Category Archives: Haiti

Meet the Catholic nun who has helped Haitians through multiple earthquakes

HeridosHaiti CatholicReliefServices 091018
Victims of the Oct. 6, 2018 earthquake in Haiti./ Catholic Relief Services.

Sister Marilyn Marie Minter was praying when she felt an earthquake rock Haiti.

“My chair began to shake,” she told EWTN News In Depth on Aug. 27. “And I’m going, ‘What the heck is going on?’”

As one of four Felician Sisters of North America serving in Haiti, Sr. Marilyn detailed her experience of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the country on Aug. 14. That morning, she and her Felician sisters were at their convent in Jacmel, 80 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter in Les Cayes. They ran.

“Sister Inga, who’s in the room next to me, she yells out, ‘Get out of the house quickly! It’s an earthquake! Get out! Now! Fast!’” Sr. Marilyn said. “Because our other two sisters that are with us, this is their first experience ever with an earthquake.” 

The four sisters – Sr. Marilyn, Sr. Inga Borko, Sr. Mary Izajasza Rojek, and Sr. Mary Julitta Kurek – run a mission complex that includes a mobile medical clinic, a pharmacy, a volunteer house, an activity center, a playground, a computer lab for students, and a kitchen that feeds nearly 100 children.

Internationally, the Felician Sisters represent more than 1,000 religious women who practice a Franciscan way of life across four continents. Founded by Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska in 1855, they began in Poland and arrived in North America in 1874. 

In 2009, the Felician Sisters of North America formed Our Lady of Hope Province, which consists of eight Felician provinces across the U.S. and Canada. They strive to live out their mission to “cooperate with Christ in the spiritual renewal of the world.” This means ministering to children, at-risk youth, college students, seniors, individuals with disabilities, those in prison and detention centers, and others who are marginalized and living in poverty.

Sr. Marilyn first traveled with her order to Haiti in 2010, after the country suffered a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that killed an estimated 250,000 people. They returned in 2012, and, in 2018, they dedicated their mission to serve Haitians in four core areas: healing the sick, providing clean water, feeding the hungry, and educating tomorrow’s leaders. 

When the sisters realized they felt an earthquake, they ran out of the house. Sr. Marilyn remembered hearing yelling and screaming from their neighbors. After waiting outside for roughly 20 minutes, the sisters returned to their house and wrote to their superior in Pennsylvania to assure her of their safety.

Others in Haiti weren’t so lucky. The earthquake killed more than 2,200 people and more than 300 people are still missing. According to Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency, the natural disaster left 12,268 injured and nearly 53,000 houses destroyed. World Vision reported that another 77,000 homes were damaged, along with 60 places of worship, 20 schools, 25 health centers, and 48 foster homes that care for 1,700 children.

“We heard how devastating it was in Les Cayes, Jeremie, and other villages west [of] us,” Sr. Marilyn said. 

Twenty people died when St. Famille du Toirac Church near Les Cayes collapsed. In Les Anglais, the earthquake ruined Immaculate Conception Church, killing 17 people younger than 25 years old. 

“A church in Les Cayes was having a baptism, and we saw photos of these dead children in their white outfits,” she told OSV. “It makes your heart cry.”

Even after the earthquake, the danger wasn’t over for the sisters: At 2 p.m., they felt an aftershock and ran outside once more.

Three hours later, Caritas announced that it was collecting emergency materials for those directly impacted by the earthquake. The sisters sprang into action.

“We gathered what we had in our container – and our container was getting pretty low as it was – but we gathered medications, bandages, surgical gloves,” Sr. Marilyn told EWTN News In Depth. “We gathered clothing, towels, sheets, shoes that we had left over and we boxed them.” 

Sr. Marilyn spoke from Lodi, New Jersey, where she was gathering supplies to bring back to Haiti, including clothing, medications, and 50 buckets for filtering clean water.

“With a bucket and filter, you can take rainwater and you can filter that water and give them purified water,” Sr. Marilyn emphasized. “You give one bucket and filter to a woman – a family – and then she gives clean water to three other families. You can have sustainability. You can have empowerment. And you can have independence.”

OSV reported that the sisters are currently raising money for Haiti to buy supplies, including medical and school materials, hygiene products, bedding, and baby items. Sr. Marilyn is also hoping to send laptop computers or tablets back to Haiti. Donations can be sent to Felician Sisters of North America, 871 Mercer Road, Beaver Falls, PA 15010, with “Haiti” in the memo. They are also accepting donations online at

Haiti’s Cry for Help as Climate Change is Compared to an Act of Violence against the Island Nation

Haiti’s Environment Minister Joseph Jouthe says that “climate change is a very big terror in Haiti”, and without funds the Caribbean island nation is unable to adapt and mitigate against it. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS


MADRID, Dec 13 2019 (IPS) – Haiti’s Environment Minister Joseph Jouthe has compared the climate emergency to a violent act and appealed to the international community for help to fight climate change.

