mercredi 26 février 2014

'A Night in Haiti' offers guests a glimpse of daily life at sister parish in Haiti

For the second year in a row, a Mary, Queen of Peace party will give guests a glimpse of daily life at St. Benoît Dessources, the Mandeville church’s sister parish in Haiti. “A Night in Haiti,” being presented by the church’s Haiti Solidarity Partnership Ministry, will take place March 15. The goal is to increase awareness of the ministry’s efforts to transform St. Benoît and help its people ultimately become self-sustaining.
Since 2011, Mary, Queen of Peace has partnered with St. Benoit Dessources in Haiti. Funds contributed by parishioners and community members have gone toward construction projects at the church, seen here before its reconstruction.
“We offer this as a thank you to all of the people for their generosity throughout the years,” said Muguet Bolotte, the ministry’s leader. “The people of St. Benoît are very grateful to them for changing the face of Dessources.”
Since 2011, the Mandeville church has partnered with the Haitian parish, located in the impoverished nation’s rural mountains. St. Benoît serves more than 5,000 families, who live without electricity, running water or healthcare and walk an hour or more to celebrate Mass at either its main church or one of its six outlying chapels.
The buildings were significantly damaged during the January 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, and the many of the donations collected by the ministry have gone toward construction projects.
Mary, Queen of Peace first funded a new roof for St. Benoît’s main church, which has now been transformed with plaster, paint, a new fence and more. They also have contributed to the construction of new classrooms, a kitchen and cafeteria, and toilets for St. Benoit’s elementary school, along with other projects.
Proceeds from last year’s “A Night in Haiti” went toward digging a water well in Dessources. It is now operational, meaning that St. Benoît’s students do not have to carry heavy jugs of water during their long journey to school each day.
"“All donations, large and small, make an impact in the lives of the people of St. Benoit," said Muguet Bolotte, ministry leader. But the impact of the partnership goes beyond construction projects. Ministry funds also have paid for a hot school lunch program, the creation of a pre-K program with a certified teacher, the hiring of additional teachers, and the consistent payment of those teachers’ $100 to $125 per month salary.
Last year, the ministry received a grant from the nonprofit Vitamin Angels to distribute vitamins to children ages 5 and under for five years. It also has established funding pages through the nonprofit Food for the Poor for the remainder of its water well costs and for a program to buy goats for St. Benoît’s families.
In return for Mary, Queen of Peace’s efforts, St. Benoît’s parishioners continually offer prayers and gratitude. The partnership has grown into a deep kinship – St. Benoît’s pastor, Mgsr. Wildor Pierre, has traveled to Mandeville four times. Mission teams from Mary, Queen of Peace have visited Haiti twice; a third mission team will travel there April 24 to 30.
Since everyone can’t see St. Benoît’s dramatic transformation firsthand, the main goal of “A Night in Haiti” is give people a sense of daily life in Dessources through pictures and displays, Bolotte said. It also will show a progression of the work accomplished with donations from Mary, Queen of Peach parishioners and community members.
“All donations, large and small, make an impact in the lives of the people of St. Benoît, especially the students who are able to attend school for the first time,” Bolotte said.
The event will feature a menu of Caribbean fare – pulled pork, black beans and rice, and tres leches cake – along with beer, wine and a special rum drink. Guests also will have a chance to dance to Haitian music and purchase Haitian crafts such as masks, jewelry, paintings, and decorative items.
Guests will be able to contribute directly to the fund during the party or sponsor one or more backpacks – at $10 each – to be sent to St. Benoît’s elementary school students.
All proceeds from the night will go into a scholarship fund to pay for educating St. Benoit's children. Although Catholic elementary school education is free, the church’s yearly costs of providing lunch, uniforms and supplies totals $90 per child, Bolotte said.
“They are just thrilled because they have an elementary school to go to. There are all different ages in all the grades because many have never had the opportunity to go,” Bolotte said.
The cost for middle school tuition jumps significantly, and Bolotte said she’s not sure why. Attending 7th grade is $500; 8th grade is $600; and 9th grade is $700.
Currently, middle school is taught at the church in the afternoons, although a building constructed by a Canadian and Mexican consortium is ready for middle school students once it has power and water and qualified teachers are found.
Last school year, donations from St. Scholastica Academy paid the tuition for Nerline Chapotain, the first St. Benoît student to attend middle school. Now, they are once again paying Chapotain’s tuition and are sponsoring a second middle school student.
“Our longer-term strategy … is to move into microfinance area to stimulate the local economy, so people can launch businesses, produce more, sell more and save more to send their children to school. Once the money begins to circulate within the community, all will benefit,” Bolotte said.
"A Night in Haiti" will take place March 15 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the Mary, Queen of Peace School cafeteria, 1501 W. Causeway Approach, Mandeville. Cost for the event is $25 person, and the public is welcome to attend.
Reservations for the night can be made at any time in the church's Parish Center, after all Masses March 8-9, and after the church's mission March 10-12.
For more information on the night, call ministry leader Muguet Bolotte at 985.705.1846 or e-mail mqphaiti@gmail.com. For more information on Mary, Queen of Peace, call 985.626.6977 or visit www.maryqueenofpeace.org.
To see the ministry’s Food for the Poor funding pages, go to www.foodforthepoor.org/stbenoit for the water well or http://support.foodforthepoor.org/site/TR/Events/Champions?pxfid=10090&fr_id=2091&pg=fund for the goat program.

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