive 4 years of tuition, room and board, contingent upon a recipients successful admissions into the University. Currently, there are 28, 2012 graduates competing for this merit based award. All candidates must work for 6 months - teaching at our barefoot schools or helping run our elderly feeding programs. In February, Senator DeWine and Fran DeWine met with all candidates and interviewed them.
St Ann Middle School
Thanks to strong leadership from the administration at our St Ann campus - we have a very well run middle school with a great potential for many improvements and more advanced programs. Like the high school, we implemented a strong parent/community committee and started a student council as well. Hands Together has worked hard to renovate the existing St. Ann church that is adjacent to our school complex - and it is here that we hold parent rallies, hold Sunday Mass, and even hold mini retreats and teaching sessions for our gang outreach program. We are trying to increase our Catholic presence and resurrect a lagging Catholic faith presence in our schools and in the neighborhoods.
Most Pressing Needs:
- install an artificial turf field at St. Ann that will serve our entire Becky DeWine school population. We estimate that it would cost about $200,000 - with our Dismas and local people doing much of the labor.
- Add a good computer lab
- obtain funding to expand our "barefoot school" outreach here - to pay for additional school meals and learning materials - $18,000.
- Roof top and school gardens.
Our Fundamental Schools
"If we can begin when they are young, and instill a solid moral and intellectual foundation, we can help change an entire generation and eventually transform the Cite Soleil slum, and the minds of our students will be open and strong enough to imagine a totally different kind of life. A life of service, and responsibility. That is why it is so important to have good quality pre-school and elementary school programs," says Fr. Tom.
Most Pressing Needs:
- playground equipment at 5 locations - $9,000
- "little lending libraries" at each campus - where teachers can borrow classroom books and teaching aids - $18,000
- school gardens.
Radio Boukman Internship
In September, we started an internship for our high school seniors for them to gain real life, hands-on experience in the world of broadcasting and communications. Hands Together supports Radio Boukman with an annual operating grant and we feel that it is a great example of a locally created and run project.
This past summer, Fr. Tom organized 9 groups of 11 young men with ties to the gangs of Cite Soleil and created work projects for them during July and August. This experiment proved very successful and demonstrated that with a little effort, something can be done to alter the lives of those who many consider "beyond hope."
Dismas is an outreach to the at-risk youth and gang element in Cite Solei – named after the thief on the cross next to Jesus, who at the end of his life, experienced Redemption. The central message here is that all human life is precious and redeemable, and that with God’s grace, anyone can change. We are trying to change the hearts and minds of the young people who’ve been labeled vagabonds.
This project is primarily about human dignity, about instilling hope and self-worth. It is not a “job-creation” program, but an outreach linked to the Church and our educational centers “schools” in particular neighborhoods.
Duration: Project begins January 1st and ends April 30, 2013 . Max participants: - 120 Structure & Operations: We will create “dismas teams” of 10 participants – each group headed by a captain. Project will start on January 1st – and continue until the school year ends on June 30th.
Cost: $10,457/ month – x 4 months - $41,828
In early November 2012, Fr. Tom noticed many school aged children wandering around nearby our campuses, but not in school. He discovered that there was an entire population of kids (ages 8-14) who have never been to school and as they get older, their chances of ever learning to read and write diminish rapidly. So we created our "barefoot school" to target these youth. Each day we feed and provide literacy formation to 255 young people who have never been to school - an might never go to school.
We run a barefoot school at our 3 largest campus centers. The participants come at 1pm for a daily meal, and then they sit through 2 hours of basic literacy training. What is unique about this project, is that the teaching is done by our recent high school graduates as part of their DeWine Scholarship eligibility requirements. As more and more students graduate from our high school, we can see the great impact our alumni will have on the communities of Cite Soleil.
We must not seek the child Jesus in the pretty figures of our Christmas cribs. We must seek him among the undernourished children who have gone to bed at night with nothing to eat, among the poor newsboys who will sleep covered with newspapers in doorways. -- Archbishop Oscar Romero, December 24, 1979
During this time of Advent we are called to wait – it is a time of exile and we await a light to come and dispel the darkness. Certainly we experience this at a profound and harsh level with our work in Port-au-Prince.