“Climate change is a very big terror in Haiti. It’s very hard for us to deal with climate change,” Jouthe told IPS on the margins of the United Nations climate summit, the 25th Conference Of The Parties (COP25), in Madrid, Spain.

“Haiti is not responsible for what’s going on with climate change but we are suffering from it. We want better treatment from the international community.”

Jouthe said Haiti remains committed to strengthening its resilience to climate shocks and to contributing to the global effort to mitigate the phenomenon.

Haiti is pursuing a four-fold objective in relation to climate change:

  • promoting, at the level of all sectors and other ministries, a climate-smart national development;
  • creating a coherent response framework for country directions and actions to address the impacts of climate change;
  • promoting education on the environment and climate change as a real strategic lever to promote the emergence of environmental and climatic citizenship; and
  • putting in place a reliable measurement, reporting and verification system that can feed into the iterative planning processes of national climate change initiatives.

But Jouthe said the country simply cannot achieve these targets without financial help.

“In Haiti all the indicators are red. We have many projects but as you may know [The Caribbean Community] CARICOM doesn’t have enough funding to build projects,” he said.

Patrice Cineus, a young Haitian living in Quebec, said access to funding has been a perennial problem for Haiti.

But he believes Haiti is partly to blame for the seeming lack of inability to quickly receive financial help.

“Haiti, my country needs to build evidence-based policies, and this will make it easier to attract help from the international community,” Cineus told IPS.

“If we don’t have strong policies, it’s not possible. We need research within the country. We need innovative programmes within the country and then we can look for financial support and technical support.

“We cannot have access to funding because the projects we are submitting are not well done. We don’t use scientific data to build them. They are not done professionally,” Cineus added.

Cineus’ theory appears to be substantiated by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), which helps CARICOM member states address the issue of adaptation and climate change.

The centre’s Executive Director Dr. Kenrick Leslie said since 2016, under an Italian programme, it is required to develop projects that would help countries adapt to different areas of climate change.

“One of the areas that we have been considering, and we spoke with Haiti, is to build resilience in terms of schools and shelters that can be used in the case of a disaster.

“Funds have been approved but, unfortunately, unlike the other member states where we have already implemented at least one, and some cases two, projects, we have not been able to get the projects in Haiti off the ground,” Leslie told IPS.

“Each time they have identified an area, when we go there the site is not a suitable site and then we have to start the process again.”

While Haiti waits for funding, Dr. Kénel Délusca, current head of mission of a technical assistance project, AP3C, of the Ministry of Environment and Environment and the European Union, said the country remains one of the world’s most vulnerable to climate change.

Scientists say extreme weather events like hurricanes, floods and droughts will become worse as the planet warms, and Island nations like Haiti are expected to be among the hardest hit by those and other impacts of a changing climate, like shoreline erosion.

“The marine environment is extremely important to the Haitian people. There are more than 8 million people living in coastal communities in Haiti,” Délusca told IPS.

“There are more or less 50,000 families whose activities are based on these specific ecosystems. In other words, this is a very important ecosystem for Haiti and different levels – at the economic level, at the cultural level, at the social level.”

Haiti is divided into 10 départements, and Délusca said nine of them are coastal. Additionally, he said the big cities of Haiti are all located within the coastal zone.

“These ecosystems are very strategic to the development of Haiti. The Haitians have a lot of activities that are based on the marine resources. We also develop some cultural and social activities that are based on these environments,” Délusca said.

For poor island countries like Haiti, studies show, the economic costs, infrastructural damage and loss of human life as a result of climate change is already overwhelming. And scientists expect it will only get worse.

Though Haiti’s greenhouse gas emissions amount cumulatively to less than 0.03 per cent of global carbon emissions, it is a full participant in the 2015 Paris climate agreement and has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emission by five percent by 2030.


Haiti’s civil unrest reaches chaotic, disruptive point


A girl stands at a Food for the Poor feeding center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where families receive meals or provisions to take home. (Courtesy of Food for the Poor)

The humanitarian situation in Haiti, dire even in normal times, has worsened in recent months because of violence on the streets, stalling work throughout the country that is performed by sisters and by church-based relief agencies who work with sister congregations.

