Blog Archives

Haiti earthquake: one year on

La Catedral

Everybody has heard the news and seen the images. So little has been done in the 12 months since the earthquake. The NGOs are all in place, there is money in the bank to move ahead rapidly with reconstruction, but the whole country is in a state of paralysis. A lack of stable infrastructure and deep-rooted corruption are responsible for the stalemate. Money that is released into the community for reconstruction will disappear into the wrong hands, hence the slow progress.

We are delighted to report that we have been able to send out £6,500 to the Claretians in

Alexis, 12 years old

Port au Prince to help with the reconstruction of their Elementary School. It is but a drop in the ocean in terms of what their actual needs are, but every little will help. And the donations keep trickling in. View this short video about the destruction of the earthquake and what the Claretians are achieving 12 months later:

I have been invited to speak about my cycle pilgrimage to Rome by several groups, which gives me the opportunity to both advertise the delights of travelling along the Via Francigena, but also to highlight the current situation in Haiti and keep their cause alive in people’s  minds. Groups that I will be visiting in the next few months include: Kimbolton Rotary, Ferrar House at Little Gidding, Kimbolton Probus, Rockingham Forest Wheelers, and the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome.

The Claretians in Haiti

Claretian Missionaries

There are more than 3000 members of the community working in over 60 countries of the world. The principal focus of their mission is to spread the Christian message, but this labour is inevitably tied up with important humanitarian concerns. In the field of education, for example, they build new schools, and refurbish and repair exisiting schools. These same schools will be furnished and equipped, usually through voluntary contributions. They frequently provide access to medical care, and will assist remote communties to improve their access to basic services.

Haiti

The Claretians in Haiti have spent several years establishing themselves in Port-au-Prince.  Quoting recent correspondence from Haiti, here is a glimpse of the aftermath of the quake:

“The vast majority of concrete structures had completely collapsed……… huge cracks which would hardly stand another aftershock marred the house structure. In fear of the house’s instability, people were sleeping outside on the patio, along with a few acquaintances and neighbours who had lost everything…….. We are in deep trouble,

many deaths, bodies scattered everywhere, houses crumbled with people still inside……. Every time I go out and see the city I ask myself: Am I dreaming or is what I see true? Is this the Port-au-Prince that I have known? But it is not a dream; it is a reality……….. The ten-year-old church and the public elementary school that the Claretians helped to build were destroyed”.

I was briefed to translate some of this correspondence as it came out of Haiti just 48 hours after the earthquake. I was deeply moved by their plight, and now I would like to raise as much as I can to help them re-establish the infrastructure of their work in Port au Prince.

Via Francigena: Canterbury to Rome

Frank Burns

Many years awheel exploring the world, I am now addressing the most ancient of routes in Europe: the Via Francigena. First walked by St Augustine in 598 when he went to Rome to receive the pallium (his seal of office as the first Archbishop of Canterbury), it has recently been re-established using the travel notes of Archbishop Sigeric in 990 (one of the early bloggers!). Although I will have the benefit of a pair of wheels for my journey, carrying my pilgrim’s credential (passport) I will qualify for the official ‘testimonium’ given to pilgrims when they arrive at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Following ancient routes, especially routes of religious and historical significance, has always been a passionate interest of mine. My forthcoming journey along the Via Francigena comes in the wake of several other long journeys, including the ancient Camino de Santiago de Compostela. So why am I doing it? Is it just for the sheer pleasure of completing it? Well, partly, but also read below:

Haiti: supporting earthquake victims

January 12th saw Haiti (the poorest country in the west) suffer its most devastating earthquake. 230,000 died, along with 300,000 injured. The 6 month anniversary of the quake has reminded us of the continued desperation of the situation.

For many years, we have supported the humanitarian efforts of the Claretian Missionaries in Belize. But on this one occasion, our attention deservedly shifts to the people of Haiti in their time of need. The Claretians in Haiti have spent several years building the infrastructure of their future work, which included an elementary school, which was completely destroyed. The money we raise through this venture will go directly to helping to rebuild this school.

Cycle pilgrimage: Kimbolton-Canterbury-Rome (1300 miles)

I will be setting off on August 29th, and hope to arrive in Rome about 18 days later. Much more than a cycle ride, this will be a genuine attempt to follow the route established 1400 years ago. I will be passing through places of historical connection, seeking to have my ‘credential’ (pilgrim’s passport) stamped and signed along the way, in order to qualify for the testimonium at journey’s end.

(I can now report that, at the end of all the fund-raising, we have been able to send £6,500 to help rebuild the Claretian Elementary School in Port-au-Prince. If you contributed to that amount, a sincere ‘thank you’ for your support)