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OBITUARY
Sister Catherine Arnoldy, SNDdeN

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Concert for Haiti relief

At CRS camp, 50,000 find help and hope

No sleep, little aid: Salesian nun pleads for more help for Haitians

Food cards required for quake victims

Coping with care of quake victims

Haitian bishop: build anew based on justice

placeholder February 8, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 3   •   Oakland, CA

Salesian Sister Maria Sylvita Elie, left, talks with another Sister as they sort medicines for earthquake survivors at their convent in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The medicines were brought to Haiti by Salesian congregations in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
CNS PHOTO/PAUL JEFFREY

No sleep, little aid: Salesian nun
pleads for more help for Haitians

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CNS) — Sister Maria Sylvita Elie hasn’t eaten all day, and the tiredness shows on her face as she pleads with a Brazilian nongovernmental organization for some tents for the homeless families who have camped out on the convent patio of her religious order, the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco.

Tents are in short supply in the Haitian capital these days, and she has to argue forcefully. Her persistence finally pays off, and she fills her pickup with two loads of tents.

“I’m going to hide them until dark, otherwise people will swarm all over us to get them. After it’s dark I’ll give them quietly to families that have small children,” said Sister Sylvie, as she’s known.

A Salesian nun who lives in one of the roughest areas of Port-au-Prince, Sister Sylvie has been sleeping under the stars since the Jan. 12 quake collapsed most of the church sanctuary and other buildings they used for educating neighborhood children.

“We’re a center of reference for the community, and people come to us for help in solving their problems. Our job is to find the resources and people to solve those problems,” she told Catholic News Service.

That has not been an easy task. With the exception of frequent shipments of medical supplies and food from her congregation’s sisters in the neighboring Dominican Republic, few relief supplies have arrived here.

“While the people are dying, the international organizations are passing their time in meetings, in studies and planning. People fly around in helicopters looking at us, making the houses shake once again. But while they’re planning, the people are dying.

“We’ve now gone more than two weeks without any help, and they haven’t contacted those of us who could be most helpful in organizing the people. We’ve got to make the solidarity more concrete. We need fewer studies and plans while the people suffer and die,” she said, beginning to cry.

“I’m sorry,” she said after a moment. “But this is urgent.”

Sister Sylvie’s complex, now a collection of jumbled buildings around a patio filled with makeshift shelters, sits at the confluence of the Haitian capital’s three most notorious neighborhoods: La Saline, Cite Soleil, and Belair. Before the quake, the seven Sisters here ran a primary school and a jobs training program for more than 1,000 youths. Their special passion, however, was a residential school with 96 young women students. Sister Sylvie, who is 62, was in that building, walking down a hallway, when the quake struck.

Sister Sylvie has obtained water from the Brazilian nongovernmental organization down the street, which also gave her the tents, donated by Norwegian Church Aid. She spends part of each day sorting the food and medicines that come from the Dominican Republic, shipping most off to other parishes where her congregation is serving similar homeless populations.

 
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