By Kim Snyder
The Holy Land rosary project is a win-win situation for Haitians and military personnel. It began several years ago as an initiative of Father William Kneemiller, who is a priest of the Diocese of Davenport and an Army Reserve chaplain.
Olive wood crosses from the Holy Land, parachute cord and simple, black beads are used to make the rosaries. Fr. Kneemiller connected with ServeHAITI to get supplies to Haiti and have residents there make the rosaries. The Haitians are paid for their work, which in turn helps them start their own businesses, and to be able to buy a farm animal or pay for other necessities. Serve HAITI’s goal is to help residents of Grand-Bois, Haiti, get access to healthcare, education, economic opportunities and more.
This past summer the village of Zoranje was chosen for the rosary project as it is a very poor area of Grand-Bois — without schools, access to fresh water, let alone jobs or steady income. You can see the poverty as you pass through the small village, yet feel the spirit of the people as you arrive.
At 6 a.m. we loaded up the vehicle with the rosary supplies, groceries for a spaghetti lunch and a determination to make 1,000 rosaries while spreading a little love and hope for the day.
Forty-eight people were chosen by Brother Maccéne Augustin and Luc Preserve to participate in the project. Long-term volunteer Ellie Argo, first-timer Anna Fleming, and myself had the distinct pleasure of working (and playing) alongside some amazing men, women and children from Zoranje as they strung beads, tied knots and told us their stories.
After a beautiful prayer led by Brother Maccéne, and with pen in hand, Alfred Gilbert assisted me in speaking with a few of the rosary makers to understand the impact the $20 they earn will have on their families.
Monclaisse Pierre thanked ServeHAITI and the military rosary project and said for us to keep up the good work. He told us he wanted to invest the money in goats or chickens because the money will multiply. Ileus Dleurilus has lived in the community his whole life and was thrilled to be selected for the project. His $20 will go to school tuition for his son, the last of eight children with his wife of many years. He had always worked in the sun planting. I learned that a farmer is prosperous and a planter is not, at least not consistently. Dleurilus waited for approval of his knots from Luc before moving forward.
One 22-year-old really captured Ellie’s heart. They are the same age, but that is where the commonalities stopped. When I asked Magalie Maceus what her dreams were, she said it was to purchase a goat. Both her parents had passed away. She lived with her brother in the family hut and walked five hours on market day to sell beans at LaTwazon. She only completed fifth grade and dreamed of purchasing animals. We hope that $20 will help her reach that dream.
The children were curious and wanted to watch the rosary project, yet Anna had a different idea. She polished nails, led the children in song of ABC’s and had them bursting in fits of laughter while doing cartwheels on the lawn of the Zoranje Church.
Magistrate Darius Soneilda joined us and prepared a spaghetti lunch from the kitchen of her childhood home. She shared with me that Zoranje is considered one of the most impoverished areas in Grand Bois and she is motivated to represent it as an advocate of the people. We spoke of solidarity and ServeHAITI working to improve the lives of the people in Grand-Bois. She was immensely grateful for the Holy Land Military Rosary Project coming to her hometown and to her people. She served spaghetti to each person participating in the project as well as their children, and wished them to eat with joy and appetite.
If you doubt the Holy Land Military Rosary Project can make a difference, you need to witness the joy and hope that was alive on this day.
(Kim Snyder is field operations coordinator for ServeHAITI.)