Canadian Anglicans help feed students in Haiti

December 7, 2011

[Anglican Church of Canada] This kind of gift is okay to unwrap early.

Already, more than 200 people have given hot school lunches to Haitian children through the Anglican Church of Canada’s Gifts for Mission gift guide. Simon Chambers, communications coordinator for the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), recently travelled to Haiti and brings back these details to unwrap the gift’s full impact.

At L’Ecole National de Trouin in the hills of Léogâne, Haiti, more than 400 children in blue uniforms line up to receive big plates of rice, beans, and vegetables for lunch.

Many have had long walks to school—up to two hours—and this meal will help them pay attention through the afternoon. Without it, some fall asleep at their desks.

Behind the scenes, in a smoky, concrete enclosure, are four strong cooks. These women stir large pots of food, most of which is local. Some items are even grown right on school property—like the speckled congo beans.

The women are volunteers. They get up at 3:00 a.m. and walk two hours to the school, leaving their own children behind with other caregivers. Including travel, they put in 15-hour days for free because, as one woman said, “it encourages the children to come to school.”

School is a precious privilege for Haitians, where only 52 per cent of adults can read and write. It is especially precious after the magnitude-seven earthquake of January 2010 destroyed much infrastructure, including many schools. L’Ecole National de Trouin, constructed in 1924, was right near the epicentre and had to be rebuilt.

PWRDF was quick to respond after the quake. Serving as the Anglican Church of Canada’s agency for relief and development, PWRDF responded with $1 million of immediate relief through the ACT Alliance and the Episcopal (Anglican) Diocese of Haiti. PWRDF now works with partners to address long-term needs: shelter, education, and sustainable food production.

The hearty lunches at L’Ecole National de Trouin are one part of a program that PWRDF runs with partner Finn Church Aid at 33 schools. Together they feed 8,000 students one meal a day. These feeding programs are in line with the World Food Program’s standards. Schools also must serve vulnerable populations, have toilets, space to cook, and be open for anyone to attend.

Schools in this program also receive water purification tablets, soap, hand towels, and hand washing education for teachers and students.

The benefits of food and water have attracted more students. L’Ecole National Trouin has grown to 478 students (aged five to 15) from only 250 students in 2009.

“The school canteen program is incredibly important at L’Ecole National Trouin and the other 32 schools where PWRDF is implementing the program,” said Mr. Chambers.

“To be able to meet the students and faculty, the volunteer cooks, and the staff at Finn Church Aid was a privilege. The students’ presentations about the program, their laughter, and the presentations by the adults in the community all reinforced for me the value of the program.”

– Ali Symons is General Synod Web Writer.