“Today as I approached the Sisters’ place a group of young men attacked us with rocks. They were screaming and yelling that we do nothing for them. They rolled big boulders in front of the car and they began sitting on the car. I threw it in reverse and went around the back way and approached the sisters from another route, but the men proceeded to do the same thing. It was very traumatic for me and the sisters. Tomorrow, the sisters will send their driver for me. We had a similar incident at the Boston clinic yesterday and Jim Dellavalle had to endure it. These are times when the thought of leaving seems very appealing.” – Fr. Tom Hagan note to Doug Campbell – 12/11/12
The email above from Fr. Tom really captures the struggle of working with the poor in Port-au-Prince. It is a constant pressure, especially from those who we simply cannot help. It is a problem that cannot be solved by “giving more”. During this time of Advent we are praying for God to help us with these challenges -- to help us avoid discouragement or giving up, to see the “light of world” even when it seems dark. So this Christmas we ask that you say a little prayer for us and know that we are always grateful for everyone who is part of our small work.
During October and November violence in Cite Soleil increased, with different groups fighting one another and creating serious safety and security problems for schools and clinics. The instability became so disruptive, that we had to close our schools down several times.
This prompted us to hold a large “anti-violence” rally at the St. Ann Chapel in late November. Nearly 3,000 people, students, parents, staff and community leaders filled the St. Ann Chapel to show their solidarity and the cry to stop the violence and allow the children to go to school without fear or danger. Representatives from the Becky DeWine School Parents committee (mother and a father) pleaded for an end to the fighting. Hands Together School leaders, Doug Campbell, and Fr. Tom Hagan all spoke to the large crowd. The event ended with an address from the Haitian Secretary of State and the chief of Police – pledging to properly dispatch police to school sites and insure safety for the Hands Together schools in Cite Soleil.
“We needed to place this problem of violence into the hands of the community. We needed to shed some light on how bad things have become and challenge every parent and every community leader to spread a message that violence cannot conquer violence. Fr. Tom did a wonderful job of communicating that God not only loves everyone, from the children to the gang member, but that God forgives everyone. We needed to establish a starting point for moving forward and scrub out any ideas of vengeance,” said Doug Campbell.
Becky DeWine School – Centers of Hope
Hands Together runs Becky DeWine School campuses in seven major Cite Soleil slum neighborhoods. From the beginning we’ve emphasized the “community nature” of the schools. They are much more than classrooms, and from them come a variety of activities that help students, parents, teachers, elderly and the community in general. Here are just a few of the ways our schools help bring some stability and a sense of hope to an otherwise dismal place:
- Daily School Meals – Thanks to Mary’s meals we provide a daily meal to all students, staff and elderly. Each day we serve close to 6,000 meals. “It’s a huge accomplishment – every day. Even as we struggle with the quality of teaching and the other problems, this one thing, by itself, is an incredible feat.”
- K- 12 Education – The biggest challenge is trying to run the high school. Our fundamental and middle school runs pretty well, but our high school gives us constant problems. The high school demands a huge number of special teachers, and tons of books, and computers, equipment. We try to provide a comprehensive education – intellectual, spiritual and physical.
“There is a huge need for better religious/spiritual teaching. Ethics and morals and a sense of service are just not instilled here the way we try to in the U.S. – so we try to do some of this and realize that the best way is to begin with our kindergarten and very young pupils. And then the challenge is to stay with it all the way until they leave our high school.” Fr. Tom Hagan
- Barefoot Schools – There are countless children of all different ages who never really went to school. We’ve enlisted the help of our recent H.S. graduates to work with this group from 1-3pm, each afternoon. We provide a simple meal and some basic literacy training to about 600 participants, but this could easily double overnight if we opened it up further.
- Parent Associations – Every school is designed to serve the community where it’s located. We’ve done a poor job of fostering responsibility and support from the parents and local leaders. This year, we created “parent associations” with 10 parents from each school, meeting every Sunday to discuss the needs, problems and programs of the school. If there is a problem of violence near the schools, then we turn to them to help us address it, if there is a maintenance problem, or a theft problem, then we must include the parents and the community in our response.
- Employment – We employ a lot of people to work. It’s probably one of the best by-products of the school system. Over 300 people receive a paycheck each month. “The best thing we can do for the very young people is create the community school and promote education, the best thing we can do for over 20 generations is to find ways to give them jobs or ways to generate income.” – Doug Campbell
- Project Dismas – There are thousands of young people in Cite Soleil (ages 19-28) who do not work and who naturally end up in gangs. Every neighborhood has this element. We began an outreach to these young people and in the past we’ve had some limited success in helping some of them change the direction of their life. The project is named Dismas - after the thief on the cross next to Jesus, who at the end of his life, experienced Redemption. The central message here is that all human life is precious and redeemable, and that with God’s grace, anyone can change. We are trying to change the hearts and minds of the young people who’ve been labeled vagabonds. We created “dismiss teams” of 10 participants – each group headed by a captain.
- Each team helps at a school location – our schools should be the anchor from which we outreach to the community.
