Recent News

October 2021 Update

On August 14th, our friends in Haiti were forced to overcome yet another life challenge when a large earthquake occurred in the southern peninsula near Les Cayes. Different than the earthquake which struck Port-au-Prince in 2010, this time the major seismic event epicenter occurred only about 20 miles from our school in Puit Chacha. Fortunately, our school did not sustain any major damage, which can be attributed to the seismic building standards used during the construction in 2012. Although the earthquake greatly impacted many communities on the southern peninsula, our school was able to resume classes and continue with the important lunch program.

It appears that our catchment community, which includes Fond-des-Blancs, has been able to deal with the latest disruption to their “normal” life and continue on. From my perspective and what I witnessed first-hand during my trips to Haiti, the philosophy of most of the people is to address adversity, make adjustments, and carry-on with life while never losing hope that it will get better. I am pleased to report that our school community is resilient and moving forward with the 21-22 school year as planned. We are making some improvements to the building and kitchen area. More and more students are taking advantage of our secondary school scholarship program. If everything goes well, we will graduate our first Chacha student through the 13th grade of high school next year. It has been another challenging time for our friends in Haiti, but we should be inspired by their resilience and learn to always maintain hope regardless of the circumstances.

Despite the many obstacles to fundraising during the pandemic, the constant generosity of IC parishioners and other supporters has allowed IC Haiti to fund the entire 2021-22 school year budget. In addition, we are making a sizeable donation to St. Boniface Hospital in Fond-des-Blancs to help to defray the cost for the construction of new operating rooms there. For this, our Board of Directors is most grateful to all who have contributed financially and to all who have supported this ministry with prayer. May Our Lord continue to bless our commitment to our brothers and sisters in Haiti.

I see Haiti, I see hope.

Stuart Meurer, President of the IC Haiti Board of Directors

August 2021 Update

Thanks to all who contributed to the August second collection for IC Haiti. We received over $10,000 in the collection which will assure funding for the 2021–22 school year in Puit Chacha and continued dental care for the school community. Last year we spent $80,000 on the school budget which included a hot lunch program, $3,000 for the dental program, and $20,000 in emergency assistance to build an annex for coronavirus patients at the hospital in Fond des Blancs which serves the Puit Chacha community among others in the region. Thanks to a gift from one generous donor, we still have funds in reserve to expand the kitchen area in the school and to provide a much needed second well for the community.

Still the Haitian people continue to be hit with natural disasters while at the same time being forced to cope
with the ongoing instability of their political, social, and economic institutions resulting from the recent assassination of their president and the prevalence of gang violence.

We, the Board of Directors for IC Haiti, received an update this past weekend from representatives of Health Equity International which owns and operates the hospital in Fond des Blancs. The devastating 7.2 earthquake was centered just 20 miles away from the hospital and our school.

Fortunately, the people at the hospital were not injured, and the hospital itself did not receive any major damage. It remains structurally sound despite the aftershocks. As of Monday, August 16, we were still awaiting word on the school and the school community. We are ready and willing to respond to any emergency needs, but our remaining un-designated funds are not inexhaustible. The final collection this year for IC Haiti is not until December, so we may have to make a special appeal to the parish on behalf
of the Puit Chacha community before then. In the meantime, we will continue to update you as we receive news on the situation.

John Leary, IC Haiti Treasurer
If you would like to contribute to IC Haiti, please mail checks to IC Haiti, 42 Green Street, Newburyport, MA. 01950. Checks should be made out to “IC Haiti.”

May 2021 Update

Despite a slight reduction in our quarterly collection totals, the IC Haiti Board of Directors is considering funding two improvement projects that have been requested by our Haitian school community. First is a modest expansion of the school kitchen to provide more prep area for the cooking staff and dining space for the children and, second, is a well. The current well doesn’t have enough water to meet all the needs of the school due to a prolonged dry season. An additional well would be most helpful as the whole community shares this resource. We hope to provide you with additional information on these two proposed projects and how to fund them in the near future.

