by Marie Elena Giossi
Following last year’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, many schoolchildren have taken to learning daily lessons while sitting on debris in lieu of chairs. That thought didn’t sit well with one Queens pastor who had perfectly good chairs sitting unused in his now-closed parish school.
“I found out schoolchildren in Haiti were sitting on logs and rocks,” said Father Edward Kachurka, pastor of St. Ann’s Church, Flushing, who recently donated 20 chairs from his school’s former pre-k classroom to St. Augustin School, Lory, Haiti, which serves about 650 children.
“Some are plastic, some wood, but at least children can sit on real chairs,” he said.
Considering all that the Haitian people have endured, and the work that needs to be done, he’s impressed that “these are people of such faith that they continue providing children a Catholic education.”
In addition to the chairs, he gave about 20 religious statues and a few crucifixes, which had been in storage since the parish school closed in 2009.
His donations were made through the nonprofit organization, From Here To Haiti (FHTH), founded and run by Haitian artist Patricia Brintle, a parishioner at St. Luke’s, Whitestone.
Last summer, The Tablet profiled Brintle’s efforts to start a project to repair churches damaged during the January, 2010, earthquake in her homeland. Her goal was to ensure that each worship site was safe for occupancy and equipped with vestments and sacramentals for regular worship.
FHTH is now in place and raising funds for the Haitian people by repairing non-governmental buildings used for public assembly, in particular Catholic and/or Christian churches and their related structures, and creating jobs through that repair work.
Four Projects In Progress
Currently, FHTH has four projects in progress: construction of a new roof and building frame, which are already finished, and other structural repairs at Marie Reine Immaculee Church, Les Abricots (pictured, at left); Internet access and six toilet installations at St. Augustin School; repairs at St. Gerard Church, Chardonette; and Internet access and a computer lab at St. Gerard School. These projects are estimated to cost over $45,000. The work has been started with private donations and FHTH is seeking grant assistance.
“I am pleasantly surprised by all the progress,” Brintle said. “God is setting the road for us to follow and putting good people on our path to help.”
FHTH has received material, financial and spiritual support from the Brooklyn Diocese, particularly Brintle’s home parish of St. Luke’s.
Msgr. John Tosi, St. Luke’s pastor, along with the Purpura and Mougis families, are funding the toilets at St. Augustin School, which also received Internet access and a laptop from Marie DiTucci and her daughter. Contributions have come from the parish prayer group and athletic association; Marion O’Connor and her family; and another parishioner and her prayer group. Seventh graders at St. Luke School raised $650 through a bake sale and the seventh-grade religious education class gave $114.
Individuals continue to donate statues and religious goods, which Brintle repairs and repaints, before shipping them to various churches and schools. Thus far, she’s sent about 27 crosses; one set of Stations of the Cross; 26 vestments, including chasubles and albs; 64 statues of varying sizes; 19 vessels, including chalices, ciboria and cruets; and 600 rosaries to Haiti.
There has also been assistance from non-church groups, like Legros Cultural Arts, which is donating the proceeds of its Aug. 5 fundraising dinner to FHTH, and a handful of Fashion Institute of Technology students, who are making uniforms for 40 majorettes at St. Gerard School this summer.
“There is a proverb in Haiti that says ‘men anpil, chay pa lou,’ which means, ‘Many hands make for light work,’” Brintle said. To continue their good works, FHTH needs more helping hands. “We are hoping that schools, parishes or companies could sponsor a project or a portion of a project.”
Next month, Brintle and her team will return to Haiti to see the progress at St. Augustin School, help repair the wall of St. Gerard Church, and visit potential sites for future projects.
“My dream is for the corporation to continue to grow and provide help where ever it is needed to the people of Haiti,” Brintle said.
“A year from now,” she added, “I hope that all the projects that are on the table at present are completed and we are working on new ones.”
To learn more about From Here to Haiti, visit www.fromheretohaiti.org, call 718-746-3012 , or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.