Hands Together now has eleven schools operating in Cite Soleil. Three of these schools are "special schools or Barefoot Schools" that serve the street kids who often have no parents and many have no clothes. These children demand a great deal of structure and individual attention. They usually do not adapt well to a traditional school setting, but our special schools are equipped to handle their unique makeup and situation.
This past October Hurricane Matthew dealt a devastating blow to Haiti. Our school and compound suffered damage. The hurricane destroyed the wall surrounding our high school as well as the wall behind our center. Unfortunately, thieves were able to take advantage and stole a great deal of material. Thankfully, the two walls were repaired at a great deal of expense and the work was finished this week.
Every so often, Father Tom sends an update as to what is happening at our headquarters and the various projects we're working on. You will read about the successes and challenges that Fr. Tom, Doug, and the HT staff face. They appreciate the prayers of our friends and donors and these updates will help keep everyone informed.
Update #1: PRISON MINISTRY
Hands Together has begun a program to reach out to the prisoners confined to the penitentiary in Port au Prince. They suffer greatly as the conditions are very bad. Every week Hands Together will visit the prison and bring soap and other needed supplies. St. Agatha parish in Columbus, Ohio is working on this project.
Terrence Wadsworth 1938 - 2016
We mourn the loss of Terry Wadsworth, a former board member and devoted longtime friend of Hands Together. Terry passed away after a battle with PSP, a degenerative, neurological disease. Terry was a champion for the poor in Haiti, having presented 4 to 5 appeals per year for over 15 years. He was a dearly loved friend to Father Tom and Doug and they are so thankful for he and his wife Christina’s heroic efforts for HT over the years. He will be missed, but his impact on us here at Hands Together and the poor in Haiti will live on.
Lots of work being done to improve our schools. Here are some fundamental improvements that I've set in motion:
- guardians at each of the 8 schools will report 2x's a month to the Delmas HQ for training,etc. This will give greater control, professionalism, etc
- The three kitchen managers will report once a week to Delmas HQ under the direction of the Director For Food - Evans.
- Evens will become the Director of Feeding in September after working three months in training.
- Pierrot will take over as the Director of all 8 schools and will have his office at Delmas
- There will be a class in computers...computer education at Lekol Vollel ( our middle school) beginning in September
- St.Jane Preschool has been chosen as the model school for advanced preschool education.....the very young children will be taught English....there will also be computer training
- An effort will be made to invite on Hands Together web site volunteers who would be willing to come and teach in English the subjects of math, science, etc.
- Students will be challenged to learn English and a special class will be formed where the students receive all education in English
November 8, 2013
The young men of Cite Soleil slum who participate in gang life are actually in many ways good young men. But they are men who are desperately poor and who have little – if any – self-esteem, convinced that they have little value or worth. There is as much as an 80% unemployment rate in Site Solei. There are very few opportunities for them. The majority of them have little or no education. Many of them are humiliated and embarrassed when they are asked to sign their name.
They have not received much love in their short lifetime.
Hands Together has been working in the Site Solei slum since the fall of 1996. In the first early years, we received a great deal of advice to simply ignore the young gang members because any association with these young men would permanently tarnish the reputation of Hands Together.
Fr. Tom in over his head with Project Dismas participants
We were told that they were crazed and very dangerous. There was a very popular documentary called The Ghosts of Site Solei that portrayed them as evil and dangerous gangsters. Their leader Tupac was portrayed as a psychopath who was intent on simply causing violence.
But slowly the staff of Hands Together began to see another side of them. These young "gangsters" would be seen helping the elderly, organizing soccer games for young boys and with a great deal of joy and enthusiasm distributing packages of food to the needy in their communities.
On one particular day back when there was a great deal of political and civil turmoil in Cite Solei after President Aristide left the country -- it was becoming increasingly clear that the very poor of Cite Solei, especially the elderly and the children, were starving. The leader of the gang, along with all gang members and the staff of Hands Together fed over 200,000 people in one day. Hands Together supplied the food and they distributed it all in a very orderly fashion.
As a Catholic priest I began to feel more and more like a father to them. I would listen and talk with them. Many times I would get angry with them -- especially when they would participate in the violence. I would cry with them and I would laugh with them. I would preside at many of their funerals.
The years have gone by and I find myself now in 2013 still having a big space in my heart for all of them. Many of them if not all of them really do not want to participate in violence. They want a job and they crave for a life of normalcy.
Tragically, and I don't know why but through the years many politicians have taken advantage of them often offering them money if they would participate in disrupting a political demonstration and do things that would create instability.
Over the years I have been a fool often accepting their lies or excusing their lives. But, I find myself more than ever loving them and wanting them to change. I pray every day for them and and I ache when they die.