Holy Week Reflection from Fr. Jordan Kelly, O.P.

Students enact Shadow Stations of the Cross annually during Holy Week for the Louverture Cleary School Santo 5 community as an expression of faith during the Lenten season.

Students enact Shadow Stations of the Cross annually during Holy Week for the Louverture Cleary School Santo 5 community as an expression of faith during the Lenten season.

You may lead us to where you call… these are the final words from the Prayer after Communion for Palm Sunday. Although I had read them in preparation for celebrating Mass, I was especially struck by these words as I prayed them during the Masses of Palm Sunday. In fact, I was so moved by them I included these words in my remarks to the congregation during the announcements after Communion!

You may lead us to where you call… where does the Lord lead us this Holy Week? In the midst of a broken world, Christ leads us to be His hands and feet as we strive to be agents of unity rather than division. This week, as we hear the story of our salvation in Christ, He calls us to embrace our Faith in a completely new way and to live our Faith without compromise. 

When do we compromise our Faith?

We compromise our Faith each time we fail to see Christ in our brothers and sisters who are different from us; we compromise our Faith when we allow the false gods of consumerism to block our charity and care for the poor; we compromise our Faith whenever we choose to live in resentment and anger, rather than embracing the freedom of forgiveness and letting go; we compromise our Faith each time the almighty “ME” comes before God and the other. We compromise our Faith each time we fail to pray because “we are just too busy.”

This Holy Week, may we not only be led by Christ to the fullness of His call for each one of us, but even more, may we accept His invitation to lead us now, and ultimately, to the eternal Easter in the Kingdom of God!

Fr. Jordan Kelly, O.P. is a Dominican Friar of the Province of Saint Joseph and pastor at the Church of St. Sebastian in Providence, RI.  

Mission Schools Still Matter

The Economist delivered a bit of good news in a February 21, 2019 article titled, The Geography of Education in Africa—Why Mission Schools Still Matter. The article explains new findings on the effect of geography on educational outcomes in Africa. While the education level of their parents is the strongest predictor of children’s educational achievement, the chart below shows that other geographical factors play a part, too. 

In particular, living near a Catholic mission improves children’s chances of becoming better educated than their parents. 

The Haitian Project (THP) community has always believed that Catholic education across the globe makes for a better world. Please consider supporting THP’s efforts to expand Catholic education in Haiti.  

TOP Five Reasons to Support The Haitian Project this Lent

(Or any time of year!)

1.  THP is an authentically Catholic mission. As an Association of Lay Faithful through the Diocese of Providence, RI, THP is recognized as having a specific charism (a unique spiritual identity) within the larger mission of our Church. THP uses the principles of Catholic Social Teaching to guide its community and work.

2.  Education is the first social outreach of the Church. Education is how we instruct others in the faith, invite those on the “outskirts” into community, and develop God-given talents to be shared for the good of others and for the benefit of society.

3.  Community is the means by which THP works and finds its success, both in Haiti and in the U.S. This is why THP desires to be physically present in your local community. Together, we strengthen our Church.

4.  The Louverture Cleary Schools Network is an UPSTREAM solution to poverty. After nearly three decades of providing quality secondary education in Haiti, THP recognizes that education is a game changer in Haiti. Education is not only transformative for the individual, it is the best way to address chronic challenges with rule of law, poverty, health, and environmental degradation.

5.  THP is about conversion. We work for change in the world and in ourselves. From THP’s Charism Statement:

…we have discovered that work done voluntarily for the benefit of others is a powerful, grace-filled catalyst for personal metanoia and environmental change. The success of our labor not only increases our sense of personal dignity and transforms the world around us, but it also deepens our trust in God and our willingness to serve.

To bring The Haitian Project to your parish or school, contact us at 401-351-3624 or email development@haitianproject.org. 

Celebrating Kreyòl!

Yesterday, the UN celebrated French Language Day—one of several efforts to promote multilingualism. Today, The Haitian Project brings you a Community Update written by first-year Volunteer and 2018 University of Dallas graduate Abigail Knapp about how Louverture Cleary School (LCS) students practice and celebrate four languages throughout their school week.

Volunteer Abigail Knapp with Louverture Cleary School Sizyem (US 7th grade) students.

