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HAITI: Salesian Missions Fulfills Five-Year Promise to Reconstruct Youth Center in Fort Liberté

(MissionNewswire) The reconstruction of a Salesian Youth Center in Fort Liberté, Haiti has been completed after the Jan 12, 2010 earthquake reduced it to rubble. The reconstruction project, made possible by many generous donors, was part of a promise by Salesian Missions, the U.S. Development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, to aid in the reconstruction of the country as well as provide relief to Haitians following the earthquake.

In the initial aftermath of the devastating earthquake, Salesian missionaries in Haiti were instrumental in emergency response and relief efforts. They were among the first responders, providing shelter, clean drinking water, medical aid and a means to securely transport, store and distribute relief supplies as well as, perhaps most importantly, an understanding of how to get things done in Haiti. Having served Haiti for nearly 75 years, Salesian missionaries were not outsiders rushing in to help, they were trusted members of the communities they served.

First opened in 2002, the youth center in Fort Liberté offered a broad range of formal and informal educational programs for local youth. It housed an elementary school, technical school, vocational training center, teacher-training program and one of the country’s only nursing schools.

“The destruction and devastation after the earthquake was difficult to witness,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions. “A school campus once filled with students and full of life and activity was reduced to rubble and desolation.”

To support the ongoing reconstruction efforts, Fr. Hyde has traveled to Haiti dozens of times since the disaster. His most recent trip included a visit to Fort Liberté where he participated in a dedication ceremony for the newly rebuilt and re-opened youth center. The reconstruction after the earthquake offered an opportunity to enhance the center’s programs and services beyond their original scope. In addition to simply rebuilding the schools, youth facilities, dorms and missionary housing, a new water purification plant now provides clean, fresh water at affordable prices to residents of surrounding communities.

“Without the new purification plant, local water isn’t suitable for drinking,” says Fr. Hyde. “The new plant already has a steady stream of daily customers. Providing access to clean safe water is a priority for our missionaries so we are very happy with this new addition.”

There are also plans to construct a health clinic on or near the campus which will provide more than 160 nursing students with the practical training they need without having to travel great distances. Additionally, the rebuilding of a Salesian Provincial House on the property now includes several large rooms that may be used for and rented out as conference space, providing much-needed income for Salesian programs. All of the newly constructed buildings meet the standards for being earthquake-proof which ensures that funding for the projects has been utilized in a responsible, sustainable way.

During his most recent trip, Fr. Hyde also visited Salesian programs in Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince, Gressier and Cap Haitien. At Cité Soleil, another new water purification plant will soon provide water to local, impoverished residents for free. In addition, in order to support demand, training opportunities in the field of clean water and sustainable systems design will be added to the curriculum offered by the Salesian technical school there.

In Gressier, the Salesian-run National School of Arts and Trades (ENAM) is up and running after having been completely destroyed and in elementary and technical training classrooms around the country, curricula focuses on developing the knowledge and skills necessary to rebuild Haiti.

“We could not have made such remarkable progress without the ongoing and exceptional generosity of our many donors and on behalf of our Salesian missionaries on the ground in Haiti, we are very grateful for their support,” adds Fr. Hyde.

Despite ongoing reconstruction and infrastructure improvements that are helping to rebuild Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake, Haiti remains the poorest country in the Americas and one of the poorest in the world. According to the World Bank, over half of the country’s population of 10 million lives on less than $1 per day and approximately 80 percent live on less than $2 per day. The majority of Haitians lack adequate access to education, healthcare and nutritious food.

For Salesian missionaries in Haiti, schools and youth programs fulfill an important socio-economic mission by providing poor youth a foundation for lifelong learning through education and training in skills and trades to help them escape poverty and establish a sustainable livelihood.



Haiti – Fort Liberté: a new building for the training of the young

Haiti – The re-construction of the Salesian centres

World Bank – Haiti