Last month’s annual medical banquet marked a milestone for the Haiti Outreach program as we celebrated our group’s 20th anniversary with a number of special guests. We were honored with the presence of Cardinal Justin Rigali of Knoxville and Cardinal Chibly Langlois of Haiti, who delivered remarks to the audience of nearly 200 about the value of our efforts in rural Haiti. Our special guests included Father Michenet DuPortal, who until August was the priest at our partner parish St. Michel, and Father Michelet Lamarre, his replacement in Boucan Carre. They were joined by Father Edwige Carre of St. Lawrence parish in suburban Nashville. Together the group represented the most distinguished delegation to attend the annual event. One result of their visit was a genuine strengthening of the partnership between our parishes.
Held for the first time in the beautiful new Cathedral Hall, this year’s banquet made an effort to invite everyone who has been to Haiti over the past two decades. Among the large number of “alums” who attended were Dr. Bob Capps and his wife Lisa, who went on the first mission trip in 1999 and laid the groundwork for much of the progress that has taken place since. They were joined by Bill McDonald, another alum who made the seven-hour trip from our partner parish St. Kateri Tekawitha in Tabb, Virginia.
The unique audience was the backdrop for a reflection on both the “what” and the “why” of our work in Haiti. Those early doctors and nurses were the origin of an ambitious effort to bring health care to one of Haiti’s most remote regions, first in Boucan Carre, and today in the mountain village of Bouly. Early photos showed primary and secondary students attempting to hold class in horrible conditions, a dramatic contrast to the modern buildings made possible by our partnership with St. Kateri in Virginia and St. Anselm in St. Louis. A theme of the event was that despite new faces over the years, our mission in Haiti has endured and thrived due to the wonderful talents of our volunteers.
Although donations will continue to come in over the next several weeks, the event appears to have been a financial success. This year’s event witnessed an increase in the number of persons who donated and in the amount pledged and collected. We are hopeful that the funds will be adequate to sustain our partnership with St. Michel parish as well as our ongoing support for the two schools in Boucan Carre and the clinic in Bouly.