Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Episcopal Parish in Darbonne, Haiti, And Its Schools - How You Can Help

The Parish of Darbonne is centered in a rural town in southern Haiti. The Episcopal Church of the Annunciation in Darbonne is “home base,” so to speak, but there are also eight small mission churches attached, most of which are not accessible by car. The central campus includes the church, the rectory, a water treatment project for the town (all other treated water must be trucked in from Port-au-Prince), a goat project (similar to the Heifer Project), a dispensary for occasional visiting nurses (no health care in the area) and for 4-month-long basic medical training courses, a vocational school, and a Pre-K through 10th grade school. There are also six mission schools and St. Agnes School, a Pre-K through 6th grade school at a former mission location. They have one priest, supported by the diocese.

For the past forty years or so, these schools and the other parish ministries have been supported by two Episcopal parishes in New York, which have more recently formed a formal mission project with a constitution and board. This is important work, as Haitian public schools have space for only 10% of the students, resulting in a 50% literacy rate for the country as a whole. This year, with the economic crisis, there have not been enough donations to keep the mission schools open. Teachers make approximately $60/month, so the six mission schools need around $4000 to open this fall. Obviously there are other needs as well; two of the four programs at the vocational school have also been closed. If you are interested in supporting this parish and their schools, we would welcome donations of any size.

Checks may be made to “Friends of Darbonne.”
Memo line: Project Fund

(or Scholarship Fund – but right now the need is for teacher salaries to keep the small mission schools open)

Zion Episcopal Church
12 Satterlee Place
Wappingers Falls, New York 12590

If you have any questions, leave me a message!

Paul Farmer on Healthcare as a Human Right on NPR's This I believe

Paul Farmer has worked in healthcare in Haiti for many years. He founded Partners in Health, which does great work in Canges, Haiti, and is connected with Harvard Medical School.

Read more about him and his work in Haiti in Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains. Fabulous book, hard to put down.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Reverse Culture Shock

I'm back in the United States now, currently visiting my parents and sister in Michigan before the start of our community meetings and my last year of seminary. I still have a long list of blog entries I'd like to write about my time in Haiti and about projects going on there. Many people have asked how they can help, and I'll be posting more information about a variety of opportunities to do so, among other things.

Meanwhile, I'm experiencing the effects of my time there. On the way home from the Detroit airport, we stopped at Olga's for lunch (think Denny's or Friendly's with a Greek twist). The bill with tip came to around $50 for the four of us. Nearly a month's salary for a mission school teacher in Haiti, I thought as I walked to the car. And then yesterday, out of the blue, I nearly burst into tears in a coffee shop when we dropped $15 on coffee and dessert following a movie. A week's salary. My sister saw my face and didn't need an explanation: "It took Aunt Ellen a year to get over it when she came from the Peace Corps in Ecuador," she told me. It took me a few minutes before I could stop fighting tears and start enjoying my amazing dessert. I had ordered something with bananas because it reminded me of Haiti; perhaps I had been thinking about Haiti instead of Harry Potter, though I hadn't been particularly aware of it. What I'm going to do tonight at the Tigers game, I don't know: four tickets, four hotdogs, four cokes - at ballpark prices, how many weeks' salary would they cost for a mission school teacher in Haiti? Mission schools that may close if those salaries aren't found....

How do I best deal with this? In Detroit, I can console myself a little with the thought that the economy in this Motor City is in really bad shape. Elsewhere?

Will it take me a year? I can't go around bursting into tears every time I have to spend money.

But I don't want to get over it. I don't want to forget. I don't want to stop caring. I want to tell people about the wonderful things I've experienced, about the beauty of Haiti, about how proud I am to be an Episcopalian when I see what the church is accomplishing there. I also want to tell people that it is just not right that we are so unaware of the poverty at our doorstep.

Yes, I want to enjoy the gifts I am offered right now: time with family, potable tap water, cooler temperatures, extra sleep, good pastry, a baseball game, and so much more. In fact, I firmly believe that we all need to be aware of and enjoy those good things we take for granted. Perhaps if we were more aware of what we had, we would stop seeking more and instead find ways to increase our giving.

Yes, I will be glad when this reverse culture shock settles down, but may I never, never "get over" my time in Haiti.