- Assist with Elderly feeding and outreach,
- Beautify the grounds, clean up around each school every week,
- Build and care for a school garden – at every sight.
- Build and care for a school garden – at every sight.
- Annual Becky DeWine School Christmas Gifts – During the week of December 17-21, each school campus will run its modest Christmas party, where students receive a small Christmas present from the DeWine Family. “Fran and Mike DeWine, and lots of their friends work all year long to collect about 5,000 gifts for the kids. This year the young ones will get beanie babies, and jump ropes. Every high school student will receive a new calculator. Fran DeWine does a remarkable job collecting, sorting and packing all this stuff up and getting it down to us. It’s a real nice thing for the kids, just a far too infrequent gesture of love that lets these children know that they are important.” Doug Campbell
- Radio Bookman Interns – Each year we provide a grant to help Radio Boukman – a grassroots radio station that was founded by past HT employees – and provides Cite Soleil with excellent news, spiritual radio, music and educational programs. In November we started an intern program for our H.S. seniors, where they spend afternoons learning the basics of journalism and radio broadcasting.
- Mobile Clinic – HT trustee, Dr. Jim Dellavalle spent December 4 -14 helping Dr. Fanfan with our mobile clinic outreach program. Each day, about 125 people came to the clinic, which circulated around the different zones of Cite Soleil.
Fuel briquettes from garbage -An alternative to charcoal from trees - Below is a summary of our new development project that reduces the harvesting of trees for charcoal and promotes small business.
Duration: April 2012 – May 2015
Coordinator: George Beliard, Development Staff in Gonaives office
Provide 40 people with the training, materials and assistance to create briquettes from garbage and waste, and decrease the use of charcoal in the areas of Gonaives. The project will involve students from local schools and will create commerce and markets for these alternative fuel briquettes and the special stoves that are easily fabricated by locals.
10 cells of 4 people will use special pressing machines and cook stoves, create teams to gather useable garbage and plant waste, and introduce the cooking fuel and stoves into their local markets and communities. HT will explore purchasing fuel and stoves for use in school kitchens where we serve a daily meal.
- Manufacture of briquettes for cooking
- Manufacture of briquettes press & the improved stove
- Production and planting of seedlings
- Initiation-school students to technical of manufacturing briquettes-
- Strengthening the managerial and organizational capacity of local associations (actors / beneficiaries)
- Technical Training for actors / beneficiaries for all technical fields above cited
- Create a 10 cell production and marketing team each year for a 3 year period. Each cell composed of 4 young people (2 boys and 2 girls).
- Income from the sale of briquettes will be divided between the four (4) cell members. The project provides a capital fund for the purchase of the initial materials etc..
- Introduce the project to five (5) sections of Gonaives. In year 1, 500 beneficiaries will be affected in two (2) sections, 500 others will be integrated into other 2 sections to the second year and the third year 500 beneficiaries will be added.
- Establish a work shop to produce improved stoves, and the stoves will be sold on a promotional price to encourage people using briquettes as cooking energy.
- Each cell will establish nursery production of seedlings.
- 20000 plants will be produce every year
- Training sessions will be organized for beneficiaries at our CCFP center in Bassen.
- Materials - $18,320
- Initial seed money in fund - $5,000
- Training costs - $7,750
- Seedlings - $2,500
Promotion - $1,000
Administrative - $4,150
Operators, Stove creators - $29,000
Total Year one - $70,020
Progress & Information
April, 2012 – Conducted dozens of meetings with the primary groups in Bassen and the Ti desdunes area. We established the cells and covered the structure and introduction info for the project. These ongoing formation sessions went through June.
- We trained participants in the technical aspects of briquette fabrication, and entrepreneurial management of the project;
- Now, there is a group that knows the process for collecting materials to make the briquettes and how to make them. You can see from the photos that participants have a good feel for how to manage this enterprise.
- We conducted successful trial runs of burning the briquettes in the special stoves designed for this.
July – August , 20102 - the cells (groups of 4 young people) from Bassen and Ti Desdunnes, started production of the briquettes, and began marketing them in the area.
Heavy rains and punishing winds ripped through Port-au-Prince on early Friday morning, August 24, - damaging homes and Hands Together school campuses.
"Shortly after the worst of the storm, several of our staff called me to report the scope of the Isaac's damage to our projects and to the populations around the schools," reports Doug Campbell. "They report some flooding, but the real damage came from the gale winds. Many people lost their houses, the roofs on 4 of our school builds were blown off, and several walls and latrines collapsed after torrential waters eroded their bases."