Here are the latest statistics on the number of children whose education IC Haiti has supported throughout this 2020–21 school year:

-163 students are attending the Fr. Marc Piché elementary school in Puit Chacha.
-52 students are attending the secondary school in Fond-des-Blancs through our scholarship program.

Again, thank you for your much appreciated continuing support.

October 2020 Update

We are blessed to report that the impacts of the COVID-19 virus in Haiti have been minimal compared to other regions of the world, including the United States. We received an update from Puit Chacha earlier this month that the school is up and running.

Like schools here, the Fr. Marc Piché elementary school in Chacha closed for classes back in March. St. Boniface Hospital’s community health team immediately began to conduct education sessions around Chacha, with participants that included the school staff. In July, the students started returning once each week to pick up nutrition assistance kits as well as homework packets to complete. Fortunately, now that students are back for in person learning, the school’s classrooms have the space to accommodate social distancing. It should be noted the school staff worked diligently to source masks, additional
chairs, disinfecting supplies, and materials for additional handwashing stations throughout the space.

Throughout the time of the pandemic, the hospital health team has been consulting with the school on effective distancing measures, proper hygiene, and infection control protocols, including a process for referring symptomatic students to the hospital for testing. Thus far, there haven’t been any infections at the school. The hospital’s community outreach program will continue to monitor the Chacha community for symptoms of an outbreak.

There are 164 students attending school at Chacha this semester. 176 children are enrolled but 12 did not return after the COVID-19 closure. It’s anticipated that they will return for the spring semester in November. In addition, there are graduates of the Fr. Marc elementary school whoare attending secondary school in Fond des Blanc. The move up to secondary school has been made possible by
tuition scholarships provided by IC Haiti.

As a community of faith, let us continue to keep the community of Puit Chacha, Haiti, in our thoughts and
prayers. Our parish’s financial support, even during a time of pandemic when parishioners’ own financial situations have been sorely strained, has kept hope alive in the Chacha community by continuing to make education and health services available. Thanks be to God for sustaining us in this ministry.

Stuart Meurer, President, IC Haiti Board of Directors

July 2020 Update

The Board of Directors is pleased to inform you that despite our inability to take up scheduled collections in March and May many parishioners sent in their donations via U.S. Mail. We are most grateful to all who did so.

Back in April we made a donation of $20,000 to help the hospital in Fond des Blanc build a separate Covid-19 unit. Since that time, parishioner donations have more than made up for that donation. In early July we received the following encouraging update from a representative of the hospital:

The hospital has now seen 136 cases of confirmed or suspected COVID-19, although at the moment there are just three patients hospitalized in the COVID-19 unit on campus. We are also doing contact tracing and surveillance for another 40+ cases at the community level through our network of community leaders and community health workers. Staff and patients/visitors are required to wear masks at all times on campus, and staff working with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients are required to wear PPE
including masks, eye shields, face shields, shoe covers, and gowns. I’m pleased to share that we have not had any hospital-based transmission of COVID-19 to staff members, which reflects well on our commitment to infection control protocols. We are in constant contact with infectious disease experts at MGH and Brigham & Women’s who are helping us to update our protocols as needed and in accordance with the emerging best practices of health centers around the world on the front lines of the crisis.

Again, thanks to all who have continued to support IC Haiti during these troubling times. We expect to hear soon how the Fr. Marc Piché Elementary School in Puit Chacha will proceed for this coming school year. The Board of Directors has approved the payment of salaries for the teachers and staff even if the school doesn’t operate as it normally would due to the pandemic.

If you would like to donate to the August collection, please send in your money or check (made out to “IC Haiti”) via U.S. Mail to: IC Haiti, 42 Green Street, Newburyport, MA 01950

May 2020 Update

These are unprecedented times in our world. People across the globe, including Haiti and the United States, are addressing the spread of the highly contagious and deadlyvirus, COVID-19. Our foundation partner, Health Equity International, has asked IC Haiti for a special donation to support the building of a new COVID-19 triage center in Fond-des-Blanc along with the added cost for theoperations to address the pandemic. The spread of the COVID-19 virus around Haiti and its effect on our secluded community in the southern peninsula could be catastrophic.

