By Sister Clara Soza, AMICO
“This school makes us dream of things we would never have dreamed of before.” — A Faith and Joy teacher in Canaan
In 2010, Haiti had just experienced the tragedy of an earthquake that devastated the capital. We, the Sisters of the Amistad Misionera en Cristo Obrero (Missionary Friendship in Christ the Worker – AMICO), came to join many others who wanted to collaborate in the reconstruction efforts.
Through Faith and Joy (Fe y Alegría), the Jesuit priests sought to build an educational community in the commune of Croix-des-Bouquets, a neighborhood of Port-au-Prince that was being formed by bringing together families displaced from the capital. The place was deserted, with no basic necessities, but it was better than wandering the streets of Port-au-Prince. For these families, it was the Promised Land. They named it Canaan.
Thus began the dream of building an educational project for the community of Canaan. The conditions were absolutely deplorable; the dust, the unremitting sun, no trees for shelter: it looked like the desert. There were no structures whatsoever. But there was hope and the desire to move forward, the most important things at that time… and there were the children and young people who wanted to learn. Mathilda Décius, 19, for example, says that it was at Faith and Joy school that she began to construct her future.
There were no structures whatsoever. But there was hope and the desire to move forward, the most important things at that time… and there were the children and young people who wanted to learn.
The beginning was difficult, as we started from scratch. The sisters, Faith and Joy, and the community set out to create this educational project for those who were the most vulnerable, a source of hope and a guarantee of quality education.
Gérald Saint Victor Junior, 20, lives with his parents and three younger brothers in Canaan. He explains, “In the Canaan area, the community has improved a bit; the children have a different way of acting, an attitude of ‘faith and joy.’ We learn to respect the children as well as the adults, to look at our own community, and to show love for one another. We are also taught to be creative, so that we can help our community.”
Mathilda also talks about giving back to others. While she had to learn to study on her own because her parents didn’t have the time to help her, she now helps her brother and sister with their homework and studies using the methods taught by her teachers. She adds, “My teachers teach me to value what is good and to create a space of trust for all children.”
The centre’s staff is preparing to continue to help build a better society.
Over the years, great progress has been made thanks to the support of many people. We have provided human and Christian formation to the educational community, support staff, parents, and students by holding workshops on pedagogy and psychology, organizing recreational meetings, and offering spiritual retreats. A staff member whom I asked to testify about the importance of Faith and Joy in Canaan told me about the active presence of religious men and women, as well as the assistance of the parents, who are very grateful for this school. But there is still much to do.
The presence of our educational centre has had a significant impact on the Canaan community, which is growing in all areas. The centre’s staff is preparing to continue to help build a better society. Thanks to Faith and Joy, we are adding new classrooms that improve the living conditions of the children. Mathilda explains, “Each month we are given a verse, a value, an author, and a thought to discuss that will encourage a spirit of positivity. There is no other place where I feel as good as when I’m at school surrounded by my friends, teachers, school workers and leaders.”
One Faith and Joy alumnus (and proud of it), testified to me about his journey: “I received a complete formation at Faith and Joy both on an academic and spiritual level.” Thus, our children have become young people who want to continue to dream. The support of Faith and Joy and the Spirituality Center has been precious. All this is possible when everyone participates by cultivating friendly, collaborative relationships. Thanks to the contribution of each person, we are a big family, we have hope, and we are convinced that together we can help to form individuals who can create a better society, where justice, equality, and love prevail.
“I received a complete formation at Faith and Joy both on an academic and spiritual level.”
There is no denying that these have been and continue to be difficult times. Violence and other forms of injustice are still present in the area, but we support and accompany this community that wants to see its children grow up happy and healthy, with better opportunities than their parents had. They want to offer a better future for the next generation. For this, we count on the help of people of goodwill.