Fr. Tom left Haiti on the heels of the storm, flying standby, on his way to give a mission talk to a parish in Michigan. He returned to Haiti on August 27th and sent me the following email summary of the damage to our projects:
"Got back here today and visited each school except the high school. There was a little damage done to school in Ft. Dimanche (just a inner wall of the latrine..no urgency – we can get to that shortly).
- The St. Jane School in Bellecourt is fine (Digicel funded school).
- Msgr. Conolly School in Bellecourt – roof partially destroyed, 23 classrooms exposed. Needs to be repaired right away.
- HT houses – 12 of the 18 homes we built for people in Bellicouse suffered roof damage. Need to repair quickly as the rains continue.
- St. Ann school lost 1/2 of roof to new school and 1/8 of kitchen roof – need to begin repairs here.
- St. Aviat school in Solei 24 lost the roof to the dining area, it collapsed right into the school. There is other structural damage to the wood framing at certain points too.
- St.Joseph School lost 1/8 of roof to new latrine.
High School seems to be urgent..I heard that a small section of wall is down which leaves school vulnerable – I need to go down for a site visit, and I’ve scheduled a meeting for the staff so we can prepare a response plan to fix things and help the people who lost their houses. ..I will call you during this Meeting..
Immediate Response Plan
On the morning of August 28th, Doug and Fr. Tom conducted a "response plan meeting" with the school staff and leaders from the various communities most affected by Isaac. We reviewed the overall damage and will immediately implement the following response plan:
- Calculate all rebuilding materials needed for the schools and begin repairing the roofs first,
- repair all HT houses for residents,
- offer shelter in our classrooms to any people whose homes were destroyed,
- organize distribution of blankets and sheets that we have on hand at our depot,
- organize a simple food distribution to the 4 hardest hit zones,
- fill the water truck and provide clean drinking water to people living around our school campuses.
We have not received a full report on the problems in Gonaives, but it seems that that area was spared the worst of the storm and suffered only minor flooding and wind damage.
A film showing the recent work of Hands Together. Produced by the good folks at Holy Family Parish in S. Pasadena and features the soundtrack from the magnificen, "Symphony of Hope".Read More
A short, 3 minute clip describing the work of Hands Together and Fr. Tom Hagan.Read More
"In order to journey steadily, we must apply ourselves to doing well the stretch of road immediately before us on the first day of the journey, and not waste time wanting to do the last lap of the way while we still have to make it through the first." - St Francis de Sales
Fr. Tom would remark often that one of the most mature practices we need to develop is the ability to pick oneself up after a "fall or blow" and dust oneself off, and begin again. This is indispensable and the fruit of much prayer, failure and faith. On June 30th, our Becky DeWine School will close for the summer and the we can feel good about completing this 2011-2012 school year, especially in light of the tragedies and difficulties. During July, many of our students will take the Government exams and teachers will receive ongoing formation.
Collaboration With the Archdiocese of P-au-P Educational Office
Moving forward we see the need to strengthen our ties with the local Church and collaborate with their ecucation office to create more responsibiltiy and independence for our Becky DeWine School campuses. Hands Together seeks to slowly "step backward", providing support but withdrawing from details of daily management and problem solving. We've set a transition course and will take gradual steps to bring our schools under the Archdiocesan tent.
Summer Youth Work Projects
On July 2nd we launch our "Summer Youth Work Projects" that gives 100 young people living in Cite Soleil a chance to work for 2 months -- helping to clean, fix, and renovate our school campuses. The program will begin with a large assembly and a talk from the mayor. Each participant will receive a copy of the Francis de Sales "Golden Counsels' and we will try to introduce some basic morality and spirituality.
Here is a brief description of the program and the goals from an email Fr. Tom sent to Doug Campbell,
"Hey Doug, we've had many meetings including the one today. We have divided Site Solei into regions with each region connected to a Hands Together project. This is an opportunity to try to get some young people working this summer.
There will be ten youth working in each group. There will be community leaders who serve as captains and oversee projects to make sure they are completed. The total will be 100 youth, in 9 groups.
Each group must complete the following specific job projects:
- clean each school
- perpare gardens at St. Ann, Miot, St. Veronique
- work on improving soccer field at St. Ann
- work under the supervision of the welding boss and the carpenter to repair all desks and benches and to build new ones at St. Church
- do grounds work at each school
- the crew at St. Joseph will help with the cement work
- the crew at St. veronica will help putting up iron railin leading to roof plus security on roof
- groups will help put up more security wire at different schools
- Bellecourt will help to repair damage at cemetary done by earthquake
N.B. Each week captains will meet with their teams to review the progress. Each day, the members will gather with their captain to pray the Golden Councils”