Volunteer Abigail Knapp with Louverture Cleary School Sizyem (US 7th grade) students.

On Sunday afternoon at LCS Santo 5, students can be heard excitedly chattering as they return from the weekend at home. Each day of the school week has a designated spoken language: English, Spanish, or French. On Sunday, the students speak Kreyòl. 

Kreyòl is the familial language of Haiti. Conversations about family, politics and sports are almost always in  Kreyòl! Vocally, French and Kreyòl sound somewhat similar; however, the two languages' spelling and grammar differ. Kreyòl has a rich history. It has developed naturally over the course of Haiti's history—it is very much a living language. Originally, it was mostly an oral language. At the end of the 20th century, it acquired an official written form. 

Louverturians have great pride in their native language, which is part of the school’s language curriculum. This gives the students a greater understanding of the roots and history of their language.

LCS Santo 5 Staff Member and Kreyòl teacher Myriam Jean-Baptiste (LCS ’10) emphasizes the importance of Kreyòl class so that the students “understand not only the spoken word but the grammar, the style, the history, especially learning the best way to write in Kreyòl.” 

The LCS community celebrates their language and culture through the annual “Kreyòl Day” celebration on October 28th, and the knowledge the students gain from their Kreyòl classes gives the day a greater meaning. Reflecting on the importance of the day filled with singing, dancing and recitations, all in Kreyòl, LCS Santo 5 Dean of Students Obed Gilles (LCS ’09) notes:

The culture of a nation is related to its language, you cannot take that apart. The students are able to better know the country, and by that, better know themselves.

Love of language goes beyond Kreyòl, as the students learn to fluently speak three other languages. From Sizyem (US 7th grade) to Philo (US 12th grade +1), Louverturians take seven years of four languages. The “language of the day” program requires students to speak the day’s language from breakfast to between classes and throughout afternoon play hour and evening study hour. 

Additionally, Rhéto (US 12th grade) and Philo (US 12th grade +1) students have started clubs for the younger children to practice. Volunteers reward students who practice their languages with tickets for the Language Store, which is especially popular among the younger students. As head of the Language Store this year, I can personally attest that students are most eager to practice English for tickets at anytime. They come to the store with their earnings, ready to purchase pens, paper, notebooks, or other odds and ends.

Philo (US 12th grade +1) student Brenel Charles reflects that the LCS Language Program is one of the best in Haiti:

It is not easy, but it is an efficient method to learn the language. It is totally different than other schools, where the teacher just comes but they don’t practice beyond the classroom. We learn the languages proficiently. This will serve us later in our careers and life.

Educating a Nation

Louverture Cleary School Director of Operations Esther Paul (LCS '02)

Louverture Cleary School Director of Operations Esther Paul (LCS '02)

On International Women’s Day (and Every Day), THP Honors the Gift of Womanhood for Our World

by Esther Paul (LCS '02), Director of Operations, Louverture Cleary School

Increasing the female enrollment at Louverture Cleary School is one of the best decisions we could ever take as an institution that has the mission to build a better Haiti. Education benefits our young women because education brings self-confidence. When a girl has self-confidence, she will have the ability to make good decisions in any aspect of her life. 

Educating women benefits families. With an education, a woman has what she needs to deal with poverty. Educated women are better equipped to choose their careers—careers of which their families can be proud. Educated women are role models for their children and make their families stronger and stronger for generations. 

Someone once told me, “Educating a girl is educating a nation.” 

An educated nation will definitely "grow up." One of the most important keys to ending poverty in Haiti is to educate its women. Educating women at a young age will make any positive change in Haiti more effective.

There is a common expression in Haiti that women are the “poto mitan.” This means that women are the central column or pillar of support that holds up the whole structure. Educating women strengthens society at its core.  

Why Haiti, Why Now

By THP President Deacon Patrick Moynihan

People often ask me, "Why Haiti, why now?" when I share The Haitian Project’s plans to build a national network of secondary schools in Haiti based on our very successful school on Santo 5 outside of Port-au-Prince.

The answer is that, in Haiti, a project of this scale is both immensely possible and immensely necessary.

