St. Andrew's Church and St. Augustin Church in Maniche, Haiti began a relationship in 1988. It was at that time that St. Augustin and three other mission churches were assigned to a young, newly ordained, Haitian priest. All four missions were in remote villages in the south of Haiti. St. Augustin’s was further isolated by a broad river that separated the church from central part of the village. There was no bridge to cross the river, so goods, people, and the priest had to cross the river by donkeys who stepped on the higher rocks of the river bed. This new priest was aware that he may soon find himself in deep water.
St. Andrew's, along with three other Episcopal parishes in greater Kansas City area, volunteered to assist this priest with partnerships of prayer, dialogue, and visits. Mission visits led to many personal relationships between parishioners here and Haiti. The four original partnerships expanded to twelve and a non-profit organization called Haitian Episcopal Learning Partnerships (H.E.L.P.) was formed to coordinate trips, communication, and projects.
Now 25 years later, St. Andrew’s and St. Augustin continue to be close spiritual partners. Through these years, both partners have learned from one another and supported one another. St. Andrew’s has assisted with agriculture, economic development, and health projects in Maniche. But the longstanding focus and area of greatest success has been in education. St. Andrew’s has assisted with funds for construction, teacher salaries, equipment and supplies for the St. Augustin School in Maniche. The school now educates over 200 students each year in grade levels from pre-school through sixth grade. Few of these students would otherwise have an opportunity to attend school. In recent years, St. Andrew’s parishioners have made it possible to provide a hot meal for every student every school day. The health and performance improvements are noticeable.
In Haiti, few teachers have formal teacher education and there is no system of continuing education for teachers. So, St. Andrew’s and other H.E.L.P. partners are now engaged in developing teacher seminars for all of the H.E.L.P. schools. The teachers at St. Augustin are excited about the new skills they are learning and it is a highlight for visitors to see that the techniques taught are now being used in the classroom. Next on the agenda is establishment of a Parent Teacher Association and development of a Master Teacher Program at Maniche. So, St. Andrew’s is continuing along a path of enabling local leadership and sustainability.
Also after 25 years, the heart of this relationship continues to be a Spiritual partnership. Father John Spicer calls it, “a walk with Jesus.” We pray for one another, we communicate with one another about issues and opportunities, and we continue the visits that were originally pledged. We invite you to take part. Opportunities for volunteers here include helping with our two fundraising efforts, the Haiti Christmas Card Sale and the Fools for Christ’s Sake Dinner.
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