IC Haiti is proud to fund healthcare and education projects in Haiti. Our most recently completed project is the construction of an elementary school in Puit Chacha, Haiti. Puit Chacha is a remote hamlet within the catchment of Fond des Blanc, but without access to the schools available in the main village. Please visit our website at ICHaiti.org
A little history of IC Haiti
IC Haiti: Beginnings, Part 1
Over the course of the next few months, the Board of Directors for IC Haiti will provide several historical and informational pieces about IC Haiti. Whether you have known about IC Haiti since its inception or have only recently become acquainted with it, we hope these pieces will help you to understand and be inspired by this ministry to our brothers and sisters in Haiti.
Let’s begin at the beginning: how did our Collaborative’s ministry to the people of Haiti come into being? Nancy Rose, current President of IC Haiti’s Board of Directors and a board member since its inception, says Fr. Paul Berube got the ball rolling with a sermon he gave back in 2008. He told parishioners about the extreme poverty and suffering he witnessed on a trip to Haiti where some mothers were feeding their children mud pies to keep their bellies full. He said it was unconscionable for a small country so close to us not to be receiving help from our rich nation. His passion was moving. So much so that when he introduced the concept of us forming our own group to help the people of Haiti, there was great interest.
Fr. Paul himself answered the question of how IC Haiti came into being when he wrote the following to fellow IC Haiti Board members in June of 2011:
A Haitian bishop visited St. Anne parish in Salem every summer while I was growing up. He was bishop of Les Cayes (Haiti). Fond des Blancs is the most eastern town in that diocese.
Les Cayes and its needs, never dropped out of my mind. In 2002 Fr. Marc Piché was appointed pastor at IC Newburyport. A few months later as I was retiring, he invited me to live in Newburyport at the rectory. A short time later Fr. Dick Butler invited me to fulfill my dream of going to Haiti. We spent 5 days in Port-au-Prince and Fond des Blancs. The “immersion” experience—the complete poverty of the people and the efficiency of the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation—left me with a need to do something. When I returned, a brief but encouraging conversation with Fr. Marc was the beginning of IC Haiti. He gave his full support till the day he died in 2010.
A number of parishioners responded to an invitation to participate in an informational meeting. The response was encouraging. It led to a more formal recognition of the group and eventual use of IC-Haiti as its name.…The IC-Haiti Board/Steering Committee established itself as a non-profit in 2008.
And so, IC Haiti was born.
IC Haiti: Beginnings Part 2
Right from its start in 2008, IC Haiti was blessed to be affiliated with the Saint Boniface Haiti Foundation, a nonprofit started by the parishioners of Saint Boniface in Quincy, Massachusetts. In 1992, after less than ten years of active involvement in Haiti, SBHF expanded their medical clinic in Fond des Blancs into a hospital (St. Boniface Hospital) which is now the largest health care provider and tertiary care center in southern Haiti. The first visit to Haiti by IC Haiti board members was to the hospital in Fond des Blancs and its surrounding area. Subsequently, in response to the many needs of the people in the Fond des Blancs area, funding from IC Haiti was provided to dig deep water wells for two nearby rural communities, to support both cervical cancer and dental care screening programs at the hospital, and to provide scholarships for students seeking a secondary school education. Fr. Marc Piché, IC pastor during this time, endorsed a plan to have four second collections taken up each year to support the mission of IC Haiti. In April of 2009, the IRS approved IC Haiti as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt charitable organization
In January, 2010, a devastating earthquake in the Port-au-Prince area resulted in approximately 250,000 deaths and over 300,000 serious injuries. A tremendous strain was put upon St. Boniface Hospital, and IC Haiti was quick to offer emergency funding for the treatment of patients with spinal cord injuries. Later that year, board members became focused on the educational needs of young people in the Fond des Blancs area whose school buildings were either inadequate or destroyed by the earthquake. A commitment was made to build and maintain an elementary school for the rural community of Puit Chacha, three and a half miles south of Fond des Blancs. Fr. Paul Berube proposed naming the school for Fr. Marc Piché which the board approved at its November 2010 meeting. Fr. Marc died in December.