It is immensely possible because of the close proximity to the U.S. and Haiti’s position within a region of highly functional, democratic capitalist states. Additionally, there are no ideological impediments within the country itself. The people of Haiti want economic growth and integration into the regional economy. Finally, given the relative size of the country and its economy, a project of this level is actually large enough to be a catalyst for broader systemic change and transformation.

It is immensely necessary because the amount of money it takes to change Haiti is infinitesimally small compared to the waste and damage that can occur if Haiti fails to emerge as a successful nation. And, without a doubt, Haiti is the origin of everything we now know as America. Haiti deserves the opportunity to regain its footing and live up to its historic importance as the birthplace of the Western Hemisphere.

An Ash Wednesday Reflection


An Ash Wednesday Reflection

from Christina Moynihan, THP Director of Community Development

Through the wisdom of the Church we have been given 40 days during our liturgical calendar to open our hearts and our souls to the resurrection of our Lord. These 40 days of Lent are modeled after Christ’s respite in the desert (Matthew 4). We prepare by praying more, fasting, confessing, serving and giving to others (almsgiving). 

When my family and I were living in Haiti, I found it easier to live a Christian life. We never needed anything. Of course, my children wanted this and that; but, in reality, all we needed was each other and the other basics that our Louverture Cleary School community provided, like friendship, shelter and food. We would walk out the front door and see a need, improvise a solution, and fill the need to the best of our capabilities.

I prayed all of the time—sometimes with great verbal exasperation: “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I need you. Where are you?” 

Scalabrini Fathers Joseph and Isaiah were my confessors and only a car ride away at a local seminary. We fasted quite often, mostly out of necessity because groceries are expensive and there’s not much variety. And with all of the many distractions out of the way, we could focus on Christ in others. God put His daily objectives for each of us right before our eyes. Our Christian duty was clear.

The irony of Lent is that we need to create Heaven here on earth while living in a “Son-lit” desert. Awake, O Sleeper, and Christ will give you light-direction (Ephesians 5:14). We are set apart (Matthew 5:13) and meant to spread His fragrance in this world (2 Corinthians 2:15). We are created to be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Nothing of this world can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38); but it is time to come back to Him with all our hearts (Hosea 14:1, Joel 2:12) and share ourselves with Him.

This Lent, take some time to accompany Christ in the desert and experience its rejuvenation. Remember…we are created to be in the world but not of it (John 17:14). 

LCS is Back in Session/A Day in the Life of a Volunteer

Louverture Cleary School was able to reopen earlier this week since protests are no longer preventing access to marketplaces and transportation. While we hope for the best and that this relative calm will continue, we are continuing to monitor the situation very closely for signs that appropriate civil disobedience might again boil over into unrest. It has always been THP’s mission to operate in Haiti not because of stability but, with due concern for the safety of our students, to be stability. For the moment, at least, we are grateful to be up and running again as a haven and model of stability during challenging times.

A Volunteer at Louverture Cleary School (LCS) wears many hats: teacher, supervisor, mentor, coach, sacristan, and community member, to name just a few. Volunteers live in community with Haitian colleagues who have chosen to live the intentional life of the Volunteer Community in two houses adjacent to LCS: the men reside in the St. Francis House and the women reside in the St. Clare House. As with the early Christian communities, Volunteers live and work together from sun up to sun down for the collective good of the community.

THP Volunteer Program Co-Manager Rachel Thelen teaches class.

THP Volunteer Program Co-Manager Rachel Thelen teaches class.

Here’s a glimpse at a day in the life of a Volunteer at LCS:

5:00am—6:00am: Volunteers wake up to do some early morning grading, reading or study, eat breakfast, and get ready for the day.

6:30am: Volunteers gather with members of LCS Staff in the chapel for morning prayer.

7:00am—3:25pm: Volunteers teach between four and eight periods of classes. Classes typically taught by Volunteers are English, Religion, Economics, Math, Spanish, Athletics, and Computers. During off periods, Volunteers plan their lessons or fulfill other community responsibilities, such as supervising their weekly Work Hour, assisting in the Koukouy Sen Kle (Fireflies of St. Clare) Early Childhood Development Program, or fulfilling their cleaning duties in their house community.

3:35pm—4:30pm: Volunteers supervise the students during afternoon Netwayaj (clean-up) or supervise Study Hour.

