FARMINGTON — April 1 is a special day in the rural parish of Les Cayes, Haiti.
That's when the Clinic San Antoine De Laporte opens after five years of construction. Members of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Farmington and St. Rose of Lima Church in Jay supplied the financing for the medical clinic to serve the people in their sister St. Laurent parish in Haiti.
The ties between the two Maine congregations and the Haitian parish date back to 2004 when the Rev. Roger Chabot offered the idea of a Haitian mission project, said the Rev. Thomas Caton of Phillips, who chairs the local churches' Haitian Committee. The committee has about six members from St. Rose and six from St. Joseph who meet monthly.
When some parishioners traveled to Haiti in 2005, bonds grew stronger as they met the people and talked to them about their needs and goals.
There were “things they hoped to accomplish with our help,” said Janet Brackett of New Sharon who has made several trips to the region.
Help with teacher salaries was top on the list.
A monthly freewill offering began at the Jay and Farmington churches. A total of $1,000 monthly is sent to help with teachers, committee member Sandra Caton said.
There was also a need for a medical clinic.
In 2007, the two congregations began sending money to build the clinic, an estimated $40,000-plus over the five years, Brackett said. The congregations “just knock my socks off. They are so incredibly generous,” she said.
Haitian workers were hired to build the clinic.
After it was finished, there was some money left to start equipping it.
Both congregations also started collecting medical supplies and items. Franklin Memorial Hospital provided a couple of exam tables, a filing cabinet and chair. Coastal Med-Tech in East Wilton provided discounts on some needed items.
But the bulk of the items came from parishioners who purchased bags of bandages, aspirin, and other over-the-counter supplies.
There are kits for Haitian women who make home visits to take care of their neighbors. Lori Richards of Strong led the kit-making project, Brackett said.
Brackett and her husband, Jeff, will haul the supplies to Nashville later this month for shipment to Haiti.
Some items will be bought, including a microscope.
The congregations also provide for one full-time nurse, an auxiliary nurse and a guardian who handles security and custodial services, she said.
When members of the congregations visit Haiti, they go there to be with the people and build relationships with them, Brackett said.
Brackett also tries to take lots of pictures so local congregations can see the progress and the value of their effort and donations.
Those who have traveled to Haiti bring back crafts and items to sell at church fairs.
Wooden bowls, created by a man named Einstein Albert, are sold at Sugarwood Gallery in Farmington for the Haitian ministry.
“The bowls are a work of art,” she said.