Homeward Bound!

I am writing from the veranda of Matthew 25, the Haiti twinning guest house in Port au Prince. We stayed here the past two nights, and took day trips to parts of Haiti Gene, Colleen and I had never seen before. On Friday, our amazing driver, Tidou, took us south from Papaye all the way to Baudin, which is high, high, high in the mountains west of Jacmel. It was so delightful seeing Sister Moline, the former director of L’Ecole Normale. We loved the beautiful countryside where she lives. It is a very rural place, where the terraced hillsides are planted with sweet potatoes and peppers, and the locals were happy to give us directions to Baudin whenever we approached a fork in the road. We all agreed Baudin would be a lovely place to live, if not for the less-than-super-highway roads. Sister Moline already has the students well in-hand, and they sang to us when we arrived. Always wonderful to hear young, welcoming Haitian voices!

Yesterday, we journeyed with Clermann, her brother Ken, and her sister Olguin to the town of their roots, St. Marc. We visited the family home they are building on the site of their childhood farm. Olguin designed the house, which has a very modern design, and it is quite beautiful. At the entrance to their property stands the mango tree their mother planted in the 1970s, and it is quite majestic. From there, we travelled north to Ennery, which is east of Gonaives. On the way, in the huge Artibonite Valley, we passed many rice fields, irrigated by canals diverted from nearby rivers. We had a delicious lunch at Le Village D’Ennery, a gorgeous resort property with an expansive view of the North Haitian mountains. Then, it was back to the awesome hospitality of Matthew 25 for our last night in Haiti. 

Our afternoon flight today g
ave us the opportunity to attend Mass this morning at St. Francis deSalle de Delmas 33. The congregation just moved into their brand-new church building, and they were so welcoming to us. This group of parishioners founded this church after the earthquake because of the solidarity they formed together as a community. Their camaraderie can be felt in every part of their worship. And of course, their praise through music filled and uplifted us. 

I will post a few more pictures once I am back in the States and can download them more easily. Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts and prayers during our journey!


We’ve had a busy couple of days here at Ecole Normale. Gene and Luchner, the school’s number one jack-of-all-trades, have been working on the maintenance of the water filters that were installed during the Haiti Ministry’s visit this past June. In the afternoon, we met with members of the Student Government and heard about some of what they have accomplished this year. The Minister of Sport was proud to share his organization of a soccer tournament between the classes. We also spent some time with the Sisters exploring the joys and tribulations of computers, scanners, and the Haitian Internet.

Today, I spent the morning back at St. Martin’s, observing and helping to teach English classes, one to 13th grade and the other to 10th graders. The others spent  time having more fun with finicky computers, and visiting with the students, Pere Romel, and the Sisters. 

The highlight of our day was sitting in on the second year English class. The pwofese (teacher) was very engaging and the students enthusiastically participated. Most will say that they don’t speak English, but from what we heard, they speak English much better than they’l
l admit. We will have dinner with the Sisters tonight, and then it’s up at 4 am to head to Baudin (near Jacmel), where Sister Moline is now assigned. 


0117180659a-417557079.jpgIt’s just a few hours away by plane, but Haiti feels a world away when I hear of snow in Virginia after our 90 degree day in Haiti yesterday. Pere Juneau, the priest who celebrated Mass with us this morning, has never seen snow.

Yesterday was a busy and restful day for us, with a chance to greet the students, listen to Sister Veronique’s hopes and priorities for the school, catch a nap in the afternoon, and meet again with Sister Veronique to discuss our twinning partnership further. I was out with Richard Joseph most of the day, visiting St. Martin’s School. If you’re interested in catching up with the goings-on there, visit the Roanoke Catholic blog, at rcshaiti.wordpress.com.

Here are a couple of photos from the lovely Emmaus Center, where the only white fluffy stuff around is the Camellia blossoms!0116180701a_HDR.jpg

The Sounds of Haiti

I am sitting outside the Emmaus Center, listening to the sounds of the morning in Haiti. Of course, the roosters and the morning bell for the students of Ecole Normale woke me way before the sun did. Gene and I attended Mass at 6 am, and I truly think that if I could hear the singing voices of the Petite brothers and sisters every morning, I might just become a morning person.

Yesterday was a long, beautiful day. It started at 3 am, with our trip from our hotel to the Fort Lauderdale airport. A few hours later, we were greeted by Sister Veronique in the Port au Prince airport. She had talked the security people into letting her in close so she could greet us. Ah, the power of that blue nun’s habit! After the usual organized chaos getting out of the airport, we arrived at the mother house of the Petite Sisters of St. Therese. It was recently reconstructed, since their original house was flattened in the 2010 earthquake. Their new house was dedicated in 2015, and it is beautiful.

We had very productive meeting with the General Council of PSST, where there was lots of sharing of our common vision and dreams for education in Haiti. I took four pages of notes, but don’t worry, I won’t share them all here!

Then, it was off to Papaye! Six of us squeezed inside Ecole Normale’s pick-up, and off we went. Now I know how the Haitians feel inside the crowded taptaps. We all got to know each other very well!

We arrived at Ecole Normale a little after 3 pm and enjoyed a late lunch of rice with pigeon peas and chicken. All is greener than usual this time of year on the Central Plateau, because there has been more rain.

