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Group from St. Ann's Catholic Church visits parish in Haiti

May 08, 2007|by GAREY STEWART

Six parishioners from St. Ann's Catholic Church in Hagerstown visited their sister parish St. Claire and its parish school in Dessalines, Haiti, from Feb. 1 to 6.

For several years, St. Ann's Parish has primarily sponsored the school feeding program for more than 500 primary school children with one meal a day and helps pay the teachers' salaries - a teacher in Haiti is paid about $70 a month.

The six volunteers - Marco Roman, Garey Stewart, Agnes Supernavage, Barbara Lloyd, Ben Lloyd and Craig Kurtz - had a unique and unforgettable trip.

Although Haiti is only a two-hour flight from Miami, Fla., it has little or no infrastructure, such as postal service, health care or grocery stores, telephones, television, newspapers, indoor water and electricity. The agriculture-based country, where rice, vegetables and bananas are grown, is a land of contrasts. The mountains are bare, while the flat lands surrounding Dessalines are fertile and fed by springs and rivers.

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The Hagerstown group was well-cared for during their stay and experienced Haitian hospitality wherever they went. Their accommodations were simple, but included a flushing toilet and shower, which was a pipe of unheated water coming down from the ceiling.

They visited St. Claire parish school, where St. Ann's had provided the money for the basketball court. The group distributed basketballs, soccer balls and jump ropes from St. Ann's and later in their stay served lunch to the students.

The St. Ann's group participated in a feast day mass procession from the school to the local church, attended mass in a poor community called Gilbert, where they distributed rosaries to churchgoers and delivered medical supplies to the Canadian sisters who run the only clinic in town.

Prior to the trip, Stewart purchased a bulk amount of tomato, eggplant and pepper seeds and gave them to Father Dessaline, the pastor of St. Claire. Those seeds will be grown to supplement the diet of rice and beans that the children eat.

After returning to Hagerstown, the group shared their experiences and observations of the impact their financial support has had on St. Claire with the St. Ann's community.

As a community of faith, it was agreed to start a new program to support the school nutrition program at St. Claire school. It is called the "Littlest Angels."

The goal is to feed as many of the 500 preschoolers and kindergartners as possible. Targeting the youngest children makes a huge difference in a country where one out of five children still dies before age 5. Just $50 will feed one child one meal every school day for one year.

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