Although the schools are closed and the crossover of residents between villages should be minimized, the Ministry of Health has advised everyone in the country with symptoms of COVID-19 to go to the St. Boniface Hospital in Fond-des-Blanc. This will bring a high concentration of the disease to the neighboring town of our school. Therefore, the spread of the virus to our community has ahigh potential and the impacts would be devastating.

In response to Health Equity International’s request for a special donation as described above, the Board of Directors for IC Haiti voted to approve a $20,000 donation in the name of the generous people of Immaculate Conception Parish.

The Board is also happy to report that despite parishioners not being able to congregate for Sunday liturgies, people sent in donations to IC Haiti totaling $4,467 in the first quarter of 2020. We are grateful for this surprising level of generosity given that no collection was actually taken up due to the pandemic. Our next collection will take place the weekend of May 23–24 if we are back together for Masses.

May Our Lord continue to bless our efforts to support the people of Puit Chacha, Haiti. We thank Him for offering us this ministry of service to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

January 2020 Update

As IC Haiti begins a new year, we are happy to report that thanks to your continued generosity the parish’s quarterly collections remain steadily supportive of efforts to serve theeducational, nutritional, health, and emergency relief needs of the rural community of Puit Chacha, Haiti. Civil unrestand political protests primarily in and around Port-au-Princecontinue and, because of the US Department of State’s
travel restrictions, international aid and support are restricted. Prolonged protests will most likely impact our school program and other successful organizations such as our partner Health Equity International (formerly Saint Boniface Haiti Foundation). However, IC Haiti remains committed to the Puit Chacha community and, fortunately, the unrest is not affecting the students’ ability to attend school either in Puit Chacha or in Fond-des-Blancs.

We encourage you to view the recent report done by CBS News on St. Boniface Hospital in Haiti. The CEO of Health Equity International, Mr. Conor Shapiro, is interviewed extensively, and he offers a most informative and inspirational perspective on the success of this amazing hospital. This is the organization we are proud to work through in Haiti. It is located about five miles from Puit Chacha. Here’s the online link to the video report:

December 2019 Update

Thanks to the artistic creativity and thoughtful initiative of Alyson Rose, a recent graduate of the IC grammar school, and to the generosity of her family and fellow parishioners, the sale of her cards depicting our church building raised $3265 for IC Haiti. Other students from IC have also made significant financial contributions during this past year through their cookie sale and lemonade stand. The IC school community can be most proud of these students who have inspired us all by their efforts to care for their “unseen” brothers and sisters in Haiti.

This past month, IC Haiti funded school transportation during the 2019–2020 school year for graduates of the Fr. Marc Piché Immaculate Conception elementary school (K–6) to attend 7th and 8th grade classes in Fond des Blancs. We received the following note from Conor Shapiro, CEO of Health Equity International (formerly St. Boniface Haiti Foundation) which serves as our conduit to the school community in Haiti: “Your continued support makes a tremendous difference in the lives of the children and teachers at the Fr. Marc Piché School in Chacha. Thanks to this generous gift, children in Fond des Blancs will no longer have to walk for miles each day to attend school. For these children, your gift means more time with their families, more time to study, and more time to play. Your support drives this vital work – thank you.”

October 2019 Thank You From Alyson Rose

I would like to express a huge “thank you!” to all who bought note cards from me at mass last weekend. Your generosity helped to raise $3,185.00, all of which will go directly to benefit IC Haiti. ~Alyson Rose, former student of the Immaculate Conception School in Newburyport, MA and a current student at Saint Thomas Aquinas High School, Dover, NH.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” ~Desmond Tutu

June 2019 Update

The IC Haiti Board of Directors is pleased to announce that the Cookie Fundraiser held May 11–12 by Margo Anderson-Song and her fellow bakers raised $1,762. That amount was matched by an anonymous donor and complemented by an individual parishioner bringing the total raised by this fundraising event to $6,524. We are most grateful to Margo and her team of bakers for their efforts on behalf of the school children of Puit Chacha, Haiti. We are also thankful for the generosity of parishioners who supported the Cookie Fundraiser again this year and who continue to contribute to the quarterly collections taken up for Haiti. Together in Christ we have been given an opportunity to offer hope to our brothers and sisters in Haiti.

