By Jennifer Musa
The people of Haiti suffer many challenges that make day-to-day life a nearly unimaginable struggle, but for one community in Haiti, life is a little brighter thanks to the loving generosity of parishioners at the Church of the Holy Family (CHF) in Endwell, a Binghamton suburb. For several years CHF has invested in and prayed for a community in rural Grande Saline, Haiti, not only helping families to meet their basic needs, like safe water to drink, but also creating hope where there was once none.
CHF learned about the community in Grande Saline from parishioners Maureen Hankin and Jen Musa who co-created “Health for Haiti,” a global service learning course offered at SUNY Broome Community College. In 2014 the parish learned that the community obtained its water from the Artibonite River. This river is contaminated by garbage, including human and animal waste. People in this community often grew sick and sometimes died from drinking the water, but they had no other choice.
Health for Haiti had received the donation of a municipal-grade water-filtration system from the Pall Corporation in Cortland. However, getting the thousands of pounds of equipment from Cortland across the ocean in a shipping container to Haiti was going to be a major challenge. Once in Haiti, the container would need to move via truck across abysmal dirt roads to remote Grande Saline. CHF parishioners quickly raised enough funds to cover the costs of getting the system from Cortland to Grande Saline. Thanks to this incredible generosity, the system shipped in the summer of 2014. And, thanks to many prayers, after months of travel, the system reached Grande Saline on Jan. 5, 2015 — the exact same day Health for Haiti and the Pall engineers arrived in the country.
The system has provided clean, safe drinking water to local families for over eight years. A local doctor says it is impossible to estimate the number of lives that have been saved. The system is powered by gas generators, but gas is expensive and hard to obtain in Haiti. Once again, upon learning of the tremendous need, parishioners from CHF recently donated the funds necessary to convert the system to solar power. Solar power will remove reliance on gas, make the system more environmentally friendly and enable the community to run the system for longer periods each day. This is more critical than ever with the recent reemergence of cholera, so the project is currently underway. The community reports that this project will be the most significant benefit they have ever experienced.
Support from CHF has been integral to keeping Health for Haiti projects going, especially after class trips had to be paused due to the pandemic and unsafe conditions in Haiti. Without the continued support from CHF, it would have been nearly impossible to continue serving our neighbors in Grande Saline. This type of parish-supported global service work is an embodiment of our most fundamental mission as Catholics and global citizens. When others are suffering and cannot meet even their most basic human needs, we must act. And while love and courage may not make the path that lies ahead easy, they will light the way and create hope where there was only despair. For many years, the parishioners of CHF have stood by their global neighbors and illuminated the path of hope.
To learn more about other projects in Grande Saline, please visit www.healthforhaiti.org.
— Editor’s note: Jennifer Musa, Ph.D., is a professor in the Biology Department of SUNY Broome Community College and an active member of the Church of the Holy Family.