WORLD TEACHERS’ DAY: Salesian Missions Remembers Bright Youth Killed in Haiti Earthquake While in Class Studying to Become Teachers
Nothing could have prepared the Salesians—or the Haitian people—for the massive devastation and heartbreaking loss that occurred that day. Hundreds of students were killed—many studying to become teachers. More than 250 unsuspecting students, numerous teachers and three Salesians were killed.
The Salesian Missions Office for International Programs, located in New Rochelle, NY, was assigned the task of coordinating international Salesian relief efforts immediately after the earthquake. Early efforts focused on providing basic human needs such as food, water, medical supplies, survival kits and tents for shelter. Thousands of refugees were housed within the confines of Salesian facilities which were not destroyed, and thousands more were provided food.
Prior to the earthquake, the Little Schools of Father Bohnen—“Oeuvre des Petites Ecoles de Père Bohnen” or OPEPB in French— provided education ranging from preschool to vocational training. Teacher training programs educated teachers to serve at the Little Schools and Early Learning Centers.
Since the earthquake, these programs are back up and running. Many of the OPEPB’s students have been studying vocational trades as well as training to be teachers to help prepare future generations of leaders. According to Fr. Zucchi, OPEPB is among the most progressive and the largest school program in Haiti, serving Port-au-Prince’s “best and brightest.”
In addition, in Salesian schools throughout Haiti, more than 1,200 teachers have been hired—most of them trained at Salesian institutions.
“While much progress has been made, life in Haiti is far from normal. Help is still needed to serve the children and families still trying to recover from the disaster,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco.
Today the efforts are focused on rebuilding the country, beginning with providing for and educating its youth.
Hannah Gregory on Twitter: @SM_Newsdesk