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FOUR YEARS LATER: Salesian Missions Has Not Forgotten Haiti

(MissionNewswire) In the initial aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, the Salesians were instrumental in emergency response and relief efforts. An integral part of the infrastructure in Haiti prior to the earthquake, they were among the first responders—providing shelter and medical aid; means to securely transport, store and distribute relief supplies and clean drinking water; and, perhaps most importantly, an understanding of how to get things done in Haiti. Having served Haiti for nearly 75 years, the Salesians were not outsiders rushing in to help—they were already beloved members of the community.

Many of the challenges facing the people (especially the youth) of Haiti, existed long before the disaster struck. Many were homeless. Children were hungry. Conditions were crowded. Water was in short supply. The earthquake added to the misery of thousands, including children who, despite the desperate circumstances, found their way to schools each and every day, with a hunger for knowledge that outweighed the hunger in their stomachs.

These schools are some of the many Salesian-run institutions in Port-au-Prince and around the country. In some cases, students even call the schools home. In addition to elementary schools, secondary schools, vocational training institutes and colleges, the Salesians provide shelter for homeless youth and programs for street children. At every program serving youth in Haiti, students not only receive educational opportunities and the support of caring adults, they also receive a nutritious meal daily. One Salesian kitchen in Cité Soleil alone baked 20,000 rolls of bread a day to feed hungry children in the most impoverished area of the nation’s capital.

Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, have been working for years to bring attention to the plight of the Haitian people, and so many others in the world. Almost exactly a year prior to the tragedy, Salesian Missions sent a team to Haiti to document the programs and the immense need for assistance. The videos, photos and information were utilized to tell the stories of people in need in countries around the globe and the Salesians’ dedication to helping them. In Haiti, they were truly making a difference under the most challenging of circumstances.

Nothing could have prepared the Salesians—or the Haitian people—for the massive devastation and heartbreaking loss that occurred on Jan. 12, 2010.

The world was finally paying attention to Haiti.

Soon after the earthquake struck, the Salesians pledged to continue working long after the cameras and reporters were gone (the latter, unfortunately, left sooner than anyone could have envisioned). The Salesians remained working in Haiti, not just long after the press, but in many cases long after other humanitarian organizations. While other organizations are set up to come in and help with a disaster (and then inevitably leave), the Salesians have been and will continue to be an integral part of the infrastructure in Haiti and in so many other needy places around the globe.

As the lights on Haiti dimmed, the Salesians shifted from disaster mode to recovery and rebuilding mode—quietly, without attention, as they always have done. It has been four years since the earthquake struck, and much still needs to be accomplished. But progress is steady, and the Salesians are proud to report on the specifics of their accomplishments.




Before the earthquake, this model of educational excellence provided hundreds of Haitian youth with the opportunity to broaden their cultural awareness and gain valuable trade skills. This all changed in an instant on Jan. 12, 2010. The earthquake leveled the campus and caused an enormous loss of life. More than 250 unsuspecting students, numerous teachers and three Salesian missionaries were killed. All of the machines, tools and equipment were either destroyed or stolen.

Today, the school is back in operation, utilizing temporary classrooms built by students as part of their training. Vocational students also built desks and tailored uniforms to replace those destroyed. The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund has pledged up to $250,000 to equip graduates with machines, tools and equipment to help rebuild their country.


This indispensable Salesian-run center provided shelter, education and food to dozens of street children with nowhere else to turn. The facility was completely destroyed by the earthquake, leaving the children without shelter.

Today, Lakay is back in operation and home to nearly 150 former street children. In addition to classroom studies, a donated school bus has made it possible for youngsters to take part in field trips to educational and historical sites around Haiti.


Le Petites Écoles (The Little Schools) of Father Bohnen was made up of small classrooms throughout Port-au-Prince, allowing the Salesians to provide food and an education to more than 20,000 children each day. When the earthquake struck, the devastation at the campus that housed the administrative headquarters was tremendous. Every building collapsed, leaving the children without classrooms. However, the children still came to the school compound after the earthquake, knowing it would continue to be a place they could turn for help. Soon after, classrooms were formed wherever possible, sometimes under the shade of a tree or tarp with just a few chairs and a salvaged chalkboard.

Today, The Little Schools have been resurrected in temporary buildings and have served more than 21,000 students in the past year. Children not only receive an education, but a nutritional meal and a safe haven.


  • Temporary classrooms were provided soon after the earthquake, allowing children to return to school and have some sense of normalcy. Permanent classrooms continue to be built. The Salesians are fully committed to rebuilding their educational infrastructure.
  • “Le Petites Écoles du Pere Bohnen” – the Little Schools of Father Bohnen – are back in operation and last year provided more than 21,000 children with nutritious meals and a valuable education.
  • In Salesian schools throughout Haiti, more than 1,200 teachers have been hired since the earthquake – most of them trained at Salesian institutions.
  • A Salesian partnership with local doctors and nurses ensured that victims of a Cholera outbreak were identified and received proper treatment. In addition, their widespread education program promoted healthy living habits that prevented the disease from spreading.
  • The Timkatec 2 School was expanded with a new wing added. It boasted a record 71 graduates, with an enrollment that has grown from 430 students before the earthquake to more than 600 this year.
  • The Salesians also opened the Timkatec 3 Girls School to provide an education for 186 day students and an overnight shelter for 40 children.
  • St. Paul Chapel in Port-au-Prince was resurrected thanks to the thoughtfulness and generosity of Blessed Sacrament Church in Pennsylvania. Upon learning that their church would be closed due to consolidation, the Blessed Sacrament parishioners packed and shipped all the church furnishings to the Salesian chapel in Haiti.
  • Impressed by Salesian accomplishments, the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund partnered with the Salesians to provide vocational training in construction trades and marketable skills to 420 men and women. The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund has also pledged up to $225,000 for the purchase of heavy machinery, tools and equipment. This will enable vocational students at the Salesians National School of Arts and Trades to have sustainable self-employment and to help rebuild their country.
  • The Salesians completed construction of a warehouse that meets new safety requirements and building standards, serving as a model for new construction in Haiti. The warehouse provides important infrastructure allowing for the safe and efficient distribution of food and supplies.
  • Pétion-Ville’s Dominique Savio Elementary School is providing an education to 870 children from ages 6 to 12. In addition, 540 boys and girls attend Dominique Savio College.
  • In Cayes, 200 boys and girls are receiving valuable training in carpentry, masonry, mechanics, cooking, sewing and home decoration at the Salesian-run Diocesan Center for Arts and Crafts.
  • The Cap-Haitian Agricultural Technical School has 140 students learning effective farming techniques, while an additional 200 youth are attending the Vocational Training School.
  • In Fort-Liberté, more than 170 children—more than half girls—are receiving a basic education and approximately 160 young women are pursuing a degree at the School of Nursing.
  • Through the new Salesian University Network, hundreds of university students who have been unable to return to school following the Jan. 12, 2011 earthquake will have a chance to continue their education. Thirteen computer labs or cybercafés are being established to help students stay up-to-date in their studies.
  • At the Salesian Immaculate Conception Church in Cité Soleil, youth are taking part in  music and dance classes. They are learning to play the guitar, piano and drums—and enjoying the therapeutic benefits of music, helping them to better cope with the disaster they survived.


PHOTO: Martin Diggs / Salesian Missions (MissionNewswire.org)

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