Bringing hope in dangerous times
As Haiti faces prolonged insecurity and violence, we speak to our local partner to find out how Mary’s Meals is helping vulnerable children.
Cassandre Regnier is programmes director at Summits Education, our partner in Haiti.
Mary’s Meals has been serving meals in Haiti since 2006. Today we feed 206,698 children across 662 schools in the Caribbean country.
For the past two years, gangs have controlled large parts of the country, leading to prolonged insecurity and violence.
We recently caught up with Cassandre to find out how our feeding programme is bringing hope in dangerous times to vulnerable children in Haiti.
What is life like in Haiti?
Although Haiti has always had its challenges – we always had political turmoil, there was always unrest and there were days that children couldn't go to school – it was more or less secure.
Nowadays, the situation is really different. The security and the violence have peaked to a level that is really out of control. After 5pm, no one goes out. Even when you have an emergency, you stay at home. There is no hospital open, no pharmacy open. It's a very scary situation. It's extremely difficult.
How is Mary’s Meals helping in this difficult situation?
Currently in Haiti there’s violence, there’s insecurity and gangs are controlling strategic areas of the country.
Families who were living in the capital, Port-au-Prince, are escaping. So, more kids are enrolling in schools we support in more remote areas.
Mary's Meals provides meals to a population that is extremely vulnerable. The meals are crucial to keep kids enrolled in school. Once the food is at the schools, the children can eat on a daily basis. So, the students will not miss school days because we know this is what keeps them going.
The safety, security and hope that Mary’s Meals provide is extremely crucial to the students that we serve.
Why is Mary’s Meals so important to the children of Haiti?
In Haiti, 30% of students attending primary school will not make it to third grade. Parents do not necessarily have the means to support the kids throughout the whole year. You'll find a lot of students start, and then in the middle of the year just drop out, and then have to resume again.
In fourth grade most kids just stop going. Because the literacy rate is so low, kids are not able to remain in school so they are not able to learn how to read.
This partnership with Mary’s Meals is extremely important to us because we know that, without the school meals, we wouldn't be successful in any aspect of our programme.
What difference do our school meals make?
The most apparent change is the fact that kids look and seem healthier.
Kids are coming to our school just because of the school meal, and they are attending regularly just because of the school meal. So, this is for us is the most beneficial programme that we have.
What are your hopes for the future?
I really hope that by using my voice, we can use our experiences to show how – when we partner together by providing comprehensive packages of services to students – they can thrive.