Campus Ministers Visit Haiti

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Recently, De La Salle Collegiate Campus Minister Brian Barker and Brother Ken Kalinowski visited Haiti. This is Brother Ken’s account of their visit:

I arrived in Haiti, with a group of 8 Lasallian teachers from Eastern North America (two from Toronto, two from Baltimore, and two from Philadelphia)  expecting the worst due to the reputation of the country, but not really realizing what we would see. We left leaving Metro Detroit in the mid 50’s, and arrived in Haiti in mid 90’s heat and humidity. At the airport in Haiti, hundreds of people are waiting for each plane, looking for relatives, or hoping to help visitors to a car with the bags – expecting money to help them survive. 1 US dollar is worth 65 Haitian dollars, and everywhere we went – the preference was for American money.

We traveled down – so called roads, filled with sewage and smells that are indescribable. We arrived at the school, which is a fortress, and the outside of the school was shocking. However, once the main gate opened, we landed into a beautiful school courtyard filled with hundreds of children. The St. John Baptiste de la Salle School was built with donations from Lasallian schools in the United States and Ireland, after the terrible earthquake that hit the country. There are currently 550 students K-8, and a high school will open this Fall. The school is staffed by 6 Brothers: the oldest brother is 42 and 4 are in their 20’s. There are also lay partners who serve from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. each day. The school asks each family to contribute what they are able for tuition;  no child is turned away due to lack of funds once admitted. Space is limited, and classrooms are large. I walked into the 3rd grade classroom that had 1 teacher for 55 students! 
In the afternoon, we visited  an orphanage with about 160 children, about a 1/2 mile away. Many of the orphans came after the earthquake; some are simply abandoned children. Close to 1/3 of the children in the orphanage are mentally or physically challenged. Their parents, unable to care for them, left them at the gate; government services do not exist in Haiti. In the nursery, one woman was caring for 16 children under the age of 2. I was mobbed by children who simply wished to be picked up and hugged. We spent time with so many children.
We found out, through our bilingual Canadian Lasallian partner, that many of the 160 orphans attend the 4 area schools The De La Salle Brothers offer a certain number of spots for the orphans who attend for free. 
There are great needs, too many to fathom – but if we won’t help – then who will?
You may wonder, why did we go? It is our hope to bring our students there next year, as a Mission trip, for a few days of service and to see a world that is unlike our own – only an hour and a half plane ride from Florida’s shores. A Lasallian school is called, “to touch hearts” – their impact on our group was certainly that. Having spent years in Papua New Guinea, I thought I had seen it all.  Believe me. Haiti was another eye opener. 
Let us pray for the people who suffer so greater than ourselves, and may “Jesus, Live in Our Hearts” – Forever!
Brother Ken Kalinowski, FSC

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