Four Salesianum Seniors Embark On The First BRIDGE Trip To Haiti


Owen Hynes '17, Editor-In-Chief

On the first morning of Spring Break, four Salesianum seniors embarked on the first ever Salesianum BRIDGE trip to Haiti with Mr. Stepek, ASC ’17; Mr. Ryan; and Fr. Beretta. The trip was the vision of Fr. Beretta who first traveled to Haiti during Holy Week in 2008. For Fr. Beretta, that first trip inspired him to want to find the poor or the weak or the vulnerable, not just in Haiti, but wherever he is.

As the plane touched down in Haiti on a late warm Wednesday afternoon, everyone got off the plane and were greeted by Haitian members of “Hands Together,” an Oblate Mission formed by Fr. Tom Hagan, OSFS and our host for the trip.

Our first full day was spent in Cité Solei, an area that the UN lists as one of the poorest slums on Earth. At first glance, trash and poverty dominate the landscape; however, our days spent there changed our perspective, uncovering the true beauty of the area – its people.

On Good Friday, Fr. Tom notified us that we would be carrying a cross through the streets of Cité Solei. Every Salesian given an opportunity to carry the cross through the streets with hundreds Haitian people following in the packed streets. Following the procession of the cross, everyone gathered in one of the Hands Together churches for Mass. The Mass was spoken in Creole, the native Haitian language. After Mass, the group traveled up one of the mountains in Port-Au-Prince spending time in an art market with unique works crafted by Haitian artists. After arriving at the top of the mountain we gained an incredible view of the city.

Saturday was arguably the most eventful day of the trip. To start the day, the group set off to distribute food to a section of Cité Solei, which was followed with a meeting with some of the most notorious gang leaders who work closely with Fr. Tom and Hands Together. The group answered questions and described the unique relationship between the gangs and Oblate mission. The discussions centered around the unique relationship between gangs and Hands Together, a relationship that strives to bring peace to the neighborhoods. Students also learned that Hands Together provides the only free schools to students in the impoverished nation and that for most of their students the food that they eat at school will be the only food that they eat that day.

Salesianum students then participated in a soccer match on the streets against teenagers of Cité Solei. By the end of the match, the US team found themselves unable to grab the win on away soil and were defeated 6-3. After wiping their tears from the defeat, the group traveled to a local orphanage. While there, students spent time feeding and holding babies. While the work may have seemed simple, for many of the babies it would be the only time they would be held that day. The connections between students and babies was strong, making it difficult for us all to leave at the end of the day.

That evening, the group attended a soccer match at a Hands Together stadium with a match between Cité Solei and the Haitian Parliament in which Cité Solei won 3-0 in front of a rowdy atmosphere and a half time show that left us all wondering what had just happened.

As we returned to Hands Together headquarters, we met up with Jimmy, a member of Hands Together, who ended the day for us playing his guitar and singing his original music that he wrote about Cité Solei in addition to some popular American songs.

Our last day of the trip was Easter Sunday with the group attending Easter Mass at the Hands Together church followed by playing in the streets with area children. That afternoon we said our goodbye’s to Haiti and its people, but the lessons we learned will be with us for life. In reflecting on our time, Fr. Beretta said, “while you may never go back to Haiti, wherever life takes you, there will be people in need, and the way to help them is not by doing everything for them, but by building relationships and having genuine compassion and concern for them.”