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HAITI: Salesian Students Among More Than 3 Million Children Who Have Return to School

(MissionNewswire) In early October 2012, more than 3 million Haitian children returned to school. No small feat given it was close to three years ago that a devastating earthquake struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, destroying 90 percent of schools and 60 percent of hospitals, killing thousands of people and leaving more than 350,000 people injured. More than 1 million children were orphaned as a result.

Of those returning to school, more than 20,000 are educated in Salesian-run institutions, including more than 10,000 who receive one meal a day at the Little Schools of Father Bohnen—“Oeuvre des Petites Ecoles de Père Bohnen” — or OPEPB in French — which provides education ranging from preschool to vocational training.

In addition, more than 1,200 teachers have been hired in Salesian schools throughout Haiti, most of them trained at Salesian institutions like the OPEPB.

But Haiti is still in the process of recovery.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, Salesian Missions Office for International Programs, located in New Rochelle, NY, was assigned the task of coordinating international Salesian relief efforts. 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 Salesian facilities that were not destroyed, and thousands more were provided food.

Since the earthquake, many of the Salesian schools and other 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.

Data offered by the World Bank shows various estimates that bear witness to the recovery. It cites 11 million cubic meters of debris that have been removed making it possible to once again move about on the streets. One million people have left the camps for displaced persons and 600,000 people will soon have access to electricity.

“The missionaries have always been on the side of those who had more need of help; the most vulnerable children, the women and the sick,” said Fr. Sylvain Ducange, Superior of the Salesians in Haiti. “Our dream is a better Haiti for young people able to take care of themselves, to ensure young people are in safety.”

There is still much work to be done in Haiti. Half of the population lives on less than a dollar a day, 500,000 people are homeless and 90 percent of children have water-related diseases. The country is still struggling with a cholera epidemic as well as an economic crisis.

The Salesians remain focused on recovery efforts in Haiti, rebuilding the country and educating its youth.

To help, go to the Donate Now page on SalesianMissions.org and select “Haiti Recovery Fund.”

For more information about Salesian Missions and its work in Haiti, download a special 2-year report on progress in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake.



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