“Since September, the political situation has become worse, and so nobody has been able to go into the city,” Sr. Denise Desil, mother general of the Little Sisters of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, a Haiti-based congregation, told GSR, referring to the capital of Port-au-Prince. The result, she said, is that sisters in her congregation are more or less “staying home” in the congregational motherhouse in nearby RivièreFroide because “we are not free to move out … it is not safe to travel.”

More than 40 people have been killed and dozens injured in the wake of street protests in Port-au-Prince and other major cities since September, the Associated Press reported.

“Obviously, everyone in Haiti is being seriously and adversely affected by the chaos,” said Sr. Marilyn Lacey, executive director of the humanitarian agency Mercy Beyond Borders and a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy.

Lacey told GSR her program funds scholarships for 174 girls in the Gros Morne area of northern Haiti and several more at universities in Port-au-Prince, but the students are unable to attend their schools.

“All schools have been shut down nationwide since early September,” she said.

The immediate cause of the protests, many of which have been peaceful, is unhappiness with the leadership of President Jovenel Moïse, a Haitian businessman who was a political neophyte when he was elected in 2016.

Charges of electoral fraud have dogged Moïse since the elections, and Moïse’s political opponents say his administration has not done enough to deal with long-standing problems of government corruption. They also say his government is mishandling Haiti’s already-struggling economy. His opponents are calling on the president to resign.

Moïse, who has vowed not to step down, has pleaded for national unity.

“The country is more than divided, the country is torn apart,” Moïse said late last month, as reported by The Associated Press.

The struggle between Moïse “and a surging opposition movement, which coupled with economic struggle and corruption have led to soaring prices of basic goods, crumbling healthcare facilities, and pushed the country to the brink of collapse,” the United Nations said Nov. 1. The U.N. noted that the majority of those killed died of gunshot wounds, 19 of those apparently “at the hands of security forces, and others by armed demonstrators or unknown perpetrators.”

Though there is a long history of political street protests in Haiti, the current challenge for day-to-day life in many Haitian cities is the paralyzing street violence, sometimes by gang members, say the sisters and others involved in humanitarian work.

The picture is grim in other ways.

“Costs for ordinary things like food and fuel have skyrocketed due to transport blockades. People hunker down in their homes, fearful of venturing out,” Lacey said. “Street gangs have stepped up their activity and power.”

Sr. Sissy Corr, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur who works with its Notre Dame Mission Volunteers ministry, told GSR that the current protests have to be seen in the context of a yearlong unfolding of events, noting that frequent gunshots and roadblocks have been the norm since February, accompanied later in the year by crippling inflation. The “tipping point,” she said, came in late August, “when there was no fuel for generators and huge rises in the cost of gasoline.”

“There’s underlying fear,” she said. “You sense it in the air.”

Corr said she feels those putting up road blocks are “young guys wearing bandanas without jobs” who just want an opportunity for work so they can provide for their families. Overall, she said, Haitians now “are just hungry and scrapping by to get some money for food. They hunger for a better Haiti.”

The situation has frustrated sisters, who are used to conducting their ministry against great odds, Desil said. The challenges of security, travel and dealing with potential gang threats have stopped some work, such as teaching, she said, and slowed (though not fully halted) the sisters’ work in providing food for children in an orphanage in Artibonite in northern Haiti.

Desil said one sister in her congregation has not been able to get her needed diabetic medications. Long-term, she said, “we can’t live in this condition.”

Those involved in humanitarian ministry must try to figure out when they can eke out some work around those days when it is not possible to get around because of security worries.

“Protesters allow us free days such as Saturday and Sunday so that we can go out to buy food and medication,” said Korean Sr. Matthias Choi, who heads the Haiti mission of the Kkottongnae Sisters of Jesus, a South Korean congregation with a 30-year history of work in poor communities throughout the world. However, the situation on the streets often limits that work to serving elderly residents of a senior citizens’ village.

“It seems like the cycle has become three to five days of demonstrations and one to two days off,” she told GSR.

Though Choi said members of her congregation are not in any immediate danger, she said they have had to deal with shortages of rice; fuel, such as propane and diesel gas; gauze for wounds; milk for children; and medication.

Lacey said her organization’s staff members have had to fly from Port-au-Prince to Gonaives in northern Haiti, which is normally a three-hour drive, “since the main north-south highway has dozens of daily blockades at which you pay multiple bribes to pass, if lucky, or get robbed or attacked if unlucky.”


More life in the street’ with tenuous improvement

There are tentative signs that the situation might be improving.

Corr said an industrial-sized bakery she helps run in the city of Les Cayes closed in October because of the insecurity in the coastal city. But the facility was scheduled to reopen Nov. 26 because of availability of fuel and baking ingredients plus slightly improved security.

