On January 1, 1804, Haiti, whose name signifies "high and wooded land" became the first independent black republic in the world. It shares the Island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic: Haiti occupies the Western one-third of the island, and the Dominican Republic the remaining eastern two-thirds.
Haiti encompasses an area of 10,714 sq. mi. (about the same size as the state of Maryland). Aside from a few plains, the greater part of its territory is mountainous and very steep in some areas; this weighs heavily on any efforts to develop it agriculturally.
Haiti has approximately 7.18 million inhabitants, of which 75% depend on agriculture for a living. The annual per capita income is estimated at $340 (US).
As of 1997, the infant mortality rate is 74 / 1000 and life expectancy is only 57 years.
With regards to development, Haiti has enormous challenges to meet in the areas of agriculture, education, potable water, health, and housing. As participants in this gigantic effort, the fraternities of the Little Brothers and the Little Sisters of the Incarnation place themselves at the service of the peasant farmers; for Jesus is the savior of the whole person as well as of society as a whole. As St. Irenaeus of Lyon has said "The glory of God is man fully alive, and the glory of man is the contemplation of God". John Paul II himself has said, "the way of the Church is man". It is in this same vein that the Little Brothers and Little Sisters of the Incarnation, despite their limitations, undertake to improve the moral, social, religious, and economic living conditions of their peasant brothers and sisters, all the while announcing the Word of God by their actions and their lives.
The government of Haiti plays only a very minor role in its educational system. 90% of all schools in the country belong to the private sector, and only 10% are public schools supported by state funding. The country peasant, with his pitiful standard of living is unable to afford the large sums of money necessary to educate his children in private schools. A secondary school education was only available in urban areas before the Little Brothers and Sisters of the Incarnation intervened to build a vocational-technical high school in rural Pandiassou.
Due to the initiative of the fraternities, the youth of Pandiassou and its surrounding areas have been well prepared through elementary schools thoughtfully adapted to the life and conditions of rural families. Now, they also have access to a secondary school education on site. Together with well-chosen subject matter, these schools which are physically immersed in the rural countryside, make use of the local culture and peasant know-how to transmit Christian values in the peoples' mother tongue (Creole).
One of the main concerns of peasant farmers is, of course, agriculture itself. That is why students at these adapted schools learn new techniques of reforestation, grafting, and vegetable gardening during the dry season. Their nursery produces 100,000 fruit tree seedlings every year to help create new forests in the area..
At various locations, the Little Brothers and Sisters have excavated artificial lakes (making use of some natural formations in the rolling hillside) to respond to the need for irrigation water during the drier months. In the Central Plateau there are six months of heavy rains and 6 months of drought. They have also excavated smaller areas which are used to raise fish and which, in turn, are used to help feed their school children and the children who come daily to their nutrition centers.
People all over Haiti suffer from a shortage of easily accessible water (especially drinking water). Many people go directly to local rivers, often at quite a distance, to carry the water home for daily usage. In response to the need for drinking water in the area of Pandiassou and it's neighboring villages, the fraternities set in place two water pipelines bringing potable water from high up in the mountains miles away. Due to their efforts, approximately 30,000 people now are able to get water suitable for drinking close-by from any one of 23 public water faucets. This potable water has helped to decrease the death and disease rates linked to dysentery in the area.
In the rural countryside there are extremely few doctors, and very little access to modern medical help of any kind. With the opening of the pharmacy and the new health clinic on the road to Dos Palais, the Little Brothers and Sisters hope to improve the state of health of those who come there in search of medical attention and relief.
All of this requires a great deal of material help and financial support from friends and benefactors outside of Haiti.
Following is a more detailed listing of projects which have been completed thanks to this financial help and to the power of God...
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