Volunteer Program Staff Connor Branham and Rachel Thelen and Volunteer Abigail Knapp work to level the playground.

Volunteer Program Staff Connor Branham and Rachel Thelen and Volunteer Abigail Knapp work to level the playground.

Volunteer Abigail Knapp leads Dance Club during Play Hour .

Volunteer Abigail Knapp leads Dance Club during Play Hour.

4:30pm—5:30pm: During Play Hour, Volunteers run various activities and clubs for students like soccer and basketball, Language Store, theatre and art. If it's their night to prepare dinner, Volunteers spend this time cooking dinner for the residential house community.

6:00pm: Volunteers and Staff in the St. Francis and St. Clare Houses have dinner together.

7:00pm—8:45pm: Volunteers supervise Study Hour to ensure that the students are studying diligently and quietly.

8:45pm—9:00pm: Volunteers gather in the chapel for evening prayer together.

9:00pm—10:00pm: Volunteers return to their respective houses for some final lesson planning, grading, reading, and study before going to sleep.

10:00pm: Lights out for the Volunteers and the LCS community to recharge and do it all again tomorrow!

THP Volunteers: when teaching is more than teaching…

Members of the St. Francis and St. Clare House Communities.

Members of the St. Francis and St. Clare House Communities.

The Haitian Project’s Volunteer Program is central to fully carrying out its mission and has been for 25 years. While teaching Louverture Cleary students makes up the bulk of a Volunteer’s daily work, teaching is not actually considered a Volunteer’s most important job. A Volunteer’s most important job is to be fully present within THP’s community as a physical embodiment of the Louverture Cleary School motto: “What you receive for free, you must give for free.” Matthew 10:8

THP Volunteers are certainly teachers, supervisors, coaches, mentors. They also help form programs that focus on care of the environment, community outreach, and economic development. But, as they continually offer the gift of themselves, their value lies in more than their work. Volunteers are not expected to be polished teachers, but rather, members of a community—responsible for carrying out THP’s mission as an expressing its charism. Volunteers are truly “leaven in the dough” elevating the work of all.

THP is grateful for the current Volunteer Community members serving at LCS and all Volunteer Alumni who came before them!

Know a Good Volunteer?

The Haitian Project is currently recruiting Volunteers to serve in Haiti for the 2019—2020 school year. To learn more about applying to our Volunteer Program, click here. Thanks! 

Why Upstream Solutions Work, Even in Difficult Times

Yesterday, The Haitian Project reached out to its support community with a statement on the recent civil unrest in Haiti. Today, our regularly scheduled community update addresses a specific topic related to poverty in Haiti—deforestation. This problem is featured in a recent article by Geographical entitled, “Haiti looks set to be entirely wiped of its native forests.”  

While it may seem untimely to provide an update about an environmental issue in light of current events, The Haitian Project community always has an opportunity and responsibility to understand how the many effects of poverty in Haiti are interrelated—and perhaps especially during difficult times. When we think about the relationships between various problems, we can better understand how important it is to direct our efforts towards solving problems at their source.  

The Go Go Go Compost poem decorates the compost pile at Louverture Cleary School. The school has a long history of composting for its environmental benefits.

The Go Go Go Compost poem decorates the compost pile at Louverture Cleary School. The school has a long history of composting for its environmental benefits.

Deforestation, like civil unrest, is a downstream problem. Education is the UPSTREAM solution. 

An upstream solution creatively addresses a problem at its source. While some situations call for sending help downstream to address an immediate problem, generally “downstream” solutions do not present a permanent or even semi-permanent fix. Instead, chronically focusing on downstream solutions can exhaust resources that could be better put to use upstream. For example, while it may be admirable to spend one’s time constantly restoring houses in the flood zone of a river, it is critical to remember to set aside the resources needed to keep the river from flooding in the first place.

After nearly three decades of incredible results and hundreds of successful alumni, The Haitian Project (THP) recognizes that education, specifically a Louverture Cleary education, is an upstream solution to poverty. With an education and a willingness to share one’s talents with others, a Louverture Cleary School (LCS) graduate is equipped with the tools to not only earn an income that eliminates the threat of poverty for themselves and their family, but they have the tools to rebuild their country. With an education they can, so to speak, both work to stop the “river” from flooding in the first place, even while addressing immediate needs created by the flooding.  

