By Anne Marie Amacher
BETTENDORF — Following the massive earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, St. John Vianney parishioners responded by donating to a Catholic Relief Services collection, as did Catholics from parishes throughout the Davenport Diocese.
But St. John Vianney parishioners wanted to do more. So they formed a Haiti Committee to explore options. The parish eventually teamed up with Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Jean Denis and they have been partners ever since.
Last month, a garage sale at St. John Vianney raised $2,400 for the Haiti fund. In previous years the Men’s Fellowship committee sponsored the garage sale, but asked the Haiti Committee to take it over. “We were happy to do that,” said Ann Wester, who chairs the Haiti Committee.
Currently, the committee sends $2,000 a month to Father Jean Salomon of Our Lady of the Rosary to cover teacher salaries, school lunches and additional school supplies as needed. The monthly payment comes from a fundraiser held in November that raised more than $23,000 for the Haiti project. In addition, parishioners can contribute through an extra monthly parish envelope designated for the Haiti fund. Following a parish presentation on Palm Sunday, several hundred dollars was raised. “It was unsolicited.” The parish plans to hold another fundraiser in November to continue to fund the stipend.
“The school lunch program feeds over 550 students each day. The rice for the meals is free from the World Food Program, but additional money is needed for the added protein and the cooking fuel,” Wester said.
The Haitian parish had secured a grant for the rice, but it had to build a dry and secure storage shed and simple kitchen for the school located at the Haitian parish. St. John Vianney donated $20,000 in December 2010 for the materials and labor to build the storage facility.
Currently a new community center is under construction at Jean Denis. It is partially funded by a Catholic Relief Services grant and private donations. “The grant was written by Hands Together of Palm Beach who has been a partner with us in helping the people of Jean Denis. Our committee supported the grant and individual members donated money,” Wester said.
When the Haiti Committee asked Fr. Salomon his priorities for future projects, he gave two.
One is a three-week, $5,000 summer training session for 100 adults to teach parishioners about the Bible, catechism and liturgy. They in turn will hold programs for other parishioners. Fr. Salomon wants to provide a Bible, song book and meal for each person. He would like to repeat the session in 2013.
Kent Ferris, director of social action for the Davenport Diocese, submitted a request to the Propagation of the Faith board in the diocese, which voted to fund this year’s session.
Fr. Salomon’s second request is for a new school. “The current school is dark, dreary and an unstable structure,” Wester said. When it rains, the roof leaks and the school yard floods. That requires school to be cancelled.
She said the Haiti Committee recently received the plans for the school. It will cost $150,000 plus an additional $30,000 for concrete and infrastructure work in the schoolyard.
“This has been a dream of the people of Jean Denis and thus is also our dream and we will work in fulfilling this dream,” Wester said.
Hands Together has helped the Jean Denis Parish fund projects through donations, even before St. John Vianney got involved. Now the organization plans to help fund the school. “They have been fantastic in helping us plan our trips as well,” Wester noted. She hopes the school could get underway by next year.
A group from St. John Vianney will make a trip to Haiti in September to discuss future plans with Fr. Salomon, view various projects and determine how else the Bettendorf parish might be of assistance.
Another medical mission trip is planned for February 2013. “We have lots of angels that are helping the wonderful people of Jean Denis,” Wester said.