Solidarity Visit to Haiti: 19 December 2011Wednesday, December 21 2011
Jacmel is a city in the southeast region of
Jacmel is the home of “Fanm Deside” (“Decided Women”), a local group of women who decided (“deside” in Creole) to change conditions for women, and to work in collaboration with other groups to transform their country and society. Development and Peace has contributed $250,000 over two years to assist Fanm Deside, in part for the construction of a shelter for women and children seeking protection from domestic violence.
When arriving in Jacmel late Sunday afternoon, the Canadian delegation was first received by 10 women from Fanm Deside, and later by the Vicar General of the Diocese of Jacmel. Founded in 1989 by the Sisters of Notre Dame du Bon Conseil (“Our Lady of Good Counsel”) from
“Bienvenue chez nous,” the women sang. “Welcome to our place.” Each gave a short presentation. The coordinator, Mrs. Marie-Ange Noël, said that “We are grateful to the Bishops of Canada who through Development and Peace have defended the rights of women in
The women explained that more than half the families in
The Canadian delegation also had a brief meeting with three leaders of JACHA, a group of 400 youths in 14 teams who are involved in public health protection against cholera and rabies, disaster preparation, and reforestation. They have mobilized 12,000 youth from the ages of 15 to 25 years old. “Your dedication and the sacrifices you make for others are extraordinary,” Archbishop Smith said to the two young men and one young woman. “You are creating the basis for change. You are people of vision.” Development and Peace has contributed $200,000 over three years to assist JACHA in its reforestation projects.
Diocesan Vicar General
From there the visitors went to meet the Vicar General, Father Théodule Domond, who had been the diocesan administrator before the recent appointment of the new Bishop, and is now director of the diocesan centre for pastoral formation. He has supported Fanm Deside since its beginnings, and as Diocesan Administrator had inaugurated its new offices. Although Fanm Deside is not directly linked to the diocese, the relationship is good, he said, with most members of the movement strong Catholics. He noted the group also has links with religious communities of women. “In
When asked about some commentators in
Archbishop Smith inquired about the situation in the Jacmel camps which shelter the homeless since the earthquake. Father Domond said that 5,000 people in the immediate region had been left without homes, and many churches, chapels and religious houses destroyed. Although the number living in tents has now been reduced to about 600 families, the situation remains precarious, he explained. A great deal of money was invested in purchasing what are basically plastic tents, he lamented, susceptible to damage from winds and fire, very hot in the heat and very cold when the temperatures are low. “Little has been done to date in the way of durable housing,” he said. He insisted the people themselves need to be involved in providing their own shelter. They have to be able to take matters into their own hands, he said, while at the same time needing support so as to find the means to build permanent housing.
Shelter for women and children
The next morning, 19 December, the Canadian delegation visited the shelter that Fanm Deside is constructing to help respond to situations of family violence. The two-storey facility will eventually give temporary shelter to 20 women and children. About a dozen men were at work constructing the concrete house in a lovely walled garden. The stone wall was being constructed by hand, just as the cement to construct the residence was also being mixed by hand and carried pail by pail. This is the first shelter for women in the southeast area of
The solidarity mission next visited two nurseries, staffed and operated by women as a means to learn new life skills, gain a degree of financial security to help themselves as well as to educate and feed their families, and build a sense of community. The seedling trees and vegetables assist other families and provide lessons in water and soil conservation. At one nursery, women carried water in plastic pails and recycled plastic containers over 20 metres to water the seedlings; in the second, just going to the little river nearby was a 10-minute walk. Both nurseries were a paradise of greenery, with birds singing and butterflies flitting. “Solidarity is the basis of all,” one woman said. The women dream of slowly changing the whole nation, which today is dependent on imported food. Thirty years ago,
“We are so touched that those in
Archbishop Smith and Archbishop Durocher are accompanied on their solidarity visit to
By Bede Hubbard
Assistant General Secretary
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops