Haiti has been called “the land the world forgot.”
If that is so,
then La Gonâve could be called
“the island Haiti forgot.”
Located in the Gulf of Gonâve, the 35 by 9 mile land mass is home to an estimated 110,000 people; yet, it has few paved roads and little infrastructure. The crushing problems of the mainland – poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, malnutrition, lack of access to potable water or adequate healthcare, and deforestation, to name a few – are all felt even more sharply here because of the remoteness of the location. Of the less than 15% of children who complete their secondary education, precious few are able to find employment on the island. Hence, they flee to the mainland in search of work, continually leaving La Gonâve with a dearth of educated citizens who can bring about improvement and progress.
La Gonâve may seem forgotten, but God didn’t forget. There are many churches and Christian organizations on the island, which reach out to the people in holistic ways, seeking to meet not only their spiritual but also their physical needs.
The large Episcopal ministry on the island is a fine example of a holistic ministry. It oversees ten churches scattered in villages across the island, and each of these is associated with a school. Together, they provide education to over 2000 children every year. One of the schools offers secondary education and also some vocational training, including a computer lab and the Pwojè Fanm women’s vocational program. These schools are among the best on the island, with a pass rate of 75% for the primary school National Exam and nearly 100% for the secondary school National Exam. The Episcopal Church also runs a large medical clinic, which provides direct patient care and serves as the base of operations for a fleet of community health workers and midwives and a children’s nutrition program. In addition, the church sponsors agricultural projects and community development projects, including a highly successful goat husbandry program and a well co-op that provides potable water in a remote mountain village.
Because of the problem of losing La Gonâve’s educated youth to the mainland, the church now perceives a great need for high-level vocational training in order to provide young people with marketable skills and to provide the island with much-needed skilled workers. Beatitudes plans to work alongside the Episcopal Church to raise funds to build a trade school in the port town of Anse-a-Galets.
For more information and opportunities regarding American partnerships with the Episcopal Church on La Gonâve, please go to www.lagonavepartners.org.