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Presence in Haiti



Interview with Brother Antonio Cavazos

10/10/2012: Haiti

Interview with Brother Antonio Cavazos, published on the site of his Province of Mexico Occidental.


Brother, when did you arrive in Haiti ?
I arrived in Haiti on 7 September 2008. In the days preceding, a hurricane had passed over  Port-au-Prince; the city was suffering the consequences at this time, many people in the streets were carrying away the fallen trees, the debris of collapsed walls, broken electric cables. The chaos of the route. Brother Frisnel Walter very kindly met me at the airport and drove me to Villa Manrèse, a very restful place and showed me the city. We travelled by plane to Jérémie where the Postulancy was. My community superior, Br Lucien Renaud, welcomed me and took me to Dame-Marie where I was offering my services as Spanish teacher at the Marist secondary school of La Nativité. I was fascinated in contemplating the beauty of the countryside, the greenery and exuberance of the rural area of this land, as well as the transparency of the sea.

What struck you most on arriving in Haiti ?
The poverty of the people. Their joy, and at the same time their sadness in lacking everything. Their faith in God and their love for the Blessed Virgin. The backwardness in social development after years of neglect,  disorganisation and absence of planning. A country full of young people, without enough universities. A country full of poor people, lacking hospitals, transport worthy of the name (people walk for kilometres), roads in good repair, public services, work, hygiene… (there is much to do, or more accurately, everything to do). What is missing is some one who loves Haiti and efficiently promotes its development. What is missing is the Church (currently without prophets, gagged for a time, living comfortably without embarrasment).

What does your work in Haiti consist in ?

Educator in the style of Marcellin Champagnat. A special attention to the teachers; I sense certain of them are without energy before their mission or without believing in it. I bring a special attention to pupils in difficulty: many of them are without hope, but with the desire to live and desiring a change.

What makes you suffer most in Haiti ?
The schools do not educate to values, they offer only instruction. The youth are concerned only with passing their exams, without a clear opening on the future. The children who suffer from hunger. The poor who go to market with very heavy loads on their heads, concerned to sell something to gain a little money for their families. The lack of hygiene, the waste everywhere. A beautiful country and a dirty population, without means and without education. Abandoned like sheep without a shepherd. The marvellous tropical forests exhausted by exploitation. It is a mixture of this pain, of the joy and hope of the people. The young people and the children, with their games and  exuberance, laughter, and this, in every corner.

What nourishes your hope ?
The efficacious education provided by a real Marist school. From my point of view, education is the only way to make possible the change of situation for this population.

What is the situation of children and young people in Haiti ?
The young people and children, boys and girls, are very intelligent, alert, open, joyful. All have the possibility of primary schooling. The difficulties commence when they reach secondary and pre-university. The Ministry of Education chooses (by means of exams) those who can follow professional studies at a university; there are few universities; the rest have to choose another way. The majority of young people and children I know suffer from lack of energy. They eat once a day at home, then they have to look elsewhere or with neighbours for something to eat if they still feel hungry. In the milieu where I work, the pupils have no electricity to do their homework; they study by the light of candles or kerosene lamps. There is no supply of drinkable water, they have to go looking for springs, often some distance away. Some students have a two hour walk from home to school, then the same to return; here, we give them something to eat according to our means : if we do not, the students return home on empty stomachs. This makes me suffer a lot.


What challenges do the schools run by the Brothers face ?
That the teachers are inspired by Marist pedagogy, that they are enthusiastic about their mission and that they know that what they are doing is the best service that they can render their country.

What other projects do the Marist Brothers have in Haiti ?
Actually, we are a very small group of brothers. Certainly there are some lay people very committed to the Marist cause. Our project is to organise well the works we have : a primary school at Dame-Marie with 400 students; a secondary-preparatory school at Dame-Marie with 350 pupils; at Latibolière, a secondary-preparatory school of 500 pupils with a little primary school for the first two years of primary, for children in difficult situations or orphans. We also have the project of organising well the postulancy and even opening a novitiate here in Haiti. We have Haitian Marist Brothers in the houses of formation : we are waiting for them so as to organise with them new projects for the good of the country.

What has this experience taught you for your life as a Marist Brother ?
That the Marist presence is necessary, urgent, indispensible. Without wanting to be pretentious, I can say that the Marist presence here is the response of the Virgin to the prayers of this people who ask her help for their everyday needs.


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