“Pure Water is the best of gifts that man to man can bring!” This anonymous quote from a 1920 edition of The Spectator (a British periodical) is more pertinent today than ever. The past is very clear but one never knows what the future holds when one embarks upon any project. Regarding Haiti and water, what is very clear is that any time an attempt to improve an existing water supply or somehow add a new potable water supply is begun, the future will be much brighter for the recipients of such an initiative. Such was the case in the partnership begun by Haiti Mission, Inc. (HMI) and Seton Hall University School of Law.
In the Fall of 2009, at the request of Fr. Joe, representatives of Seton Hall School of Law (Newark, N.J.) contacted HMI about the possibility of drilling a water well for the Jeremie prison. At the time, no one in either HMI or the law school knew the extent of the dire situation in which the prison found itself. Overcrowding was the order of the day. The water supply to the city was already overtaxed so the prison was constantly strained to find water for all the common needs – cooking, cleaning and drinking. Unbeknown to any of the parties involved at the time water had to be trucked in to supply those needs. As one can imagine, in the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, the plight of prisoners is not of uppermost concern. A contract was soon draw up with HMI agreeing to drill a well for the prison with funding from the law school.
Although water well drilling always has unexpected aspects, not the least of which being that one never knows exactly where and when water will be found – this well was particularly surprising. Water was located 35 feet below the surface of the prison which is the shallowest well HMI has ever drilled! We were able to install a very good electric pump system that supplied a constant and much needed water for the prison. We thought that this would be all that was needed and we moved on to other drill sites with joy in our hearts knowing that the prison now at least had a good water supply. Then the earthquake of January 12th, 2010 enters the mix. The horror of this event is well known by all. This earthquake along with the prison well became the catalyst for the HMI prison ministry The earthquake created much more interest in the work of HMI everywhere but in a particular (and miraculous) way in an attorney from Covington, Louisiana. His visit after the earthquake to Jeremie and the prison began the HMI prison ministry by which we have given both material and spiritual help to countless prisoners over the years Water and an earthquake shook things up so much that the needs of the forgotten folks in one of the hell-holes of humanity are now in clear focus because of a few caring individuals who were determined to make life a little better for those prisoners. HMI has continued to advocate for improvements in the living conditions in the prison with the prison administration, the local government and the UN who is present there in Jeremie. We now have routine visits to the prison by members of our mission groups where we have a special meal distributed and hand out vitamins and parasite eradication medication. We try to bring treats such as peanuts and Slim Jims along with playing cards and soccer balls. Periodically and when needed we have a dentist visit the facility and special medical needs are addressed. The category 4 hurricane Matthew in October 2016 which hit Jeremie directly destroyed much of the prison and made life unimaginable once again for the prisoners. HMI was able to get some emergency funding to make the repairs not furnished by the government to assure that the prisoners were able to get out of their cells regularly each day. We have recently received funding specifically for a lawyer and some of the local law students to do what they can to speed up the waiting period for prisoners to be able to come before the magistrate and have their cases heard. Even though the conditions are far from acceptable, the HMI efforts have made life much more hopeful and bearable for many of the unfortunate people who find themselves incarcerated in the Jeremie prison.
“Party at the Prison”
One of the ways that HMI ministers to the prisoners in the Jeremie Prison is to cook a special meal for the inmates, especially at Christmas time. At least once a month Fr. Joe goes to the prison to check on the inmates and address any medical and personal needs that arise such as the need for sandals or toiletries. Whenever the HMI mission team visits Jeremie, one of our goals is to bring a meal complete with cold drinks, playing cards and personal toiletries and see that each inmate receives it. The inmates are allowed to leave their cells and briefly visit with us as they receive the love and concern that is represented by this small gift. The Christmas party is always a special one. Our team enjoys doing it and the inmates are extremely thankful. Thanks to the caring donors who continue to sponsor these events. It allows HMI to minister in a small but powerful way, those truly forgotten souls that find themselves in a Haitian Prison. “The captives shall soon be released; they shall not die and go down into the pit, nor shall they want for bread” Isaiah 51:14
(Below are pictures of the HMI team preparing to distribute the food and supplies. We are not allowed to take pictures of the inmates)