As the sun was setting, we headed back to Hinche to meet with Bishop Desinorde Jean. Richard Joseph, Sisters Mamoun and Veronique and other leaders from St. Martin’s School and Petite deCoste School were also there. Much of our meeting centered on the new twin relationship between these schools and Roanoke Catholic School. I will write more about our conversation on the Roanoke Catholic blog, rcshaiti.wordpress.com. We’re all very excited about this new endeavor, and we so appreciate the time the Bishop and the others took to meet with us.

Then, it was back to Papaye, a late supper of a mild soup like Cream of Wheat (but better!), and we were off to bed.0115181116.jpg0116180701a_HDR.jpg

2018 Pilgrimage!

Today, OLN parishioners begin another pilgrimage to our twin in Haiti, le Ecole Normale de Papaye. Last February, when our last team of pilgrims visited Haiti, Joe Cuadrado started this blog. This year, I will pick up the reins, as Joe is busy planning his June wedding with his lovely bride-to-be, Laura.

The four pilgrims traveling to Haiti this week are Gene Yagow (our Haiti Ministry Committee Chair), Colleen Hernandez, Clermann Dieudonne, and myself. Ecole Normale has a new director, Sister Veronique, and the purpose of this trip is to introduce ourselves to her and ensure a smooth transition as we all get to know each other. I will also be making a few side trips to visit nearby schools in Hinche. This is part of a new initiative to twin Roanoke Catholic School (where I teach) with students in Catholic schools in the Diocese of Hinche, Haiti. If you like, you can follow that aspect of our trip at rcshaiti.wordpress.com.

The photo I’ve included with this entry is one that Joe took last year during our visit to the small health clinic near Ecole Normale. To me, this door represents all that is possible in this world if we embrace hope. When Jesus healed the deaf and mute man, he said, “Ephphatha.” Be opened. May this door represent the possibility of goodness and growth that exists in every human heart if we embrace openness to others, recognize our common humanity, and trust in the guidance Jesus provided us with His example.IMG_20170213_114136_DRO

Our last full day in Papaye

Many of us can’t believe that the end of the trip is just a day away. It’s been an eye opening experience to be able to get to know this community and spend time with them in such different scenarios. Luckily, because we are twinned with the normale school, these goodbyes are only temporary and we’ll continue our ministry work from back home. 

Our last full day in Papaye was packed full of being witnesses to a normal day here. 

After eating breakfast, we were honored to join the students at their flag raising ceremony where they all line up and raise the Haitian flag. Some students have speeches and others performed the ceremony and then they concluded with their anthem – similar to flag raisings on a military base. 

During the ceremony, we were invited center stage to award this year’s recipients of the scholarships that OLN gives out: two for a rising first year and two for a rising second year. After getting their names announced, the recipients came up and we all congratulated them individually, it was nice! A student’s representative then gave a speech afterwards to thank us for our continued partnership and generousity. 

We then walked down the road to the local primary school (Tito school – the spelling might be off). Since it was recess, the place was jam packed with joyous children running around and immediately lining up at the entrance of the school curious at the sight of unfamiliar faces – us! As we walked-in, kids waved, smiled and laughed around us. I extended my hand to one of them to shake his little hand and then all of them crowded me to touch my hands and arms – it was adorable. Once we were by the classrooms, we met some of the student teachers from our twin! It felt so neat seeing them and recognizing their uniform and simply knowing they come from our twin – we have that bond, plus I recognised a couple of them. We were invited to address one of the 2nd grade classes and the kids responded with very articulate and loud answers, followed by one of them saying “welcome dear guests” in French – very cool. 

Upon returning, we stopped by Sister Marie’s sewing school and took a breather. Sister was excited to show off her new stove (provided to her by gracious donations from OLN) and many of the items made there. All of us were excited to hear that she’ll be sending some over soon so that we can sell them at our next fundraiser. Sister Marie also thanked us for all the sewing equipment that we’ve donated to the school and that it’s made a huge difference in the quality of instruction for many of the young women she trains at the school. 

Next stop was Sister Anise’s clinic that also services the community. Sister showed us every room and corner of the building! We were all impressed at how many services they provide for such little costs but with excellent care. 

After all the tours, we went back to the school library to demo the Internet in a box for interested teachers. We walked them through the features step-by-step and all of them were excited at the new opportunities made possible by having access to an encyclopedia and 1000s of books in 4 languages. 

The group then decided to go to get some peanut butter and snacks next door at the brother’s campus – I decided to take a nap since I needed to recharge. 

After my nap, some of us made our way to the computer lab to give any interested students the opportunity to learn how to use PowerPoint through hands-on instruction. We ended up having a full house! Cyndy taught a comprehensive lesson and many of them came away from that class with an obvious itch to learn more. 

Finally, we ate dinner with all the sisters that live here at the normale school. It was an awesome experience sharing a meal with these holy women who embody strength, wisdom, charity, and grace in all that they do for the community. As was mentioned to us, in many ways, the sisters are the backbone of Haitian society and are at the front lines with education, medicine, and faith formation. As always, the meal was delicious and extremely satisfying – a fitting end to our last full day in Papaye. 

We’ll be traveling tomorrow and I will continue updating the blog. Thanks again for reading intently and for the prayers you send us. We’re inspires and driven by every bit of it! 

God bless, 

Joe Cuadrado