Corr left Haiti in September because of a death in the family and has not returned to Haiti since then. Interviewed by GSR from Florida, she said she hopes to return as soon as possible, though she is still concerned about safety.

“What’s changed?” she said. “I want to be prudent.”

The situation in Port-au-Prince has improved a bit since late November, said Sr. Annamma Augustine, an Indian Missionary Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. “There is more life in the street,” she said.

But Desil said she thinks the overall situation is not improving. Schools remain closed, people are afraid to go out, and gunmen are still shooting. “Things are not better,” she said. “We are tired of this situation.”

The situation is not uniformly dire across the country, but the effects of the stalemate are being felt everywhere.

Augustine told GSR that while the congregation has had to discontinue its ministries in Port-au-Prince for now, its ministries outside the capital are still running, including in the dioceses of Port-de-Paix in northern Haiti and Les Cayes in southern Haiti.

Work in and near Ouanaminthe, not far from the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in northern Haiti, continues, and the overall situation is stable, said Colombian Sr. Alexandra Bonilla Leonel, a member of the Sisters of St. John the Evangelist, also known as the Juanistas. However, the paralysis in major cities like Port-au-Prince is causing prices for food and other goods to rise, she said.

“The economic impact is being felt,” Leonel said.

Humanitarian efforts continue

Lacey and others are concerned about the effects of the situation long-term.

“It goes on and on. Protestors have one goal: Shut down the country until Moïses leaves. Meanwhile, of course, it is really hurting the common people the most,” she said.

Other humanitarian efforts continue doggedly despite serious challenges. In a Nov. 21 statement to GSR from the Florida-based humanitarian organization Food for the Poor, agency director Angel Aloma said, “Getting food out to the areas in the countryside has been a challenge. Our workers have been shot at, and in one case one of our drivers was injured.”

Some families have still been able to make it to a Food for the Poor feeding center in Port-au-Prince, he said.

“Even when our workers could not cook the usual meals, they would package up dry provisions such as beans and rice and give that to the hungry who were able to make it to the feeding center,” Aloma said.

In another case, the agency sent bags of rice and beans by boat to La Gonave Island, population 87,000, “which has been severely impacted by the unrest,” said agency spokeswoman Kathy Skipper. It was not possible to ship food and water from a port in Port-au-Prince because of security issues, she said, so the agency found someone with a private port.

“It has been challenging, and we have been saddened to see how long it has continued. But we have seen these cycles in Haiti before and we pray that soon it will be peaceful enough to return to our normal operations,” Aloma said.

Chris Bessey, the Haiti country director for Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services, echoed those sentiments in an interview with GSR, saying, “We’re doing everything we can to keep things going.”

Though hopeful that the situation will change, Bessey said he sometimes worries it could “go on for months or years” if a political solution to the crisis is not found, noting that the “masses of people” are caught in the middle of a political struggle.

Bessey said he does not believe donors to CRS’s work in Haiti will give up on the country, saying there is a loyal donor base in the United States for work in Haiti.

“I know there is a strong connection [in the United States] with the people of Haiti,” he said, citing individual, organizational, diocesan and parish-to-parish ties.

Boyer Jean Odlin, a young professional who has been out of work since Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in 2016, is among those hoping for change.

He moved from the southern coastal city of Les Cayes to the island of Île-à-Vache in May in hopes of a better life. Though day-to-day life on the island is not as difficult as it is in the large cities like Port-au-Prince, Odlin told GSR that one example of the difficulties of life now in urban areas is that of armed gunmen stopping cars and demanding money, he said.

The only solution to the current political stalemate, he said, is to end the “fighting between the opposition and the government.” As it is now, he said, the situation in Haiti has become “unlivable. There is so much misery right now.”







Vatican conference remembers Haiti earthquake five years

Independent catholic News

Port-au-Prince Cathedral
Port-au-Prince Cathedral

The communion of the Church: memory and hope for Haiti five years after the earthquake was the title of the conference which took place today in the Vatican. The event was organized by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America in collaboration with the bishops of Haiti, and was a response to the Holy Father’s wish to maintain close attention to a country that continues to suffer the consequences of the earthquake, and to reiterate the Church’s closeness to the Haitian people during the reconstruction phase. Above all it offered the opportunity to present the balance of aid destined for the country and to analyze the results of the implementation of the projects carried out from 2010 to the present day. Continue reading Vatican conference remembers Haiti earthquake five years

Small farmers win Food Sovereignty Prize

Latin America Press

Haitian team recognized for fighting for food democracy by promoting safe, healthy agricultural practices and advocating for peasant farmer rights.

