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How long have the Marists been present in Haiti?

21/05/2014: Haiti

The Marist presence in Haiti goes back 28 years. Since 15 September 1985, there have been Marist Brothers and missionaries in Haiti, initially in the little coastal town of Damme Marie.  In 1986, the Province of Canada founded a community in the town of Latibolière, 10 kilometres from the principal city of the region: Jéremie.

The official transfer of Haití from the Province of Canada to the Province of México Occidental was on 8   January 2009. Since then, Canadian and Mexican Brothers have worked together to continue the work begun by the pioneers.

During the year 2010, the work consisted essentially of channeling and distributing aid in money and in kind to the many persons suffering from the catastrophe of the earthquake of 13 January that year.


Marist Communities in Haiti:

There are currently three communities with a Marist presence in the west of the island: Damme Marie, Jérémie and Latibolière.


I. Damme Marie

The town of Dame-Marie is located at the extremity of the region of the Grand'Anse, the extreme west and most distant from the capital of the country. It counts some 10,000 inhabitants (more than 40 if all its communes are taken into account), and is one of the most important in this region.

The local language is Creole, although the official language for teaching in the schools is French. There are no public services such as water or electricity, but they rely on solar energy and water from rain or the surrounding rivers.

The Marist presence in Damme Marie consists of 4 Brothers, José Luis Casillas (Chepo), Community Animator, and Sergio Cáceres (Checo), Sector Econome, both Mexican, and Toussaint Forestal and Wilguins Francois, Haitians.

The brothers work in two schools:

a. The primary school "Notre-Dame de Fátima": from its origins a government school conducted by the Marist Brothers. They oversee the organization and educational processes; the plant and the teachers’ salaries are the concern of the government.  Those actually working in the school are Brs Chepo and Toussaint.

b. The College "Notre-Dame de la Nativité": a secondary and preparatory school also conducted by the Marist Brothers, with the buildings belonging to the diocese. Marist personnel in this school: Brs Checo and Wilguins.

After the earthquake of 2010, it is estimated that over 100,000 persons arrived in this region, by boat, bus, lorry or on foot, coming from Port-au-Prince, the capital, to find shelter in the homes of friends and family. For this reason, the classrooms which were built for 40 students, had to cope with more than 80 per room after the earthquake.

As a consequence, four more classrooms are being built, two of which are intended for the last two years of study (equivalent to the leaving certificate) and two more for pastoral work, with the need to locate the electricity generator plant required for the computer room.

At present, the secondary and leaving certificate classes have around 400 students.


II. Jéremie

A city founded in 1760 and now the capital of the province of the Grand' Anse. It is the largest and most important city in the south-west region of Haití, having more than 100,000 inhabitants if all its communes are counted. It has an air link with Port-au-Prince. Jéremie is called the "City of poets", because of the number of poets, writers and historians born there.

Marist Postulancy in Jéremie

Here is the Marist postulancy in Haití. The formators since the 2011 school year have been Brs Luis Enrique Rodríguez (Lers), and Rafael Álvarez (Rach), both Mexicans. They are responsible for accompanying the Haitian postulants in the process of vocational discernment. The postulants do their studies in a formation centre which is common for the different religious formation houses of the city, and carry out their apostolate in the house by helping with the catechism of children.

At present, here in Jéremie they are constructing a Community Centre which will serve for initiating a teacher training project for Haitians and offer other services for the many people living in and around the Caracolie quarter, in which the house of the Marist community is situated.

And from August 2014, Jéremie will also be the site of the Marist Novitiate of the Province of México Occidental in Haití, directed by Brother Toño Cavazos.


III. Latibolière

10 km south of Jéremie is the town of Latibolière. The people support themselves mainly by agriculture since the town is located in a mountainous area far from the sea. Here the Marist brothers conduct a diocesan college called "Collège Alexandre Dumas", in honour of the celebrated author of the "The Three Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Christo", of Haitian ancestry.

The college has secondary and preparatory sections and offers education to an average of 461 students, 3/4 of them supported by bursaries from a Canadian foundation which provide each with the payment of school fees, uniform, school bag, school equipment and a daily light breakfast.

In this school work Brothers Toño Cavazos, Mexican, as administrator of the college, Laurent Beauregard, Canadian, in charge of the library and a little evening class for primary children who have not the means to attend the local school (this project of looking after “slave” children is called  “afternoon” and we will learn more about it) and Jean Mance. There is a project in Latibolière of making a Town Square and building new rooms for the Library. 

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