One day during our visit to the mission, we had the opportunity to go to the nearby town of Hinche.
Hinche is one of the major towns of Haiti with a population of about 50,000 people. It is the capital of the Centre department (state) and has an important UN outpost.
Even though I’ve traveled to several impoverished or “third world” areas, I found Hinche to be an especially dire place. Although in the photos below you will see power lines, we were told that electricity is almost non-existent. Those that do have power rely on solar panels to provide it. We were also told that the city has no sewage system and very little water. In some of the photos you will see people carrying water in containers from the Artibonite River, which runs through the town.
We were there on one of the twice weekly market days, so Hinche was bustling with people going to market. Anyone with animals or produce to sell seemed to be in town, trying to sell what they have. I got the feeling that it was an economy very close to a barter system, but that is speculation on my part.
I can only image how treacherous the place can be at night or when there is some sort of upheaval or political strife. In fact, when we arrived at the Hinche airstrip from Port-au-Prince, we were met by a UN security official who gave us instructions to stay out of sight during the presidential run-off election to be held that Sunday.
In the midst of Hinche, we made a visit to a facility run by Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity. What a wonderful place!
This was my first interaction with the sisters and I was completely won over by them. Fr. Kastl and Fr. Meaux celebrated Mass in their small chapel on the Feast of St. Joseph. With some of their facility’s children present, we filled their chapel to overflowing. With their singing and the general feeling of grace brought by the sisters, it was a very fine Mass indeed.
The sisters took us on a tour of their facility and we quickly learned the magnitude of what they were faced with. Six sisters and their staff were caring for almost 300 individuals who had no one else to care for them.
Eighty children brought in from the countryside were being nursed back to health so they could eventually be returned to their parents. Four wards of varying levels of sickness contained metal cribs for the children. The sickest children in Ward 1 would move to Ward 2, then Ward 3, and finally Ward 4, the last stage before being returned home, hopefully well enough to be cared for by their parents and family. This is not an orphanage as the children are always returned home.
The other parts of the facility contained men and women housing areas for elderly or other indigents who have no one else to care for them. Fed, housed and cared for, these people depend on the sisters for their very lives.
The sisters, despite what their detractors might say, are truly a Godsend to the people of Hinche and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to visit them and see their work.
Below is a gallery of photos from in and around Hinche. Out of respect for the Sisters, there are no pictures of them or their facility, lest those photos be abused.
Special thanks to Marty Killeen for some of the photos used below.