Reggie Cean works for the Centre de Formation Fritz Lafontant in Haiti – a vocational school that is providing education in many areas to move the nation forward.
Cean joined others from Haiti Saturday in visiting Aiken’s St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church, which hosted a conference of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina.
For more than 30 years, the Diocese has provided enormous resources to the community of Cange – helping build schools, health facilities, a water system, farms for food and much more. Cean was a young villager who got his education there and beyond through the Diocese. He spoke to Episcopal leaders and others who have shared that commitment – those with Partners in Health, the Rotary Foundation of District 7750 that includes Aiken and Clemson University.
“I’m wordless to express what I feel,” Cean said during a break in the conference schedule. “This is faith, this is life. Some of the people here don’t know Haiti, but they believe in education, believe in change and want to make a difference in the lives of people in Haiti. They just contribute with what they have.”
CFFL is named for Father Fritz Lafontant of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti. He worked with Partners in Health founder Paul Farmer for 30 years in Haiti in collaboration with the Diocese. One of Saturday’s speakers, Gillian Warne, founded Partners in Agriculture in Haiti through Christ Central Episcopal Church in Greenville. She often tells a compelling story about her work in Cange and the Central Plateau.
So much money and hours are devoted to seeking a cure for malnutrition there, Warne said.
“The good news is that a cure has been found,” she said. “It’s called food.”
Warne showed slides of the growing food to feed children and adults in areas that shouldn’t have produced food. Today, Haitians are growing Nourimanba, a peanut-based therapeutic food. In just a few weeks, Warne said, Nourimanba can treat severely malnourished children. Another food called Nourimil also helps children who are not as seriously ill.
“Nine weeks can make a difference to help a child walk and gain weight,” Warne said. “Rotary gave us our first butter machine.”
Rich Waugh, an Aiken Sunrise Rotary Club member and former district governor, remains active in Foundation programs internationally.
“We’ve been working with Haiti on different programs for 12 to 15 years and have donated more than $500,000,” Waugh said. “The next step is to provide sustainability.”
The earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010 has impacted the resources of Partners in Health. As a result, PIH will concentrate its efforts on health and limit its work in the area of education.
“Rotary and others are going to have to step up and continue to train students,” Waugh said.
Father Grant Wiseman of St. Thaddeus said PIH plans to build a 325-bed hospital between Cange and Port-au-Prince with the help of the Diocese and many other organizations.
Wiseman visited Haiti with church members following the earthquake. That disaster changed everything and forced people to start planning even better and create new visions. Over the 30-year commitment by the Upper Dioseses, its volunteers have seen over and over the remarkable energy and determination from the people of Haiti.
“We’re not doing the work for them,” Wiseman said. “We bring in the experience. They have doctors from there who are fully trained, and the new hospital will be a teaching facility. The schools are giving children education to get work. They’re graduating with International Baccalaureate degrees.”