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To understand the work of the Little Sisters of St. Therese, we must first understand
Haiti.  

Haiti is a very mountainous country.  Paved roads exist only in about 4 or 5 major
cities and those are poke-marked with large potholes and narrowed by street vendors
and piles of trash.  Electricity is available only in some cities and for only a few hours
a day at best.  Potable water is found in 5% of the country, but is not fully
recommended for drinking especially for foreigners.  The mountainsides have been
stripped of their trees by peasants to make charcoal for cooking and selling.  They
also clear plots of rocky hillsides to plant crops.  This of course has led to massive
erosion and many deaths during times of flooding and mud slides.

The monetary wealth of Haiti is in the hands of about 5% of the population.  Ten
percent (10%) belongs to  the middle class and 85% are peasants who try to live on
the equivalent of $1.00 per day.  Over the last several years, many peasants from
the countryside have left their little plots of land and come to cities such as Port au
Prince to seek such amenities as electricity, potable water and jobs.  Most have been
sorely disappointed as there is little work and they are too proud to return to the
countryside.  They build small one or two-room huts on the outskirts of the city and
try to seek out a living selling small items and making use of what others throw
away.  Of course, the numerous political upheavals have not helped the living
conditions of the peasants.  It seems as if
with each coup or change, a few people get rich and the peasants get poorer.

Even with all this, the true strength of Haiti is in its people.  The life is very hard but
you will not see them sitting around feeling sorry for themselves.  They try to survive
and improve the lives of their children.  The average life expectancy in Haiti is around
50 years.  This figure has gone down rather than up like most other countries.  There
are a few modern medical facilities.  AIDS, TB, malaria, and malnutrition are among
the many reasons for the shortened life spans.

The Congregation of the Little Sisters of St. Therese of the Child Jesus has started to
work with the 85% of the poor.  In 1948, Fr. Farnese and Mother Camelia Lohier
founded the order to work with the rural poor in Haiti.  Their mission is to spread the
word of God; to educate peasant children and adults; to teach and use
environmentally sound agricultural techniques; to help meet
peasants’ medical needs; and to provide programs for women.

The sisters fan out all over Haiti to 42 Missions.  The process of arrival is in itself a
major feat.  Some can go by 4 wheel drive vehicles or tap taps (a local little bus
which is actually a converted pick up truck.  Others can go only so far with a machine
and then must walk the remaining way over mountain paths.  The walk alone can
take 12 hours.  Getting supplies to their Missions must
of course follow the same procedure.  During times of heavy rains, the Sisters cannot
leave their Missions even for emergencies since they cannot ford the rivers and
streams at that time.
The Work of the Little Sisters of
St. Therese of the Child Jesus
(taken from Sr. Denise's and Sr. Jeanne's speech
delivered at two Catholic churches in June '07)
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Maps:
We are here because we care, we care because we love, and we love because of God.
In Haiti, schools accept students of all ages at any grade level.  A first grader could be 6, 8, 18, or 80 years old.  There is a
dual system of education.  The students with appropriate age equivalence attend schools in the morning.  The afternoon
schools are for students who are older and have not had the opportunity to attend school.  These are usually the students with
the least
economic resources but possibly they have the greatest zest for education but having been denied it due to poverty.  You will
see as many as 80 students in the lower grade classrooms.  These numbers dwindle in the upper grades due to the necessity
for students to go to work and earn money for their families and not having the financial ability for the tuition to continue to
attend.  There are a few government schools.  Most are private.  

The Sisters, working in conjunction with 412 lay teachers, educate 18,745 students each year.  Although tuition is required,
many students attend without paying.  If children want education, the Sisters make sure that they get the opportunity.  They
manage 33 elementary schools and 5 secondary schools.  They try to provide a meal to as many schools as possible.  For
many of the
students, this is their only meal for the day.  

The Sisters also have 18 technical centers for women and girls.  At these centers, they teach students embroidery, sewing,
cooking, and other skills.  Their intention is to prepare the women to earn money or to take care of their families.  The amount
of time these centers are open each year is dependent on the amount of materials they can procure as the students cannot
provide the cloth, thread, food, etc., that are required for their programs.

The Sisters have 17 clinics where peasants can come for basic medical treatment.  In more serious cases, they must try to get
the injured or sick party to a city.  Often, they come walking for hours by donkey ambulance, or carried by good Samaritans
on makeshift stretchers.  Again, their ability to assist is directly dependent upon the amount of medicines and supplies.

The Sisters also have three hospitals.  One is for AIDS and tuberculosis, one is an eye hospital, and another is a general
hospital. The government assists them with the costs of these facilities but this assistance is often promised and never
received.  They do the best they can.

They have two formal orphanages although they do not call them that as they do not want the children to feel worse about their
plight.  They call them pensions.  There are actually 41 more of these facilities as each of our Missions takes in children who
need homes.  The older children are given the opportunity to work at the Mission and given a small salary as well as their room
and board in addition to attending the school.  When someone brings a baby to one of their Missions, they take care of it until
they find a good home.  A few of the girls that they have taken in have joined the Congregation.

They Sisters also operate three homes for the elderly.  One is for the older Sisters, and the other one is for elderly peasants in
need.

They have a Teacher Preparation Center.  Here the students learn the techniques necessary to become successful teachers.  
Although the vast majority wishes to teach in the cities, some of them are drawn to teaching the rural peasants as the Sisters
do.  The government supports this operation to a degree.  They often have to pray for “loaves and fishes” miracle when they
do not receive the money the government has promised.

There are two farms our Sisters operate in cooperation with The Little Brothers of St. Therese.  At these farms, they also teach
agricultural techniques and the production and processing of food to the surrounding peasants.  Here they are dependent upon
the heavens. When rain is sufficient, there is food for the Sisters, the students, and the peasants who come to their doors.  If
the weather is not conducive, the Sisters try to defray some of the expenses of their Order by selling the products they make
at their farms and Missions.

They staff 3 Pastoral Centers where they teach Cathechism, liturgy, and other religious education.  

Two Sisters operate an adult education center.  They provide instruction on health practices, living skills, the necessity for
immunization for children, and assist the peasants in many other
ways.  They have even provided seminars on making and using solar ovens.  The elderly Sister who runs this program
remarkably knows the location of every peasant’s hut in her area and there are probably thousands of them.  She has visited
every one.  Each of the 42 Missions runs a similar program on a smaller scale.

They provide two guest houses in Port au Prince where our Sisters who require medical attention or are taking courses can
stay.

The Mother House of the Little Sisters of St. Therese is located in Riviere Froide.  Here 35 older Sisters live but they are
actually not retired.  They still work with the peasants in the surrounding mountains and continue to live their lives of service.  
Even the Sister who is bedridden crochets items for sale.  The postulants are found here as well.  The novices work at the
Missions during the school year and study at different schools and return here during the summer.  Each summer, many
members of the Congregation return to Riviere Froide for spiritual and physical renewal. Many need nutritious food and rest
because their labors in the Missions are so difficult.