Before the earthquake, Salesian Missions was working to help care for 25,000 children in Cité Soleil, the poorest slum in the heart of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
On Jan. 12, 2010, Salesian Missions lost 85 percent of its schools and buildings in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake struck, killing hundreds of students. At least 250 and up to 500 students and staff were killed or buried in the rubble, the majority being young women studying to become teachers. An MSNBC news segment referred to them as the “best and brightest” in the city.
A vast Salesian Missions compound in Cité Soleil (which consisted of schools, trade shops, housing, the street children program and housing, orphanage, youth center, feeding programs and administrative offices) was almost completely destroyed.
Kitchens that fed 25,000 of the city’s poorest children daily were affected.
Before the quake, the youth center in Carrefour Thorland was full of youth activity. Approximately 300 children between the ages of 10 and 24 participated in choir, dance, theater, art and environmental activities. They also received self-esteem and leadership training. Plans are in process to rebuild the infrastructure of this vital youth center.
In Fort Liberté, Salesian Missions has pledged to build a youth center which will provide recreational, cultural and spiritual activities to the youth engaged in the high school and college programs, as well as the youth of the area and their families.
Even with the enormous losses and beyond-challenging circumstances, Salesian Missions worked hard during a time of great crisis to continue to provide for the children and families that already depended on them, in addition to so many others now in desperate need.
While some humanitarian organizations and many people have left the country, Salesian Missions will continue its work for the people of Haiti as it has since 1935. Salesian Missions is an integral part of the Haitian infrastructure—operating schools, feeding programs and health clinics in the poorest areas. Many of the food and other relief items sent to Haiti were secured, stored and distributed using Salesian infrastructure and knowledge.
Salesian Missions is fully committed to rebuilding its educational infrastructure. Since 1935, Salesians have worked to educate Haiti’s most vulnerable youth and trained the best and brightest to become teachers.
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