Construction of the Fr. Marc Piché Elementary School
(K–6) began in April 2011 and was completed that October with 200 students enrolled. Our new pastor Fr. Timothy Harrison and a few members of the IC Haiti Board of Directors attended the dedication of the school.
IC Haiti: Part 3
The Saint Boniface Haiti Foundation (SBHF) has been an invaluable resource for IC Haiti since our inception in 2008, providing us with “eyes on the ground” in the Fond des Blancs area to identify particular needs we can attend to. Starting with small but needed projects, we soon took on the mission of constructing and operating an elementary school in the rural community of Puit Chacha. Our Pastors, first Fr. Marc Piché and then Fr. Tim Harrison, fully supported this mission by having second collections taken up four times a year. The financial and prayerful support of parishioners and other generous donors has proven to be the backbone of IC Haiti’s commitment to its mission in Haiti to the present time. We have been able to meet
our financial obligations to support the Fr. Marc Piché elementary school as well as to help fund health programs at the Saint Boniface Hospital in Fond des Blancs and to offer relief and recovery funds following natural disasters (2 earthquakes and 2 hurricanes).
In May of 2012, near the end of the first year in the Fr. Marc Piché school, IC Haiti was able to make two $20,000 grants to SBHF to help fund two new programs at the hospital: a dentalcare program and a maternal & child healthcare program. We were also able to complete the construction of the school building, to put down a deep water well on school property, and to have the school painted. On top of that, we covered the school operation expenses for the 2012–13 school year, while donating another $20,000 in early 2013 to continue to support an expanding maternal and child care program at Saint Boniface hospital.
In the spring of 2013, our Board of Directors made a commitment to fund a hot lunch program the following school year as well as a dental care program for the school children subject to the results of our fundraising. In the 2013–14 school year, administrative problems on the ground in Haiti blocked us from initiating the school lunch program. Fortunately, we were able to rectify that matter for the 2014–15 school year and have been providing breakfast and hot lunches to students ever since. The food program more than doubled our annual operating expenses for the school (from approximately $12,500 to $31,000), but we were still able to make two $25,000 donations to the hospital: one for the hospital’s dental program and one for the hospital’s pharmacy.
IC Haiti’s donors can certainly be grateful to God for the many blessings we have been able to share with our brothers and sisters in Haiti. Clearly both the school community in Puit Chacha and the hospital community in Fond des Blancs can “see” that IC Haiti does indeed “see” them. IC Haiti = I see hope!
IC Haiti: Part 4
In 2014, when she was in 3rd grade at the Immaculate Conception Grammar School, Margot Anderson-Song, along with her family and friends, initiated a “Cookies for Haiti” fundraiser. This now annual bake sale has raised over $55,000 for the mission of IC Haiti, and it continues to the present. Generous anonymous donors have often matched the money raised at this fundraiser, encouraging the Cookies for Haiti’s bakers and enhancing IC Haiti’s ability to meet its financial obligations to the school community in Puit Chacha. Thanks to Margot for inspiring so many people to see Haiti and its school children with the eyes of Christ.
On Mother’s Day 2015, Miriam McNabb, then President of IC Haiti, shared these words with parishioners: “I will never forget my first sight of Haitian families attending church, with all of the women and children attired in spotlessly clean and meticulously pressed dresses for the girls or slacks and shirts for the boys—and the slow realization, as I saw the same women washing clothing in the stream or heating charcoal for old box-style irons, of the work that this entailed.”
Miriam described the plight of women in Haitian society, but she also offered hope with these words: “The best solution is clear—according to the UN Foundation, women are more likely to marry later if they have more years of schooling; children are twice as likely to attend school if their mother has been educated. The Fr. Marc Piché school was built near to a deep water well, so that girls can attend school and still carry water for their families. By providing a meal to the children, we give families more motivation to keep all of their children in school.”
The following week, Miriam appealed to the parish as we were short of our budgetary goals due to major snow storms at the time of our two previous quarterly collection dates. She emphasized the importance of continuing to fund a daily hot lunch program as part of our commitment to the school. She wrote, “Feeding the kids in Haiti is much more significant than providing a subsidy or a snack so that they concentrate better. Feeding every child in the school every school day with a nutritionally balanced meal means that none of them display the reddish tinge to their hair that indicates malnutrition, seen throughout the community of Puit Chacha. It means none of them will suffer from protein deficiencies, lack of calcium, or scurvy—diseases that we almost never see here in the US. These kids will develop normally, to their God-given potential, because they are given adequate nutrition. In most of Haiti, that’s not the case.”
We responded generously to Miriam’s appeals, and that August we not only funded the 2015–16 school budget and hot lunch program but we were also able to fund the dental program at St. Boniface Hospital.
IC Haiti: Part 5
2016 started off with drought conditions that severely affected food production and costs in Haiti. The sector IC Haiti and St. Boniface Hospital serve was put on a famine watch list by the World Health Organization. Then in February the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease that affects unborn children, hit the families of the children in the Fr. Marc Piché school. IC Haiti responded with a $25,000 donation to St. Boniface Hospital for their community health and nutrition outreach program. In August, we were still able to fully fund the 2016–17 school budget thanks to the generosity of parishioners.
Then in October Hurricane Matthew devastated the southern area of Haiti where both the Fr. Marc Piché school and St. Boniface Hospital are located. The damage to homes, roads, and bridges was dramatic and severe, leaving the entire region cut off from immediate access to clean water and food. The school provided a sound shelter for many during the storm, but it too suffered some damage. Disease, particularly cholera, and starvation became terrible realities. Financially IC Haiti was not in a good position at that time to respond effectively to this emergency. Yet the need of our brothers and sisters in Haiti was urgent, so IC Haiti made an appeal to the parish. Cardinal Seán O’Mally made a similar appeal to the entire Archdiocese of Boston.
IC Haiti’s Board of Directors set an aggressive goal to raise $10,000 in two weeks’ time to address the emergency relief needs in Haiti. The response was tremendous, praise God! A dress-down day at IC grammar school raised close to $1,300; Carol Robertson donated a beautiful quilt for a raffle that netted $2,000; donations by IC Haiti supporters through PayPal amounted to over $5,000; and parishioners directly contributed $26,388. Within IC Haiti’s two-week period to raise $10,000, we raised close to $35,000. Wow! Before the end of October, we were able to send $30,000 for emergency relief to the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation which runs the hospital in Fond des Blanc and oversees the operation of our school, its lunch program, and health outreach programs in the area of southern Haiti. In January of 2017 we sent an additional $11,700 which included funding for continued hurricane relief efforts and for the higher cost of food for our school lunch program. In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, parishioners, the IC school community, and many individual supporters responded with a generosity that far exceeded our expectations. The Spirit was, indeed, present in our community, helping us to see our brothers and sisters in Haiti through the eyes of Christ.
IC Haiti: Part 6
The period from 2017 to 2019 saw a rise in costs to support the annual Fr. Marc Piché Elementary school budget and dental program. In addition, a new solar and wind powered water filtration system was installed at the school; an annual teacher training program was initiated; and scholarships to attend a secondary school were offered to all graduates of our elementary school. For this three-year period, IC Haiti’s total costs to support these efforts averaged just over $66,000 per year.
In July of 2018, IC Haiti issued a 5-Year Financial Report to IC Parish covering the years 2013–2017. This report included all income (collections, fundraising, gifts, and interest); all program costs and aid to Haiti; and administrative costs. The purpose of that report was primarily informational, but the Board of Directors for IC Haiti also wanted parishioners to see that the Board was being a good steward of their generous donations. A second 5-Year Report (2018–2022) will be issued shortly as part of this series on the history of IC Haiti.
Three fundraising efforts stood out during this period, and each of them was initiated by IC Parish students. First, Margot Anderson-Song’s annual sale of “Cookies for Haiti” continued to support our mission to Haiti. Second, the children in the Davis family held a lemonade stand during Yankee Homecoming to raise funds and awareness for IC Haiti. Third, Alyson Rose, a graduate of IC, created a beautiful portrait of our church to adorn cards she sold to raise funds for IC Haiti.