In sum, whether the issue is deforestation or civil unrest, long-term solutions are only as effective and sustainable as the capacity and commitment of the people on the ground (Haitians) to provide capable and principled leadership in government, business, and all other social institutions that need to function well in order for a nation to succeed for the good of its people.  

Working for a brighter future…today. 

Long before your local superstore had bins designated for recycling, paper, and plastic waste, LCS students and volunteers were sorting and repurposing waste, turning compost, and being a good environmental neighbor to the other residents of Santo 5.  Louverture Cleary was a trailblazer in using solar energy and remains a completely solar powered school. Now, as THP embarks on the Louverture Cleary Schools Network, our focus expands to the environmental impact of the next nine schools. Last year, THP sent an advisory team of experts to evaluate how future LCS campuses can positively interact with the physical and social environments in which they will be built. 

Michael Moynihan, Ph.D., biologist and president of AGCT Consulting, is a member of this advisory team. In considering the LCS Network, Mr. Moynihan is focused on evaluating how each new school will contribute to both the sustainability and the stability of its environment. From years of his own experience, as well as the experienced shared by his brother, THP President Deacon Patrick Moynihan, he is a firm believer in the upstream solution of education:

It is a part of education to develop and understand that everyday actions of individuals can have wide ranging effects. The goal of each Louverture Cleary School should include the development of persons who will work together with others to develop practices and businesses that provide increased economic reward from sustainable productive activities. Louverture Cleary students are imbued with a sense of responsibility and commitment to improve not only their own situation, but their community, nation, and the world. 

To learn more about this topic, we invite you to read The Louverture Cleary Schools Network: An Upstream Solution to Poverty and Development in Haiti for more information.

THP Statement in Response to Recent Unrest in Haiti

The following reflects The Haitian Project’s (THP) statement and update on the ongoing unrest in Haiti as of 5:30am ET on 2-13-2019. The statement has been prepared under the advice of THP President Deacon Patrick Moynihan and Haitian private sector leader, THP Board Member and Head of THP’s Partner Foundations in Haiti Patrick Brun, during their assessment of the situation on the ground early this morning in preparation for the exit of THP’s U.S. Community from Haiti.

North Kingstown, RI & Port-au-Prince, Haiti—February 13, 2019—The Haitian Project (THP) pulled its U.S. community out of Haiti this morning, joining the U.S. Embassy in Haiti which yesterday ordered the departure of family members of Embassy staff under the age of 18 and approved the authorized departure of adult family members and non-emergency U.S. personnel. Louverture Cleary School is closed due to the inability of students and staff to safely travel to the school and will remain closed until the security situation improves.

The situation on the ground in Haiti and/or the fear created by the current conditions has created an impediment to THP’s operation, an operation that has withstood earthquakes and other times of unrest.

The current unrest is not a civil demonstration, but one involving violence and the destruction of property. It impedes regular daily activity. It is different than the demonstration marches of the past. 

It is clear that the general population is not with the movement to bring about an end to the current government. The general population deserves the right to daily activity, schools, marketplaces, etc. 

Black smoke billows from burning tires during a protest on Saturday, February 9, 2019, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo credit: AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery

Black smoke billows from burning tires during a protest on Saturday, February 9, 2019, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo credit: AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery

Having monitored the situation closely since it began last week, THP now believes U.S. support is warranted and that U.S. military forces should be deployed to provide security in Haiti once again.

THP President Deacon Patrick Moynihan has provided the following statement on behalf of THP:

“I would hope that the United States will once again support rule of law and ordinary daily life with security forces if necessary. I find it challenging that we have military bases and ongoing activity in regions far away and antithetical to our way of life when Haiti, the second oldest republic in our own neighborhood, is left to chaos. How can we be serious about democracy and the ending of the criminal, immoral legacy created by slavery and not come to the aid of our brothers and sisters in America. America is one and Haiti is at its root.

“My plea for assistance is in the name of the general population, especially the children who are being kept from going to school. Whatever issues may or may not present in the current administration can certainly be better handled through a judicial process rather than the streets. Haiti must emerge from revolution and strife to a full practice of Justice and Democracy based in civil process.”