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Solidarity Visit to Haiti: 20 December 2011

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chiblyThe day began with a visit to the Haiti offices of Development and Peace by the Most Reverend Chibly Langlois, Bishop of Cayes and President of the Haitian Bishops’ Conference, accompanied by Msgr. Han’s Alexandre, its Executive Director. The two briefed Archbishop Richard Smith, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, its Vice President, on a proposal that the Bishops of Haiti had developed last year for the reconstruction of the Church in their country, following the major damages from the earthquake in early January.

The Canadian delegation then went to the Canadian Embassy to Haiti for a meeting with Mr. Dominique Rossetti, Head of Aid; Ms. Erin Cosgrove, First Secretary for Canadian Cooperation, and Mr. Jean Claude Jean, a specialist in cooperation with the Canadian International Development Agency. Archbishop Smith explained that the Canadian delegation was on a mission of solidarity to Haiti, following the generous contributions of Canadian Catholics through Development and Peace. “We are very encouraged,” the CCCB President said. “Even though progress may seem slow, we appreciate the many difficulties, the great deal of suffering, and the great needs.” The discussion led to an exchange on how to explain to Canadians that aid to Haiti is most needed for long-term construction, and also how best to inform Canadians of the challenge of the Haitian situation as well as of the advances that have been made.

ambassadeurThe three Embassy staff praised the work of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, which they said was a good manager and took a uniquely important approach by involving local partners. Development and Peace is a major player in assisting Haitian civil society, they added. The Embassy staff complimented CCODP for its enduring relationship with Haiti over the years which they said was exceptional. As well, they acknowledged the important contributions that Canadian Catholic religious communities have made to the country. “We can all be proud of what Canada and Development and Peace are doing in Haiti,” Mr. Rossetti said.  At the end of its visit, the Canadian delegation was greeted by the Canadian Ambassador to Haiti, Mr. Henri-Paul Normandin.

The next visit by the Canadian delegation was to the offices of SAKS – Haiti (the Sosyete Animasyon Kominikasyon Sosyal or Society for Animation and Social Communication). For 20 years it has promoted communication as a fundamental right and an important means for education, while also providing technical support and formation for 40 community radio stations. Two of these radio stations are parish-based and one diocesan-based. Many areas of Haiti do not have access to state or regional radio stations because of the mountains, and over half of Haitians are illiterate. Community radio thus plays an essential role in communications, and even Haitian state radio at times uses the services of SAKS. It receives no government assistance. Its two main funding sources are Development and Peace and its Belgian counterpart. Development and Peace is currently contributing $225,000 over three years to assist SAKS in giving formation for radio and internet.

From the offices of SAKS, the Canadian solidarity mission drove to the offices of the National Justice and Peace Commission of the Haitian Bishops’ Conference. Its Director, Father Jan Hanssens, C.I.C.M., a missionary priest from Belgium, outlined its priorities: 2010, decentralization; 2011, environment; 2012, civil identity. The Commission recently began an initiative in collaboration with Development and Peace for formation and advocacy in human and legal rights. Development and Peace has committed $180,000 over three years to this project.

ecole3The last of the Development and Peace partners to be visited by the Canadian delegation was the Institution Mère Délia, a school operated by the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. Originally founded in 1943 by Mother Délia Tétreault from Quebec, the Haitian religious are now an autonomous religious community.  Their former school was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake. A new building was recently opened. Development and Peace contributed $360,000 toward its construction. Almost 900 students attend the school, most from poor neighbourhoods.

Archbishop Smith and Archbishop Durocher are accompanied on their solidarity visit to Haiti by Development and Peace Executive Director Mr. Michael Casey, its Latin America and Caribbean Programs Officer Mr. Normand Comte, and its communications officer Mr. François Gloutnay, as well as CCCB Assistant General Secretary Mr. Bede Hubbard.

By Bede Hubbard
Assistant General Secretary
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Last Updated on Thursday, December 22 2011  
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