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HAITI: Fighting Hunger in the Classroom

(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries living and working in Haiti operate the Hunger for Education Project, which provides school feeding programs in several Salesian educational institutions in the country. The goal of the project is to provide healthy nutrition for youth living in severe poverty in exchange for an education that will lead them to self-sufficiency and a stable future.

Salesians 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 10 main educational centers and more than 200 schools across the country. The primary 10 centers each have 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,  Gonaïves, and Gressier.

In addition to other feeding programs available at Salesian schools, the Salesian-run Hunger for Education Project reaches more than 12,733 youth. The project will provide a cost share for the shipment of 16 containers of meals, eight from Breedlove, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping eradicate world hunger, and eight containers from Stop Hunger Now, an international relief organization that provides food and life‐saving aid to the world’s most vulnerable. The meals will be shared among seven Salesian centers in the cities of Port-au-Prince, Fort-Liberté, Cap-Haïtien, Les Cayes, Gressier and Gonaïves. In addition, school cooks will receive additional training to prepare the cooked lunch five days a week to ensure proper nutrition that will benefit 12,733 students.

“Salesian missionaries strive to reach the poorest students who would otherwise not have the opportunity to receive an education. Many of the students come from families where food is not readily available and a large percentage of these students come to class on an empty stomach,” says Jessica O’Connor, senior international development officer at Salesian Missions. “The feeding programs through the Hunger for Education project will help ensure students receive the proper nutrition so they are prepared to focus on their studies and gain an education.”

The Hunger for Education project also serves as an incentive for children living on the street to seek out one of the Salesian programs for street children, where they receive hot meals in exchange for education and job-skills training. Salesian schools provide opportunities for remedial education and tutoring through their youth centers and programs for street children. However, no matter how many hours a child may spend sitting in a classroom, it is hard to focus and retain any information if the child is hungry. Additionally, some parents in Haiti will only allow their children to attend school if a meal is provided because otherwise the child is needed at home to work and provide for the family.

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 five suffer from acute malnutrition, causing irreversible stunted growth for close to 30 percent of all children in the country. Haiti’s economy has also been repeatedly affected by political crises and natural disasters in the last two decades exacerbating an already challenging situation. Seven years after the 2010 earthquake, Haiti’s population of 11 million continues to face humanitarian and development challenges.

Salesian Missions is proud to highlight the Salesian centers that will operate the Hunger for Education Project.

Cap-Haïtien: Primary School of the Vincent Foundation & Lakay Program for Street Children

Salesian missionaries in Cap-Haïtien work with children from very poor families in the area. Many of the parents are not able to buy conventional supplies for their children. Many children come to school with their stomachs empty every day and are unable to pay attention and study. To remedy this situation, Salesian missionaries within the central kitchen of the Vincent Foundation cook and distribute meals for 1,053 children per day who usually arrive at school without having eaten anything. The feeding program is also support by the Salesian-run Rinaldi Foundation. Salesian missionaries will also provide meals to children at the Lakay Program for Street Children, which provides shelter and educational services for street children in Cap-Haïtien and Port-au-Prince.

Fort-Liberté: Don Bosco Polytechnic

Fort-Liberté is known as an area of high poverty, despite the small efforts of the Haitian government, the private sector and other international aid organizations. Fort-Liberté encompasses a very difficult socio-cultural and economic situation which has severely weakened the sustainable development of the area. Don Bosco Polytechnic is located amidst this atmosphere of poverty and distress. The Salesian Center in Fort-Liberté offers a wide range of educational programs and includes an elementary school, a technical school, a vocational training center, teacher-training courses and a school of nursing. Don Bosco Technical School prepares poor youth for jobs through traditional and professional training courses in the areas identified as most in need, including hydraulics, masonry, cabinet making, tailoring and administrative work. More than 1,300 children, adolescents, and young women and men, ages five to 25 years, will benefit from the Hunger for Education project in Fort-Liberté.

Les Cayes: Diocesan Center of Arts and Trades

The Diocesan Center of Arts and Trades (CDAM) opened its doors to the poor youth of Haiti in 1983. CDAM provides technical/vocational training for the youth as well as educational and sports programs. The Center relies on the support of donors from Fonds Misereor, minimal school tuition fees and some 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 scarce contribution, and the school is thus faced with economic limitations. Salesian teachers in Les Cayes note some serious problems with students related to nutritional deficiency in the center.  Every year, teachers see too many failures and dropouts in the Salesian center because of hunger and malnourishment. These children become more likely to get sick and miss school, have more behavioral and emotional problems, and are less likely to be able to concentrate, solve problems and retain information. They are also generally more irritable and less successful. The Hunger for Education project will provide lunch for 400 beneficiaries per school day.

Gonaïves: The Center Cardinal Keeler

The Center Cardinal Keeler in Gonaives is a technical Salesian school that provides education to both young women and men who are between the ages of 16 to 35 years. The center has never had a central kitchen before but with the Hunger for Education project, Salesian missionaries will be able to implement one in order to regularly cook meals for 254 students five days a week. Providing students meals during each school day will help them with their academic performance and allow them to better concentrate on their school work.

Gressier: Primary and Secondary Schools

In Gressier, families fish and have access to land to farm. Because the area is rural, many families lack basic necessities. The Salesian missionaries run a primary school and secondary school, as well as a boarding home for students, an eating hall and a kitchen and chapel in Gressier. Classes run in the morning from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and in the afternoon the students study, play sports and work. Every school day, Salesian missionaries provide a hot meal to more than 900 students in addition to 75 teachers and minor staff who come from far away.

Port-au-Prince: OPEPB Little Schools

In the distressed Port-au-Prince slums of La Saline and Cité Soleil, where most parents do not have the means to properly care for their children, the Salesian missionaries operate a network of four preschools, 192 primary schools, and three vocational/technical schools known as OPEPB or the Little Schools of Fr. Bohnen, after its founder. Fr. Bohnen also knew that children could not focus on their studies on an empty stomach so OPEPB has one the largest free cafeterias in the world equipped with two huge kitchens and two large dining halls and recently added a bakery to the facility to help meet the need for bread. As part of the Hunger for Education project, 8,620 students will receive daily lunch from the two main cafeterias.




Salesian Missions – Haiti

World Food Program – Haiti

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