December 2018 Update

The 215 students of the Fr. Marc Piché School in Puit Chacha, Haiti, are almost halfway through another successful year of learning and growing. This school year we gave out 21 scholarships for students, which has allowed them to attend a regional high school for grades 7–13. Similar to this year, we hope to support our entire 6th grade graduating class with scholarships so they can continue on to high school next year.

In addition to academic learning, IC Haiti continues to support lunch, dental, and community outreach programs. The outreach is particularly important right now as the community is addressing an outbreak of malaria in the region. Education and awareness are the keys to addressing life-threatening issues. With our own IC community’s generous support, we are making a huge impact on the Chacha community,
and we know that providing education to the youth is a way to make long-term change in Haiti.

October 2018 Update

Over the summer, thanks to the generosity of parishioners, we were able to send a check for $61,928 to fund the 2018–19 school year budget for the Fr. Marc Piché Elementary
School in Puit Chacha, to provide scholarships for all students moving on to the seventh grade in Fondes Blanc, and to finance a dental program for the entire school community. Again, thanks to your continued support, we plan to provide further scholarships for those students who will be moving on to eighth grade next year.

Unfortunately, there was a 5.9-magnitude earthquake that hit the north coast of Haiti a few weeks ago. There were no effects of the quake felt in the southern peninsula near Puit Chacha. However, this is a reminder that natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods) can strike at any time, and we need to be prepared to support our school community with relief funds. For this purpose, we have established a fund balance to maintain a threshold level so we can be prepared to respond quickly in an emergency while continuing to preserve sufficient funds to honor our long-term commitment to the school community.

July 2018 Update

The Father Marc Piché School finished up another successful school year, which graduated 21 sixth graders and 22 kindergarteners. Our partner at St. Boniface Haiti Foundation (SBHF) has reported that the faculty and staff remain energized and the Puit Chacha community is very appreciative of the positive impact of the school. The school is well established after completing its sixth academic year.

The student dental program started this past quarter and given the annual cost, we should be able to support this program for many years. I have provided some photos and facts about the program this spring.

-204 FMP School students and staff were examined and received a dental kit.
-156 students from the Fond-des-Blancs’ St. Francois School received preventative care.
-67 students and staff from the Etzer Vilaire School were examined

The recent political protests in Haiti are a reminder that the country is unstable, and our efforts could be hindered at any time through road blockades, curfews, or political
transition. The protests have subsided and were mostly focused in and around Port-au-Prince and not evident in the Fond-des-Blancs catchment. According to SBHF, fuel and supply trucks are being cancelled so some food supplies may be reduced but hopefully, our school food program won’t be affected as most of the supplies are grown locally.

Stuart Meurer, President, IC Haiti Board of Directors

March 2018 Update

Today IC-Haiti has one of our four annual second collections for the support of our mission in Haiti. As we prepare for the next school year at the Father Marc Piché Memorial School in Puit Chacha, we see both much to be thankful for and much to look forward to. Your generous support has provided much for the community we serve. We’ve successfully built a strong and beautiful building. We have provided education and food in an area where both were often unavailable. As time has moved on, the building has been improved to provide critical health infrastructure for the community—a solar powered water filtration system, which can protect the entire village from the risks of unclean water.

These investments have paid very significant dividends. Haiti has experienced several years punctuated by extreme weather events which have destroyed entire harvests, straining the food supply for the island to the limit and spiking food prices. Political turmoil has limited international aid investment. But in the community of Puit Chacha, our commitments and investments have meant that aid workers find extremely low rates of malnutrition and the village has been spared the devastation of cholera, widespread in
other communities without sources of clean water.

