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HAITI PARISH TWINNING PROGRAM – 1994-2018
St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, Keyport, NJ

In November of 1993, during the coup period in Haiti when a violent crackdown was being perpetuated at the grass roots levels, Tonie Malone volunteered to go to Haiti with a group of peace organizations acting as human rights observers reporting to the UN.  The group effort, in which Tonie represented Pax Christi USA, was called Cry for Justice.  Her first hand experience of the suffering, the military repression and the abject poverty of the vast majority of Haitians, moved Tonie to want to do something further when she returned to the USA.  While she was in Port au Prince, she heard of the Haiti Parish Twinning Program which twinned parishes in the USA with parishes in Haiti, and she thought parishioners might warm to such a venture.  Tonie presented the idea to her Parish Council in Keyport, New Jersey, and early in 1994 St. Joseph’s Haiti  Parish Twinning Program was launched.  Pignon on the Grande Plateau in northern Haiti became St. Joe’s sister parish and a relationship was established with Pignon’s charismatic pastor, Father Gabriel Julmice, who had been a resistance figure protecting the embattled farmers and their families.  Today Pignon is a peaceful farming community of 40,000 people with another 30,000 or so living in the seven chapels surrounding the town, some as distant as 14 miles. Our program serves them all..

In the 24 years since we began our relationship with the Parish of Pignon, we have developed a variety of empowerment programs with the goal of sustainable.  Microcredit loans to start small businesses have always been central to our efforts, but work without education will fail because someone will cheat you if you can’t read or write, and families without adequate healthcare will not survive. With this in mind we established a three prong program for sustainability.

  • Beginning in 1995 with ten loans of $75 each, we began our microcredit loan program.  Since then with the assistance of grants, corporate sponsors and individual donors, we have established a revolving microcredit loan program for over 3700 poor women and a few men, loans that are renewable each year for those who pay back on time.   Some of our most popular loans are for donkeys (for transportation), chickens (to breed and sell for meat and eggs), market products such as rice, beans and vegetables, sugar cane syrup for rum and oxen loans.  In 2007 we gave our first large business loan for a corn and millet grinder to a group of 5.  This has been a success and the loan is being repaid, Then in 2009 we gave our second large loan to the veterinarian, Moussanto Dantil, to start a goat farm.  Our program is modeled on that of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.  (see Origins of Microcredit).

  • There is no free education in Haiti in either parochial or public  schools, so thirteen years ago we started a child sponsorship program to send children to school who could not otherwise receive an education.  $90 sends a child to primary school for a year; $150 sends a child to secondary school.  Over the years this program has grown and today over 250 parishioners and friends, including the Kiwanis Club of Hazlet, NJ, are sponsoring children in various elementary and secondary schools.  Each year we also support a two week diocesan summer teachers’ training seminar which is followed up with classroom supervision and observation in the fall and spring.

  • Twenty years ago we started a university sponsorship program and have since sent nine young adults to universities in the capital city of Port au Prince.  One was fortunate enough after the earthquake claimed his university, to be sent on to Siena College in upstate New York to finish his senior year, as a guest of the college.  One student graduated from the school of Computer Science and Technology, and a second medical student completed her social service work. The seven students who have already graduated form a core of young professionals working for the parish in Pignon.  Our veterinarian and agronomist, Moussanto Dantil, graduated in July of 2009 and married the RN, Ketheline Rock, who graduated in 2008.  She is now the executive director of our health clinic, and we have hired an LPN  to assist her.  Our microcredit manager, Berteau Zephir, completed his five year contract in November of 2011 and has been hired on a full time salary to run the MICAPPI, the microcredit program.  Pierre-Louis Joizil, recently graduated with a business administration degree, has begun the formation and building of the first Catholic High School in the Pignon area in his hometown chapel of Fontaine. Fauzer Marius graduated in 2011 as an agronomist to address the issues of deforestation and clean water. At present, Katia Georges is in her first year at the Notre Dame School of Nursing in Cape Haitian. All students have contracts with the parish of Pignon to return after the completion of their education and become part of our programs for at least the number of years that we supported them in the university. Two medical students, Florlande Crepin and Nerette Charles are still finishing their studies.  All have been supported by the Rotary Club of Tinton Falls, John Barba’s Haiti College Fund, Friends of St. Joseph and several individual donors.

  • Our parishioners, through monthly collections, provide resources and support for six schools run by our sister parish. Each month a check is wired to the parish account in Pignon to help pay the salaries of teachers and healthcare workers.  Books, pencils, notebooks and other supplies for the schools are donated by our parishioners.

  • In 2010 we had the grand opening of the parish’s new enlarged health clinic, the Dispensaire St. Joseph de Pignon.  Funds to build the clinic were raised in memory of a young marine killed in Iraq, Patrick Malone, and a long time donor and friend of our program, Daniel McCarthy.  The clinic includes two examination rooms, an office, a pharmacy, a laboratory, an emergency room and a dental office.  In May of 2011, the parish hired its first full-time doctor for the clinic. In 2012, we helped open a Dental Clinic that now employs a full time dental technician and a doctor of dentistry. In 2017, we hired a second doctor for the clinic so we can stay open six days a week.

  • Although we do not consider ourselves to be in the building business, we have over the years made a few exceptions. In 2009, we received a grant for $25,000 from MJM, Inc, of Raleigh, NC (now G4S), to build an all purpose room for the central school (700 students) that we support.  This room is used for community meetings as well as a lunchroom for the students in inclement weather.  In 2011, we received a second grant of $25,000 from MJM Inc. to build a store and warehouse for our microcredit borrowers.  A grant from the Raskob Foundation in 1999 allowed us to put solar panels in the rectory, school and all purpose room. And in 2017, solar panels were put on the clinic so they can have electricity 24 hours a day.
  • In 2010, our veterinarian office and pharmacy opened under the direction of Dr. Moussanto Dantil, one of our university graduates.  Many of our microcredit loans are for animals whose care is essential to the survival of their owners.

  • Each year, we ship by container over 40 boxes plus larger items of requested supplies: in particular, hospital furnishing and medical and school supplies. Many of these items have been donated by local dentists, doctors and hospitals.

Each year we send a delegation to Pignon and occasionally bring our Haitian pastor to Keyport for a visit.  We have also brought our microcredit manager to the USA for some business training.

   

 

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