St. Matthew’s is one of some 200 educational institutions run by the Episcopal Church in Haiti (in Haiti, only 20% of schools are public.) It lies nestled in a river valley among the mountains — a church on Sunday, a school on Monday through Friday; a center for the subsistence-farming community. Happily, with expansion of the school, the construction of four handsome new classrooms, the school can now host community events such as medical clinics held by Health4Haiti, and community celebrations.
Map of Haiti
The village of Bayonnais is marked by the blue pin. Click and drag the map, or double-click to zoom in. You can also view the map in another window.
Adult literacy is 50%; schooling of each child can cost a family 20% of annual income; half the population lives on a dollar a day or less. Opportunities are worst in the countryside, where half the population lives — only half the children there are enrolled in schools.
Tuition, textbooks, supplies, uniforms (required), and hunger are barriers to education. Parents are willing, children are eager. Let’s help them!
The Episcopal Diocese of Haiti
The diocese of Haiti was founded by an American, Theodore Holly, a descendant of slaves. In 1861 he took his family and a group of African Americans to settle in Haiti — the world’s first black republic (1804). He organized Holy Trinity Church, later the cathedral. He trained priests and started congregations and medical programs in the countryside. Thirty-five years later he poignantly recalled those early years:
“A destructive fever broke out among the colonists, and in the short period of six months death had claimed forty-three of the company as its prey. During the contagion five members of my own household had been laid away in the silent tomb. Of a family of eight persons, of which I was the head, nine months after our arrival in Haiti, only three remained alive, myself and my two little sons.”
By 1897 he could write:
“Instructed by this experience gained in the mountains of Leogane, the church in Haiti has organized a system of elementary schools in the rural districts, as an indispensable auxiliary of her mission; which must be preliminary to any further extension of that work. Nine such schools are now in operation.”
In our day, that mission had expanded to 200 educational and cultural institutions at all levels: a university, an elite high school, a trade school, a school for the handicapped, a music conservatory, a nursing program, a hospital and the nations only art museum. Most of these were destroyed by the earthquake of January 2010. Many rural primary schools endure.
The major institutions of the Epicopal Diocese of Haiti were located in the cities of Port-au-Prince and Leogane, the very epicenter of the earthquake of January 2010. All were destroyed, and many lives lost.
St. Matthew was lightly damaged — damage that has been repaired with the general refurbishment that Grace underwrote.
Emblematic of the physical destruction of the institutions is the heartbreaking loss of the celebrated murals of Holy Trinity Cathedral. Equally emblematic, of the resilience, fortitude and courage that abound in Haiti, is the response of the church — the people.
Within days, the Wall Street Journal reported that the diocese was taking the front rank in organizing relief efforts — tent camps, water, food, and medical care. Within months, the elementary school of the Holy Trinity complex was housed in a temporary structure, and school was back in session.
Last year hurricane Matthew wrought terrible destruction in the southern peninsula. Only steady socio-economic development can address this heart-breaking vulnerability to natural catastrophe. Education is a cornerstone of development.
The Millennium/ Sustainable Development Goals
In September 2000, leaders of 189 nations, under the banner of the United Nations, committed to a new global partnership to address underdevelopment. They established eight targets for 2015 — Millennium Development Goals. The Episcopal Church established a budget line item of 0.7% to support the achievement of the MDGs and has encouraged all its churches and individual parishioners to do the same.
Grace Church chose to focus its efforts on the second MDG: “Provide Universal Primary Education”. It chose to focus on Haiti because it is nearby and its needs are great.
The term of the MDGs ended in 2015. Much was accomplished especially in the reduction in poverty in SE Asia. But the works must needs continue; sustainable goals have been formulated; education is #4, we are right there!!