In September of 2019, the Board of Directors invited parishioners and all other supporters of IC Haiti to a video presentation at the Newburyport Community Center. The video “Bending the Arc” focused on the efforts of Dr. Paul Farmer and his colleagues to deliver the highest quality health care to the most unlikely places, including Haiti. “Reaching far beyond the issue of health care, ‘Bending the Arc’ shows how moral imagination, strategy, and sheer will together can change the trajectory of the world, bending the arc of the moral universe closer to justice.” (http://bendingthearcfilm.com) Our purpose in inviting people to see this film was to thank them for their past support and to inspire them to continue to see the people of Haiti with the eyes of Christ.
Some may ask: why are we continuing to help the people of Haiti? Despite widespread social chaos and violence, natural disasters, disease, lack of resources, political corruption, and greed, we are helping them because God continues to invite and empower us to be kind and merciful as He is kind and merciful. We are helping the people of Haiti because we have chosen to see them as our brothers and sisters who are in dire need of our compassion.
IC Haiti: Part 7
2020–2022 was a particularly difficult period in the history of Haiti. Not only did Haitians suffer the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic along with the rest of the global community, but they also experienced an unprecedented humanitarian crisis brought on by political, social, and economic violence and chaos. That crisis continues into the present time (June 2023). Costs skyrocketed as food and medical supplies became less accessible due to an ongoing disruption of the transportation system. However, by the grace of God, IC Haiti was able to keep up its commitment to fund the Fr. Marc Piché elementary school and its attendant programs (hot lunch, dental care, and secondary school tuitions), albeit at a higher cost: just over $70,000 a year during this three-year period. In addition, we contributed to St. Boniface Hospital as it coped with the health and nutrition problems brought on by the crisis.
Fortunately, IC parishioners continued to support our mission to Haiti even when the pandemic caused our church to be closed for much of the time during this period. “Cookies for Haiti” amazingly donated $7,000 in the summer of 2020 even when there were no parishioners at church to buy cookies. An anonymous donor then matched that $7,000 total. Wow! Another anonymous donor helped us tremendously to meet our budgetary goals during these three difficult years with several five-figure contributions.
In the later part of 2022, Conor Shapiro, the CEO of Health Equity International (formerly the Saint Boniface Haiti Foundation), spoke at Sunday Masses here to let parishioners know how much the medical community at Saint Boniface Hospital in Fond des Blancs appreciated our supportive partnership. He also spoke at the Parish Center, where parishioners in attendance donated close to $1,000. Health Equity International is IC Haiti’s eyes on the ground in Haiti, and our mission to Haiti would not be possible without its guidance, oversight, and inspiration.
Two new fundraisers were initiated in November of 2022: a Walk for Water and a Get-Together at the Newburyport Brewery. The walk for water took place at Merrimac Heights Academy, a private special needs school in Merrimac. Students and staff all participated in a short walk to raise funds for IC Haiti. The brewery fundraiser brought people together for a fun time at the NBPT site on Graf Road where IC Haiti Board members held a raffle for a variety of donated items. Both events were not only fundraisers but opportunities for participants to learn about IC Haiti’s mission. Over $6,000 was raised at these two events. Kudos to MHA walkers and to the local band that performed pro bono at the NBPT brewery event.
IC Haiti: Part 8
In an online webinar with Health Equity International in mid-February 2023, personnel at the St. Boniface Hospital in Fond des Blancs, Haiti, offered us an update on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Haiti and its effects on both the hospital and the Fr. Marc Piché Elementary school in Puit Chacha. Toward the end of 2022, we had sent a donation to HEI to support their efforts during this crisis. However, during the webinar, we were advised by the hospital’s chief medical officer to keep our focus on the school. He said that it is essential for the future of Haiti that its children be educated, so he asked us to keep financial support for the school as our number one priority. We anticipate the school budget for 2023–24 (including the hot lunch program, dental care program, and tuition costs for graduates now attending secondary school) to come out to around $70,000. We will have one more collection (August 5–6) before the school budget payment is due.
IC Haiti has been a good steward of your generous support. In addition to meeting projected school costs, IC Haiti managed to keep a surplus of funds on hand during this five-year period to respond to emergency situations, to support health programs offered through the regional Saint Boniface Hospital, to maintain the upkeep of the school facilities in Puit Chacha, and to fund the school and lunch programs a year in advance. We are happy to report that support from the Collaborative remained constant even during the pandemic. Thank you and thank God for this ongoing opportunity to be instruments of His care, kindness, and generosity.