Fish Fry for Haiti: Annual event helps support school in remote mountain village

Published 5:17 am Sunday, February 11, 2024

By Mary Richardson

Generally, the news coming out of Haiti is not good. Criminal gangs rule the cities; the government is barely functioning. The Human Rights Watch reports that killing, kidnappings and sexual violence have increased dramatically and that more than 40 percent of  Haiti’s population are hungry.

However, Saint Mathieu Ecole Episcopale, a mission of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Lake Charles, is thriving. The school is located in southern Haiti in the remote mountain village of Bégin. Education, health care, and food are all available on the school’s campus, and enrollment has reached a record number of 505 students.

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“Maybe it’s because our school is so remote and the people are poor, but the gangs have left us alone,” says Mother Boo Kay, associate priest at Good Shepherd and a founding member of the Tend My Lambs committee which oversees support of the school. “We are very grateful.”

The annual fundraiser for the school, Fish Fry for Haiti, will take place Friday, Feb. 23. Take-out dinners of fried fish with all the trimmings plus a homemade dessert will be available from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the church’s Outreach House, located at the corner of Kirkman and S. Division streets. Tickets are $20 and are available at the church at 337-433-5244 or emailing Tend My Lambs committee members also have tickets (Dr. Ben Williams, Glenda Williams (chair), Martha Hoskins, Mother Boo Kay, Mary Richardson, Denise Rau, Jay Winters, Tausha Kordisch, and Tom Sanders Jr).

Scholarships are also available. A $150 scholarship will fund one student for an entire year. Both Good Shepherd and committee members have forms to provide for the scholarships.

Saint Mathieu Ecole Episcopale was built by Good Shepherd 32 years ago. The first school was just five classrooms. The need, and the enthusiastic response from the community, inspired the church to keep building its school in Haiti — including totally rebuilding it in 2010 after an earthquake, followed by a hurricane, destroyed the school and devastated the surrounding countryside.

From the beginning, Good Shepherd has partnered with the national organization Haiti Education Foundation (HEF), headquartered in Arkansas, to administer the funds sent to the school. HEF has “people on the ground” who can deliver monies safely through a bank located in a rural area, and also oversees day-to-day operations. HEF also ensures that 100% of designated donations go directly to Haiti, with nothing deducted for administrative fees.

In the past few years, HEF has leveraged the funds coming from Lake Charles to partner
with two other organizations, Trinity Hope and Haiti Health Care Partners. Trinity Hope provides a daily meal, and the clinic provides health care through a mobile unit that parks right in the school’s yard.

“People know when the mobile unit is coming and the number of people we serve has tripled,” says Susan Turberville, Executive Director of HEF. Partly because it isn’t safe to travel to Port au Prince, the number of people seeking medical help has grown from 300 monthly to more than 1,000. “People of all ages line up, especially mothers with babies,” Turberville said.

Turberville says the community of Bégin is proud of its school. It is one of the largest of the 35 campuses administered by HEF in Haiti, currently serving a record number of 259 K-6th students, and 246 high school students. For the past two summers, the school has offered teacher training, which has led to a significant increase in testing scores.

“A successful school is a big deal!” Turberville says. “When you think of how this school in a little community in the middle of nowhere provides an education that allows students to go to a university or become a nurse – well, you can imagine the pride. People say, ‘That nurse was educated in our school!”

And that pride is shared by members of Good Shepherd Church. “To see the progress being made in the mountains, while the violence and chaos continues in the capital, I think, is a true gift from God,” says Glenda Williams. “We are happy to have a role in His work.”