Providence Haiti Outreach is firmly committed to the education and support of Haiti's needy children, "the least of our brothers and sisters," which St. Matthew reminds us are the ones who stand in place of Jesus Himself on earth.
Compassion comes from the Latin 'compati' which means to suffer with. 30 years ago, Providence Haiti Outreach was formed by two compassionate men who followed the path of Jesus by trying to alleviate the suffering of Haiti's children. The mission continues.
Providence Haiti Outreach (PHO) is run by a committeed volunteer board. As trusted stewards, we ensure donations go directly to the education and support of our children and school. In close touch with the teachers and director of the school, we quickly respond to ongoing needs and challenges.
PHO is a small organization, but we are capable of great impact. After damage wrecked by the 2010 Earthquake, new schools were built with stronger construction. The aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 spiked a Cholera outbreak. PHO's response included the installation of a clean water system for the entire community.
PHO is committed to the growth and improvement of our services and capabilities. St. Dominque School opened its doors with 50 children. Today, over 700 are educated every day. Beginning with only an elementary school, our school now serves K-12. This year we congratulate our second senior class graduates!
In the late 1980s, Father Francis Giudice began organizing mission retreats to Haiti with small groups of fellow Rhode Islanders. He developed a close relationship with Father Pardo Serge who became his "trusted agent in Haiti." Responding to an ad in the Providence Visitor about an upcoming mission, Pat Pezzelli met Father Giudice and a deep bond was formed. They had much in common: devotion to God, compassionate hearts, and a great love of their Italian heritage. Other common ground was their desire to make a difference in Haiti.
Together they formed Providence Haiti Outreach (PHO). Fundraising started with the goal to build an orphanage on land in the village of Marigot they discovered on their trip. A few years later, Pat Pezzelli fell ill and passed away at 61 years of age. Father approached Pat's daughter, Susan Whipple, to assume fundraising efforts and the orphanage was built. They soon discovered that Marigot's families didn't want an orphanage, but a school. The building was converted into the St. Dominique School, opening its doors with two classrooms for 50 elementary age children. Today, 700 children from kindergarten through high school are enrolled and receiving quality education and nutritious meals every day.
For nearly 30 years, Providence Haiti Outreach has worked to improve the opportunities for the children and community of Marigot. Our volunteer board work in collaboration with St. Dominique's administrators to address both the day to day needs of our students and plans for further growth. Because we are small, we are also nimble and able to quickly respond to urgent needs. Following the devastation of the 2008 hurricanes and the 2010 earthquake that shattered Haiti, we quickly raised funds to rebuild what was lost and install a clean water system for the entire community.
In 2011, Father Giudice handed over the reigns of PHO to colleague, the dynamic Father Robert Perron. His energy was behind several missions to Haiti which included a full health clinic to the entire school. A new cafeteria and basketball court were also built. Father Perron was the driving force that grew the student body from 200 to 700, and from K-12. We were deeply grieved by his sudden passing last year.
Coming full circle, Susan (Pezzelli) Whipple, the daughter of Pat Pezzelli, has taken over the helm of Providence Haiti Outreach. Under her lead, PHO has plans for many improvements on the agenda. Currently, there is a dirt road that leads to school creating dust and making classroom environments difficult to clean. A new paved road will be soon be completed. We are also developing a new football (soccer) field to enhance the lives of both our children and all the families of Marigot. This football field will fulfill the earliest wish of co-founder, Pat Pezzelli, who envisioned this 'field of dreams' when first laying eyes on the land of St. Dominique.
Overall, our mission continues to address all the prerequisites of a qualiy education that focuses on the whole child: mind, body and spirit. To date, more than 5,000 children have been provided with safe classrooms, nutritious meals, advanced curriculum and talented teachers. All with the goal of helping our students reach their full potential and to break the cycle of poverty for future generations. With your help, we can add to this number and continue this good work.
"A quality education has the power to transform societies in a single generation, provide children with the protection they need from the hazards of poverty, labor exploitation and disease, and give them the knowledge, skills and confidence to reach their full potential." - Audrey Hepburn