Building Dreams in Haiti Event Will Enhance, Expand School
Students and teachers at École Presbytérale Jean Paul II in Kenscoff, Haiti, face the daily struggle of squeezing into overcrowded classrooms in unsafe buildings made of metal sheets, concrete blocks and wood, with no access to proper hygiene and sanitation. With the help of Fr. Medard Laz, retired pastor of Holy Family Parish in Inverness, Ill., Food For The Poor will enhance and expand the school and bring much-needed relief.
On Thursday, Sept. 8, FFTP will kick off its annual Building Dreams virtual fundraising campaign to provide a solid structure and a comfortable, safe environment where the school's students can focus on learning.
The school is in desperate need of assistance. Staff and students do not have access to proper hygiene stations, and all are forced to use the same installation. There's no water for students and teachers to wash their hands, which puts them at risk of spreading infectious diseases.
"The conditions are horrendous," Fr. Laz said. "The smell in the latrines is just unbearable for the students, and it's a tremendous health hazard."
In addition, the school is overcrowded, and the property is in disrepair and overrun with debris. Administrative staff members and teachers use space on loan from the local church as there is no place to meet or plan lessons.
FFTP is partnering with St. Nicholas Parish and FFTP-Haiti to provide a safe and enriching learning environment. Plans call for a sanitation block for students and a 6,500-gallon cistern with gutters, a handwashing station, a three-classroom block and a computer lab. The funds also will cover the cost of clearing debris, installing retaining walls and other improvements.
With a population of 20,000, Kenscoff is located about 6 miles southeast of Port-au-Prince.
One of three schools in the community, École Presbytérale Jean Paul II currently serves 1,500 students. Tuition is about $127 a year; however, only a few parents can pay this fee. Ninety-five percent of the working residents in Kenscoff earn less than $1 per day, primarily working on farms, driving motorcycle taxis and doing masonry work. Most eat only one meal a day and, with little access to water, either collect water from a reservoir or walk about an hour to a water source.
FFTP President/CEO Ed Raine said the improvements will significantly enhance the students' ability to study, focus and ultimately build a better life for themselves and their families.
"There are so many challenges that the people of Haiti are facing today - from extreme poverty to gang violence and political instability," Raine said. "Providing access to a safe school where they can gain an education that will provide the skills to help lift them out of poverty is the greatest gift we can give these students. We are so grateful to Fr. Laz and the people of his parish for their continued support and commitment to Haiti and its citizens."
For the past 17 years, Fr. Laz, founding pastor of Holy Family Parish, has helped to fund numerous projects in Haiti through FFTP. Past fundraisers took place in person in suburban Chicago until the COVID-19 pandemic. Like the last two years, this year's event will be virtual, and the goal remains the same - to bring help and a sense of hope to those in desperate need.
"So many of them feel that they are not connected to the rest of the world, and we want to let them know that there are people in this world who care about them and that they are not forgotten," he said. "We can't go in there and solve all their problems for them, but we can give them help - whether it's computers, schools, teachers, or whatever else we can give - we can provide the means to help them build a better life for themselves."
Fr. Laz also paid tribute to Andrew and Florette Sokulski, who for 14 years hosted Dreams, Past & Present, Julie's Legacy Dinner with Fr. Laz and members of the Holy Family Catholic Community, to build homes, community centers, clinics and schools throughout Haiti. They dedicated their efforts to the memory of their daughter, who died when she was 32. Although the couple will not be part of this year's event, their earlier contribution will always be remembered.
"They worked with me for 14 of those 17 years," he said. "And they have an important place in the history of this event."
To learn more about the Building Dreams virtual fundraising campaign and make a donation in support of École Presbytérale Jean Paul II, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org/buildingdreams.
Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry children and families living in poverty primarily in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicine, educational materials, homes, support for vulnerable children, care for the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.