By Dennis Petruzzi
The 12th annual “For the Love of a Child Gala” was held on April 27th at A Villa Louisa in Bolton, Connecticut.
The gala benefited and celebrated Outreach to Haiti's 30-plus years of Gospel ministry to the people of Haiti. There were about 125 guests at this year’s gala who helped make the event a success.
Our thanks to Most Reverend Bishop Cote, our diocesan priests and all our supporters. Our hope is that each guest came away feeling that they are part of the Diocese’s mission in Haiti.
The evening showcased Outreach to Haiti’s Education Sponsorship Program, which enables approximately 200 students to attend school in a country where free public education is extremely limited. In Haiti, less than 60 percent of the children have the opportunity to attend school and of those, only 2 percent are able to complete high school.
Students in the Outreach to Haiti program advance to the next grade at the rate of over 90 percent. Each school year the program proudly supports 30-40 students in university or postsecondary vocational programs.
The keynote speaker for this year’s gala is a current beneficiary of the program. Wenguerdy Jean-Felix, a third year medical student at the prestigious State University of Haiti, spoke passionately about his goals to become a physician and to specialize in either public health or internal medicine. In doing so, he also acknowledged the daily life challenges he and other students face.
Wenguerdy comes from a large family and has five brothers and two sisters. He credits his parents for providing the discipline and focus he and his siblings need to succeed in school and to make the best of every opportunity that is offered to them. Besides excelling in academics, Wenguerdy has realized the importance of being involved in his local community and beyond. He created an entrepreneur program to engage young Haitians and is active in Rotoract, which is the university level of the Rotary Club.
He is member of the Association of Haitian Medical students and leads their commission working on human rights and peace. In February 2019 he participated in the Harvard University National Model United Nations. He is truly an effective and inspiring ambassador for Outreach to Haiti’s program and for the young people of Haiti.
In his closing remarks Wenguerdy used a quote from author Charles Dickens to not only thank his sponsors and benefactors but to express his motivation to one day use his skills to serve his country.
The quote simply states: “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
The evening was also about education beyond the walls of a classroom or the halls of a university. It was about the gift of education we as Americans receive from the people of Haiti and spiritual growth it can bring.
The Most Reverend Bishop Michael R. Cote frequently reminds us that the people of Haiti give us much more than we give to them. Pointing out that our mission in Haiti is indeed a reciprocal relationship, Bishop Cote told a moving story of a father who went to the airport to pick up his daughter who was returning from an immersion trip Haiti.
The young woman entered the baggage claim area wearing no shoes. When the father asked why she was shoeless, she explained, in a matter of fact way, that she had met someone while in Haiti who had none. In those few words both understood that mission is not just about giving but about learning to live and to act upon the gospel message.
For more information on how you can help a child in Haiti, please visit Outreachtohaiti.org