While the small Caribbean nation of Haiti does feature stunningly beautiful beaches and scenic views, living conditions within its poorest communities are often heartbreaking, with families facing almost unbearable daily hardships. In fact, Haiti has the highest levels of poverty in the Western Hemisphere, with an estimated 60% of Haiti’s 11 million people living in abject poverty. As a result, the level of Illiteracy is high, malnutrition is widespread, and steady, well-paying employment is almost impossible to find.
This poverty includes a safe housing crisis in Haiti, which has mostly impacted residents in rural regions of the country. There, families can often be found living in dilapidated shacks made from sticks, mud, and scraps of discarded plastic or rusty metal. Sometimes people share a relative’s or friend’s flimsy house, and in those cases, it is common to find as many as 10 or more people crammed into a small hut, with most sleeping on the dirt floor. The roofs often leak, soaking everyone and everything inside. These unsanitary conditions leave children and adults vulnerable to illnesses — an added crisis for families who have no way to pay for medical treatment.
But praise the Lord, there is hope in Haiti because Church leaders in the country are working hard to provide help to the country’s poorest families. Cross Catholic Outreach’s partnership with Father Glenn Meaux’s Kobonal Haiti Mission is one example. The Kobonal Haiti Mission is a holistic ministry with an excellent plan to provide safer housing for some of Haiti’s poorest families.
Fr. Meaux and the Kobonal Haiti Mission find solutions to meet the people’s material and spiritual needs and offer a variety of programs to bring relief, support and hope.
Most families participate in more than one program because their needs are complex and solving just one of their issues would not be sufficient to change their circumstances. For example, it’s common for a mother to receive a microloan, a father to benefit from agricultural training, the children to attend the Kobonal School, and the entire family to be blessed by a new house and access to clean water. By ensuring all of these needs are met, the Mission can completely transform lives, achieving long-term success and improving entire communities in this region of Haiti.
For over three decades, housing has been a critical part of Fr. Meaux’s strategy for overall poverty relief. The Mission starts by identifying families in need of safe shelter and constructs sturdy, concrete homes with galvanized steel roofs, a metal door and solar power. To protect the investment of generous donors and keep families safe in their homes, the Mission makes regular repairs and upgrades to existing houses.
Fr. Meaux knows that safe shelter is more than a place to live; it is directly related to the strength of the local families. A home is a place where families share meals, build relationships, make memories and pass down their faith to their children. Safe shelter gives families the foundation to build a better future by creating opportunities for them to break out of the cycle of poverty.
Pierre Robenson knows firsthand how a safe home can change a life for the better. Pierre is a husband and father of four who supports his family by farming and driving a motorcycle taxi.
His family used to live in an unsafe and crowded rental home. They would get wet when it rained, and the children had to sleep on the muddy floor. But everything changed the day Pierre and his family moved into their very own home built by the Kobonal Haiti Mission.
“I feel like my entire life changed forever,” Pierre said. “Now I can fully sleep, and I don’t think about any problems.”
Now Pierre doesn’t have to worry about how he’s going to pay his landlord for a dilapidated home — he can focus on making life better for his children, including by providing education and growing his business of breeding and selling goats and cows.
“Before the Mission, everyone had a house that was barely standing,” he said, remembering times before Fr. Meaux’s service. “But now, there are no houses made of mud anymore. The Mission ended those things. This is how the Mission helps the people and the community.”
When Elieze Desamour received a Kobonal house, it became much more than a home. It became the place where her dreams of becoming a business owner came true. Thanks to a microloan she received from the Mission, she has a small store that she operates out of her house. She sells ice, rice, sugar, flour, seasonings, bread and much more.
Both the house and the microloan are helping Elieze provide a better future for her children. “Because the Mission noticed the need in the community, it helped my business grow,” she said.
Solar power is the most recent upgrade to newly constructed Kobonal houses. In 2020, the Mission began installing basic solar power to new construction, giving families indoor electricity. For families who have lived without electricity for generations, this is a dream come true!
Solar power is a practical and smart solution in Kobonal, where the sun is plentiful and many families don’t have direct access to an electrical grid. This upgrade allows children to study after dark, and people can charge small devices such as cell phones.
Not only is this more convenient for families, but it is safer and healthier, significantly reducing the risk of house fires and smoke inhalation.
“In the old house, I used to put gas in the lamp, but it smoked constantly and made the whole house black because of the smoke and soot. It was very difficult for the children to study in those conditions,” said Sany Suzan, a Kobonal home recipient. “Now I am in a new house, one that is nice and comfortable and has electricity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
Even better, this electricity means that Sany’s children can study as long as they want to in the evening, because they are no longer limited by daylight hours.
“My children can study and that feels great,” Sany continued. “It’s amazing to go to bed with electricity and wake up with electricity. I thank God, Jesus Christ and Our Lady’s Mission for this blessing.”
A safe house gives poor families the space they need to improve their lives and the lives of their families. Homeownership instills a sense of confidence and motivates families to take other steps toward self-improvement. Whether starting a business, strengthening family relationships or bringing relief from anxiety, a safe place to live releases families from a cycle of survival and allows them to thrive.
Will you help us build safe houses that open opportunities for the future? The support of Cross Catholic Outreach donors to build safe houses not only provides a safe place to live but an opportunity for the future!
Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2024, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.