Presbyterians in Mutual Mission with the People of Haiti
Haiti occupies the western third of the island of Hispaniola, 70 miles east of Cuba and 550 miles from Miami, Florida. Haiti is a country of mountains, coasts, valleys, plateaus and small plains, with a culture which is a mixture for French and African elements, with 95% of the population of African descent. A little more than 200 years ago, the place that we now know as Haiti was a French colony comprised of the most lucrative plantations in the world, producing sugar coveted by the world, worked by slaves from Africa which comprised nine-tenths of the colony’s population. Life was short and brutal for these slaves, who eventually revolted, and Haiti became an independent Republic in 1804. Currently, Haiti has a population of about 9 million people. Its capital is Port-au-Prince, which has a population of more than 2 million people and was at the epicenter of the devastating earthquake of January, 2010, which killed upwards of 230,000 people and left millions homeless. In Haiti, 80% of the population lives in poverty, with 59% living on less than $1 a day. Adult literacy is less than 30%, as free public education is almost non-existent. Only 41% of Haitians have access to safe drinking water, and few have access to medical care or adequate nutrition, which leads to an average life expectancy of just 59 years.
The Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. has a long history of mutual mission work with Haiti, through the Presbyterian Hunger Program, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, and Presbyterian World Mission. Church members within the Presbytery of the Peaks have travelled to Haiti with medical, educational, building and recovery operations through several mission organizations.
Currently, the Presbytery of the Peaks supports a PCUSA initiative called “Joining Hands” in Haiti. Around the world, JH networks strive to alleviate poverty and suffering through community education, advocacy, alternative economic activities, lifestyle changes and spiritual grounding. The goal is to restore the wholeness of God’s creation and the healing of the human family through prayer, mutual visits, humble accompaniment, repentance, and mutual transformation.