The US Food Sovereignty Alliance announced Aug. 13 that a team of Haiti’s five largest peasant organizations won the fifth-annual Food Sovereignty Prize, an honor granted to grassroots groups for creating projects that create “food democracy” and combat hunger and poverty.

Food democracy refers to “bottom-up, communal and cultural approaches to deal with hunger and poverty,” according to Charity Hicks of the Detroit Food Justice Task Force, a group that sponsors the prize. Selected from 40 applicants, Haiti’s winning team represents more than a quarter million Haitians and fights for food democracy by promoting safe, healthy agricultural practices and advocating for peasant farmer rights.
Continue reading Small farmers win Food Sovereignty Prize

Haitian Sweatshop Workers Speak: Sub-Poverty Wages and Sexual Coercion

Ruth Jean-Pierre, left, and Aluta Marcelin, right. For both, sex with the supervisor was a condition of their job in a factory. Photo: Ansel Herz.

Common Dreams

Beverly Bell
Haitian women workers tell of their experiences in sweatshops. These interviews, gathered over the past two years, are among many dozens that this writer has collected from Haitian sweatshop workers since the early 1980s. Not one has ever diverged from the narrative of miserable working conditions and the inability to feed, shelter, and educate their children on insufficient wages. Below, womentell of their experiences as sweatshop workers and offer their analysis on better types of jobs for Haiti. Continue reading Haitian Sweatshop Workers Speak: Sub-Poverty Wages and Sexual Coercion

All Eyes in Haiti on Duvalier Hearing

From left to right, Veronique Roy, often referred to as Duvalier’s “long-time companion”, Jean-Claude Duvalier, and General Prosper Avril, a former dictator and ex-member of François Duvalier’s Presidential Guard. Credit: AlterPresse/Stephen Ralph Henri

By Jane Regan and Milo Milfort
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb 26 2013 (IPS) – Angry and frustrated, but also cautiously hopeful, victims, human rights advocates and the Haitian population are waiting for Thursday, Feb. 28, the day former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier has been ordered to appear at a hearing to determine whether or not he will face charges for human rights abuses committed during his brutal 15-year regime (1971-1986).

The order was issued on Feb. 21 when, once again, the 61-year-old ex-dictator refused to show up at court. The sweltering room was packed with representatives of foreign and local human rights groups, journalists and with some of the 30 victims who are suing Duvalier on the rights violations.

After listening to arguments from Duvalier’s lawyer, the three judges issued an order saying it was “imperative” that Duvalier come to a Feb. 28 hearing, with police escort if necessary. Continue reading All Eyes in Haiti on Duvalier Hearing

Red card for Martelly


Latin America Press

Thousands of protestors rally against increased cost of living.

Port-au-Prince was the scene of a massive march Sept. 30 against the administration of President Michel Martelly and the elevated cost of staple foods.  The protest, organized by the Fanmi Lavalas party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991, 1994-96, 2001-2004), also commemorated the first coup d’état against Aristide in 1991. Fourteen political opposition organizations backed the protest and accused the government of implementing “a demagogic policy against the people and against the country.” Continue reading Red card for Martelly

Haiti: new report highlights importance of making decisions locally

Independent Catholic News

A new report published by Progressio, in partnership with CAFOD, SCIAF, HIV Aids Alliance and Tearfund, calls for the international community to encourage increased decision making at local level (or “decentralisation”) in Haiti. Haitian civil society voices argue in the report that taking decision at local level whenever possible is key to successfully tackling Haiti’s reconstruction and development challenges for the long term. Continue reading Haiti: new report highlights importance of making decisions locally

Coming Together for Environmental Restoration in Haiti

Beverly Bell and Alexis Erkert interview YVES-ANDRÉ WAINRIGHT, Haiti’s former two-time Environment Minister*

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Apr 24, 2012 (IPS/Other Worlds) – In honour of Earth Day, we run an interview with Yves-André Wainright, who discusses ways that poor governance and the role of foreign donors have contributed to the country’s environmental catastrophe.

He also lays out a blueprint for what could turn the situation around, effectively mobilising both government and the population to begin restoring the environment.

Yves-André Wainright served twice as Haiti’s minister of environment. Trained as an agronomist, Yves-André’s work has focused on environmental management, especially management of natural resources and waste.

His comments follow:

My approach towards management of the environment is to have Haitians who face (the same environmental) challenges come together. We might not all share the same economic interests, but if we work together, we can reach a compromise where one’s interest won’t trump another’s.

Current poverty levels can’t be used as an excuse for environmental mismanagement, like deforestation of watersheds or the poor construction of rural roads. More than an issue of technology or of funding, the challenge with environmental management in Haiti is a matter of governance. Continue reading Coming Together for Environmental Restoration in Haiti