(MissionNewswire) The Salesian Diocesan Center of Arts and Trades (CDAM) in Les Cayes, Haiti, has a new back-up electricity system for the school thanks to Salesian Missions donors. The vocational school lost its back-up electrical system during Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 hurricane that pummeled Haiti on Oct. 4, 2016. The devastating storm affected 2.1 million people including close to 894,000 children, caused close to 1,000 deaths and left nearly 141,000 people displaced.
CDAM trains more than 100 youth who are taking courses in masonry, auto mechanics, cabinet making, electricity and the household arts. The center’s infrastructure includes a multi-purpose room, a kitchen for home arts students, basketball and football fields, a computer lab, and rooms for courses and workshops. After the hurricane hit, the entire system used to strengthen CDAM’s electrical structure was destroyed. The system had been powered by an inverter and several batteries, which were already weak before the hurricane.
The back-up electrical system is essential to the operation of the school due to Haiti’s unreliable electricity supply and frequent blackouts. With the electrical system restored, the school will have the power needed to use the computer lab and classrooms when the city’s electricity is down.
“Most of the time, CDAM is forced to use its own energy resources because the energy ration provided by Haiti Electricity does not meet the center’s energy needs in the area,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “CDAM had to have an electrical system that would make up for the lack of electricity to allow the proper operation of the appliances used for lighting, ventilation, refrigeration but especially computer equipment. We are grateful for our donors who helped support this project.”
CDAM opened its doors to poor youth in Haiti in 1983. The center provides technical/vocational training for youth as well as educational and sports programs. Funding to operate the school comes from the support of donors from Fonds Misereor, school tuition fees and minor assistance from the Haitian government for teacher salaries. Since most of the students come from very poor backgrounds, Salesian missionaries charge only minimal tuition fees to those who can offer a small contribution, leaving the school facing economic limitations.
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.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas ranking 163 out of 188 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index. The country also faces the highest levels of severe food insecurity in the world, according to the World Food Programme. More than half of the country’s population was chronically undernourished during 2012-2014, representing a total of 5.3 million Haitians. Nearly 100,000 Haitian children under the age of 5 suffer from acute malnutrition, causing irreversible stunted growth for close to 30 percent of all children in the country.