IC-Haiti’s President, Stuart Meurer, had the opportunity to visit the village again a few months ago. His discussions with families and staff were both heartwarming and encouraging. The entire community of Puit Chacha is now looking ahead with optimism and is ready and willing to take on challenges to improve conditions there. When teacher training was offered, 100% of the teachers opted to participate: they have asked for more opportunities to be provided to improve their skills. We were able to offer
scholarships this year for children who have completed their primary education to move on to the secondary school in Fond des Blancs: while that requires a long and hot walk down the mountain each day, every single child seized the opportunity to continue their education.

Your contributions provide more than shelter and food. They provide the foundation for lasting change and improvement in the lives of hundreds of families. Please, help us to continue this work. Remember, as an all volunteer organization, over 99% of the funds that we receive go directly to the people of Haiti—every one of your dollars makes a significant difference.

January 2018 Update

The Father Marc Piché School had a successful fall semester. We had 206 students return and take advantage of all our health care and food program. In addition, we had 14 students continue on with 7th grade at the St. Francois secondary school in Fond-des-Blancs. We should all be very happy and proud that we were able to provide an extension of education for our students to 7th grade. This is a huge and important step with providing a full primary and secondary education for the youth of the Puit Chacha

This year’s teacher training took place from October 30–November 3. Twenty teachers participated in the training, eight from the Chacha School and twelve from four other schools in the parish. The training focused primarily on various methods to best prepare a class as well as effective methods to teach French. The trainers started with a pretest to determine the base level of understanding of these topics. Throughout the week, teachers used brainstorming techniques, general presentations, and practice sessions to
teach training materials. A final test was then used to evaluate the changes. Many teachers’ scores improved by 400% from the pre- to final test following the training. The participants were excited to have taken part and demonstrated a solid understanding of the presented material. The group expressed interest in having the same training for science and math classes in the future.

IC Haiti is grateful for the opportunity to provide an everimproving educational program for the community of Puit Chacha. We have appealed to the parish four times a year to make this possible, and we are happy to report we are currently in a strong financial position to continue to finance the Fr. Marc Piché school as well as to support health programs provided by the Saint Boniface Hospital in Fonddes-Blanc. A few weeks ago we received a letter from Conor Shapiro, the C.E.O. of the Saint Boniface Haiti Foundation, our partner organization in service to the people of Haiti. Here is an excerpt from his letter that we think you will find inspirational.

“Eight years ago this month disaster struck Haiti. The
earthquake lasted for less than a minute, but its
impacts reach to today and likely far into the future.
No one in Haiti was untouched. Everyone has friends
or family who were lost or injured. Everyone hurts in
remembering that day. Every year, January 12th is a
difficult and somber day in Haiti.

I know you stand with me in remembering those who
were lost, honoring those who survived horrible
ordeals during and after the disaster, and celebrating
the resilient and optimistic sprit of the Haitian people
who said ‘we can recover, we can move forward, we
will survive and thrive again.’

So this month, let’s lift up that truth about the Haiti we
know, and the incredible Haitian people we are so
honored to work with, side by side.”

January 2017 Update

IC-Haiti is delighted to announce that Mr. Stuart Meurer has agreed to become the newest Chairperson of IC-Haiti’s board.  Previous Chairperson and co-founder Miriam McNabb will remain on the board in a participatory capacity.

“As I no longer live in the area, I think it’s best to have someone closer to the parish to run the organization,” said Ms. McNabb.  “Stuart is the ideal candidate – he has a passionate commitment to our work in Haiti and to the school and parish here in Newburyport.”

Mr. Meurer will assume the chairperson’s position with our January meeting.  ICHaiti would like to thank all of you who contributed so generously to the last second collection, as well as to our efforts for hurricane relief.  We are back on track to fund the school in Puit Chacha in 2017!

Summer 2016 Update

IC-Haiti is pleased to welcome Mr. Stuart Meurer to our board.  Mr. Meurer has been an involved supporter of construction and infrastructure projects in the Fond des Blancs area of Haiti, where he has visited hospital sites to lend his expertise and labor to the construction of new care centers.

We are also relieved and grateful that we have been able to meet the budget requirements for the 2016-2017 school year at the Fr. Marc Piche school in Puit Chacha, Haiti.  Despite having to issue emergency funding in the middle of the year to help respond to the Zika outbreak, with the generous help of our donors we have been able to raise enough funds to fully support the school and feeding program for the next year.

