MQP partnership with Haiti parish proves fruitful
Mary Queen of Peace’s third annual “A Night in Haiti” fund-raiser for its sister parish, St. Benoit in Dessources, Haiti, was a resounding success.
“We will be able to pay April, May and June expenses for the next three months (at St. Benoit parish),” said Muguet Bolotte, who along with Tony Pastorello is co-chair of the Haiti Solidarity Partnership Ministry at the Mandeville parish.
Extra money will go toward student tuition, scholarships and teacher salaries.
Two hundred and twelve tickets bought in advance offered attendees a Caribbean dinner of roasted pig, plantains, black beans, rice, salad and tres leches cakes. A DJ provided Haitian music, and Haitian crafts of horn-cuff bracelets and jewelry, steel drum religious art and wood carvings were sold.
In the cafeteria hung 200 hundred backpacks, representing St. Benoit middle-school students in need of scholarships. As people donated money, students were assigned scholarships as deemed needed by Msgr. Wildor Pierre, St. Benoit pastor, Bolotte said. Funds also were collected for teacher salaries.
The backpacks will be brought to Haiti April 8 on the annual trip that parishioners take to St. Benoit to spend a week “putting our eyes on construction, going through receipts, meeting with the parish council and asking them what is important in the community,” Bolotte said.
They also will meet Bishop Pierre Dumas. “Once you go, you’re hooked,” she said.
Bolotte said the event highlights the progress they have made with their partner St. Benoit in Dessources, Haiti.
What’s been accomplished
Since 2011, Mary Queen of Peace has helped St. Benoit complete plaster work and put a new roof on their church; add a second story for a combination elementary/middle school that has allowed the school to grow from 50 to 500 students and from seven to 15 teachers in pre-kindergarten through ninth grade. The school lunch program has improved, and a new cafeteria was built with a propane stove, eliminating outdoor cooking.
“There are 15-year-olds in fifth grade who are happy to go to school,” Bolotte said. “They had never been in school.”
Mary Queen of Peace helped Msgr. Wildor buy a car and is working with Food for the Poor in Haiti to start an animal husbandry, goat program to empower Haitians. The Haitian parishioners will raise goats for milk and chickens for eggs, and the proceeds will help Msgr. Wildor pay teacher salaries.
Bolotte considers Mary Queen of Peace a facilitator, finding out what the Haitian parish needs and then sending money to fulfill the project.
“The people in Haiti are doing all the work,” Bolotte said. “It’s been a whole community effort.”
“What I really learned is that people are unbelievably generous,” Bolotte said about the partnership which began in 2011. “People like to own something. They want to buy tires, pay for a child’s tuition. They want to see the progress. They feel engaged because they see progress. It’s their project.”
Probably the most beneficial project that Mary Queen of Peace helped with was drilling a water well in 2014 that supplies fresh water for the whole community of 4,000 people.
“Before, it was a two-hour walk round-trip to get fresh water up and down hill,” Bolotte said. “Now, it’s in the courtyard of the church, with distribution nearby.
“The first thing they ever told us four years ago was education – that’s how it started,” Bolotte said. “They wanted to do education, and they got a grant to distribute vitamins.
“We’re trying to shift the ministry. As progress continues, the goals will change. Our goal is all about commitment, engagement and education.”
Students from Mary Queen of Peace are involved by making rosaries, prayer bracelets, writing cards to Haitian friends and painted a mural for the “Night in Haiti” event.
“The plan is a long-term relationship,” Bolotte said. “As long as the parishioners (at Mary Queen of Peace) see progress, I think it will be able to sustain itself.”
Mary Queen of Peace first connected with the Haiti parish after the 2010 earthquake when the archdiocese asked parishes to consider twinning with a hard-hit parish. Mary Queen of Peace chose St. Benoit because it was of similar size and had circumstances that resonated with parishioners.
“After the earthquake, everybody moved to the mountains (five hours from the city),” Bolotte said. “That was reminiscent of people moving to the northshore after Hurricane Katrina.”
Two parishioners from St. Dominic will travel with the Mary Queen of Peace parishioners on the next trip, and the hope is more parishes from the Archdiocese of New Orleans will consider forming partnerships.