Salesian missionaries continue to support people facing dire economic conditions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
(MissionNewswire) It has been 11 years since the earthquake in Haiti impacted 1.5 million people and destroyed 90 percent of schools in the affected regions. People have suffered as they have tried to rebuild their lives and the country’s infrastructure. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated already challenging conditions, and now more than 6 million people are living in poverty and 60 percent of the population is unemployed.
Salesian missionaries continue to work alongside the population, serving families, children and youth in the schools they have rebuilt, but it is not enough. The pandemic has considerably worsened social hardships.
“Salesians were among the first to commit ourselves to reconstruction after the earthquake, both helping people rebuild their lives and then the infrastructure,” said Father Jean Paul Mesidor, provincial of the Salesian Vice Province of Haiti. “We have worked hard to rebuild many of our centers, but over the years this momentum has faded. Today, everything is paralyzed and we have to face other emergencies such as the pandemic.”
Communities in Haiti are marked by violence, insecurity and poverty, and the pandemic is causing serious socioeconomic consequences. Fr. Mesidor noted many children have dropped out of school due to the economic problems of their families and thousands of people have lost their jobs.
During the months of lockdown, Salesians carried out awareness programs on protective measures, distributed more than 8,000 masks, provided hygiene kits and food to more than 3,000 vulnerable families, and launched a seed distribution project which included providing agricultural tools to help 1,500 families.
In addition, the Salesian Mission Office of Madrid, Spain, continues to invest in education with scholarships to help students without resources. Fr. Mesidor added, “We still believe in education as the only way out for the poorest children and youth. They will be poorer and poorer if they do not have access to education.”
Salesian missionaries began working in Haiti in 1935 in response to the Haitian government’s request for a professional school. Since then, Salesian missionaries have expanded their work to include 11 main educational centers and more than 200 schools across the country.
The 11 main centers each include a number of primary and secondary schools, vocational training centers, and other programs for street children and youth in need. Salesian programs are located throughout Haiti, including in the cities of Port-au-Prince, Fort-Liberté, Cap-Haïtien, Les Cayes and Gressier. Today, Salesian missionaries in Haiti provide the largest source of education outside of the Haitian government with schools providing education to 25,500 primary and secondary school students.