A presence that reminds in Haiti that “God does not forget” this people

The Vedruna Community of Fonds Parisien is closely following the mission from the neighboring Dominican Republic while waiting to be able to return to Haiti. Sister Marta Peña talks about how they are facing these moments of fear and uncertainty. On World Water Day, he focuses in particular on the water treatment plant project.

How is the Fonds Parisien Community experiencing the current situation of violence in Haiti? What plans or forecasts do you have for the future?

We live the situation with uncertainty. We feel the physical and emotional effects that violence has on our health, but at the same time we look for ways to respond to the situation. We are a living presence of hope and we respond through our educational and health mission. We practice listening, tolerance, tenderness, solidarity and put ourselves in people’s shoes.

Marta Peña, on the right of the photo, at Fonds Parisien

You are in the Dominican Republic right now. What are your plans for the immediate future?

What we need is for the charism to continue to be present through the lay men and women who are making their way with us, but we feel that they need greater accompaniment. We are currently following the mission from Santo Domingo. Due to the instability in Haiti we have been asked to leave the country for a while. The intention is to continue accompanying our projects; if it is not possible to be on site we will continue to be involved from a distance.

The Vedruna community has been present in Haiti since 2006. During this time the country has been shaken by two major earthquakes, the assassination of a president, countless episodes of violence… What has changed in the current crisis compared to previous ones?

Haiti has been in a precarious situation for many years and what is happening now is a worsening of that crisis. At the moment we seem to be at a dead end. At other times there was an “instituted government” and until the beginning of 2022, people, right or wrong, could move internally and had “free” passage at the Dominican border. But now there is no way out, everything is closed. It is as if there is no control over the gangs. Violence reigns, kidnappings, robberies, murders… And all this results in hunger and misery, physical, psychological and emotional illnesses.

The Vedruna community has carried out educational and health work in Haiti, but has also developed other less usual work for the congregation, especially that of the water treatment plant. Why were these projects chosen? What lasting change do they hope to leave with them in the Haitian population?

The importance of getting involved in these projects responds to the needs of the time: there was no drinking water and the women, heads of household, were without economic resources and a large number of them were illiterate. As lasting changes, it is a contribution to women’s empowerment that improves the health of all people.

Why is this project considered strategic?

First of all, in Haiti, according to studies conducted by experts, there is no drinking water. Second, the people where we are have scarce economic resources and cannot afford to buy the water sold by the companies. We want people to have a life and improve their living conditions.

Echoing our chapter document “Born Again”, No. 17.3, we want to remain present in Haiti, alongside a people where “vulnerability is evident”. People always thank us for being with them in the mission we carry out; sometimes they have told us that our presence reminds them that “God does not forget them”. That is why we feel that we are a sign of hope for the people.