LEAVENWORTH — Recognizing the tremendous needs that exist in Haiti, a small group from Sacred Heart-St. Casimir Parish here is working to make connections to benefit people of this poverty-stricken island nation.
Bill Bassett, Jay and Peggy Byrne, and Keith Hustings form the nucleus of Kansas Friends of Haiti. Hustings describes them as a little group looking for different ways to help ministries and initiatives that are under the direction of Father Joseph Philippe, CSSp, and the Sisters of St. Antoine of Fondwa, Haiti.
Over the past several years, this has included making financial contributions from the parish, sending rosaries made by a parishioner to Haiti and, most recently, hosting a veterinarian from the Association of the Peasants of Fondwa. Through the coordination of the Kansas Friends, Dr. Edrix Alcime visited Leavenworth area veterinarians and Kansas State University’s veterinary program, Manhattan.
Addressing another need, his work at a university led Bassett to identify opportunities to assist the University of Fondwa with curriculum development. The educational institution is committed to sustainable and integrated development in rural Haiti. Other major ministries in Fondwa include a large orphanage staffed by the Sisters of St. Antoine, a health clinic and St. Antoine School.
Initially, it was the power of connections that introduced Hustings to Father Joseph and the Sisters of St. Antoine. Hustings’ sister-in-law, Sister Marianna Bauder, a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth, had visited Haiti. The SCL Community has helped support the Haitian ministries in different ways since 2000.
During one of Father Joseph’s visits to Leavenworth, Hustings, his wife Ellen and daughter Kerry met the priest. Kerry subsequently volunteered 14 months in Haiti. The Hustings have maintained relationships with Father Joseph and the Sisters of St. Antoine.
The goal of the Kansas Friends is to spur the interest and involvement of more people in helping the people of Haiti.
“The needs are so incredible,” Hustings explained. “The Haitians seem to take one step forward and then two steps backward. They’ve experienced the earthquake, hurricanes and poverty. Yet, the people have a tremendous spirit.”
Kansas Friends of Haiti remains focused on making connections to provide material and other support to help sustain that hope.