January 2016 Update

IC-Haiti mourns the passing of Larry Kiszka, a long-time board member and friend.  Larry was a talented man, generous with his time and his talents. In addition to the thoughtful counsel he provided, he made a significant contribution to IC-Haiti by bringing his technical and artistic skills to bear in supporting all of our communication efforts.  The beautiful bulletin board presentations in the front of the church were Larry’s work, as were many of our slide presentations and other materials.

Larry was also a kind friend, with a dry sense of humor and a keen wit, and he will be sorely missed by all.  We thank his family and friends for their generous contributions to IC-Haiti in his name – his work will continue.

Winter 2015-16 Update

We are happy to report that school in Puit Chacha is off to a great start, although the community is under some stress.  The area of Haiti where our school is located is currently experiencing a terrible drought.  The World Health Organization has established the area as one at risk of famine, and teams from the St. Boniface Hospital are going out into the community to monitor the health of mothers, infants, and children.

The teams measure the upper arms of the children in order to establish the level of adequate nutrition.  The very good news is that, due to the success of the food program at our school, none of the children in Puit Chacha show signs of malnutrition.  However, this will make our job more difficult.  We know from experience that as food gets scarce, prices rise dramatically.  That means that the costs to run our food program may double or even triple next year, and our team in Haiti will have to be very sensitive to the fluctuations of pricing in the local market to ensure that as the largest purchaser we do not drive prices up for the rest of the community.

In addition, we continue to support line items such as the dental program as we are able to each year.  This supports the St. Boniface Hospital, allowing them more leeway with their operating budget in order to address needs as they arise.  A few cases of cholera have been diagnosed in the area recently, so the hospital is sending purification kits and educators into the community to try and prevent an epidemic.

But with your help we are hopeful that we’ll be able to support the Puit Chacha community throughout the year in 2016!  Our recent collection was wonderful, and we are grateful to all who contributed to help us alleviate the challenges that families in Haiti face.

Winter 2014 Update

IC-Haiti welcomes Libby Pettengill back from a recent trip to Haiti, where she was able to visit our school and meet the families who attend!  It was an exciting trip and gave us further perspective on the work we are doing in Haiti.

While we continue to improve the school facilities, construction is complete and we are moving on to the continuing support of the school.  The news that Catholic Relief Services and the USAID would no longer be providing food support to the region was a blow to us, and we have had to work fast to put our own privately funded food program in place at the school.  This has been a difficult process but the program is in place and we are relieved that the children in the Fr. Marc Piche school are receiving a daily meal.

In addition, IC-Haiti is pleased to have two new board members: Dr. Mark Amorosino and Mr. Tom Farrell, both of Newburyport.  We are privileged to have such a talented board to steer our projects.

Winter 2012 Update

We are delighted to welcome two new board members to the IC-Haiti board,  Ms. Elizabeth Pettingell and Mr. Lawrence Kiszka; and it is with great appreciation for his untiring efforts and guidance that the board reluctantly allowed Fr. Paul Berube to retire.   Fund raising efforts for the support of the new school continue; we hope to be able to provide funds for additional healthcare needs in the Fond des Blanc community in addition to the operating costs of the elementary school for the next school year.  In the meantime, the children of Puit Chacha are enjoying their new school and are benefiting from the food program provided by Catholic Relief Services, which provides a daily meal for all students.

Spring 2012 Update

Fr. Tim Harrison, Jim Hughes, and Miriam McNabb traveled to Haiti for the January 12, 2012 dedication of the Fr. Marc Piche Memorial School in Puit Chacha.  The dedication ceremony took place on the second anniversary of the earthquake, and was a heartwarming symbol of the progress that Haiti has made, while we were reminded of the work that remains to be done.  The day-long celebration included the entire community, and was an inspiring reminder of our commitment to the children of Puit Chacha.  The school is complete except for exterior painting and is currently in session – community members have plans to utilize the building fully and are discussing options for nursery and pre-school in the cafeteria during the morning hours, and continuing education classes for young adults in the evening.

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