Assisting our neighbors in Haiti reflects the call to respond with charity to those in need.
by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
Carl A. Anderson
When a massive earthquake struck Haiti in January, it killed a quarter million people and injured even more. Some of the youngest victims lost the most — with around 800 children losing an arm or leg.
If this happened in the United States or another developed nation, medical services and prosthetic limbs would be provided. This is not the case in Haiti. For the hundreds of Haitian children who lost a limb in the earthquake, there was little hope of living a normal life.
Recently, a video produced by the Global Wheelchair Mission premiered at the 128th Supreme Convention, held in Washington, D.C. It included the story of a young Haitian woman at the Knights of Columbus wheelchair distribution in Haiti earlier this year. She lost her entire family in the earthquake; she also lost her home and, more importantly, a leg. Although she had been treated too late to receive a wheelchair, she was undeterred, and prayed to God that more people would come to help.
When I, along with other K of C representatives, met this woman last April and presented her with a wheelchair, we were moved by her situation, but we were even more moved by her prayers. She did not simply pray for material necessities, but instead saw God as the provider of gifts through people, people who give.
The Knights of Columbus has already distributed about 1,000 wheelchairs to those injured in Haiti, with even more on the way. And brother Knights at both the state and local level have been generous in supporting our relief efforts for Haiti and in donating to Knights of Columbus Charities.
However, there is still more to do. We learned that Project Medishare — the group that runs the hospital in Port-au-Prince — needed about $1 million to supply a prosthetic limb for every child who lost an arm or leg in the earthquake. With this financial assistance, they can also supply new prosthetic limbs and two years of physical therapy as the children grow.
In response, the Knights of Columbus Board of Directors has launched a new initiative, called “Healing Haiti’s Children,” with the promise to provide every child in Haiti who has lost an arm or a leg in the disaster with the prosthetics and physical therapy they need.
It is a once-in-a-lifetime charitable opportunity, and the Knights of Columbus are honored to help.
In undertaking this work in Haiti, the Knights have an excellent example in Pierre Toussaint, a Catholic who was a true model of charity during the 18th and 19th centuries. Born into slavery in Haiti, young Toussaint suffered upheaval at the time of the Haitian revolution and fled to New York City with the family he served.
With his income, he bought his sister’s freedom, as well as the freedom of many others, although he chose to remain a slave until he was released in 1807. A married layman, he spent his life assisting orphans, schools, the Church and the underprivileged.
Today, in the wake of the earthquake, Haitians face different challenges, including hunger, homelessness and lack of medical attention. Like Venerable Pierre Toussaint, Knights do not simply recognize that the suffering people in Haiti have physical needs that we can help alleviate. The practice of charity, the first principle of the Order, also helps to meet spiritual needs as we make a gift of ourselves to our neighbors.
In 1852, a year before Pierre Toussaint died in New York, Michael J. McGivney was born about 70 miles away in Connecticut. Father McGivney may have never heard of Pierre Toussaint — but they shared a common vision. The lives of both were personally transformed by Jesus Christ, which allowed them to see the potential for Catholic laymen to put their faith into action.
Today, we follow their example as a force for good, as helpers of those in need.