Singing once filled classrooms at this Salesian mission school in Cite Soleil in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Now there is only silence since the massive earthquake leveled the school a week ago.
The Salesian Mission provides schooling for thousands of Haiti’s poorest children. The school, built with charitable donations from universities and churches from around the globe, was home to some of Haiti’s best and brightest young minds. School officials confirmed Wednesday that at least 250 students are dead, but they fear that the number will rise to 500 in the coming days.
Islande Despre was in a childcare class when the massive quake pummeled the sprawling campus.
She says she felt a vibration, thought, ‘Oh my God,’ and was able to pull herself out after her classroom crumbled.
Other students were not so lucky. School workers have already dug out dozens of bodies from the remains of the school.
A school worker, Douerry Dominique, says he helped transport bodies out of buildings after the quake.
With much of Haiti’s population being illiterate, the Salesian Missions have long played a key role in educating the country’s poorest children. Prior to the earthquake, the mission’s school taught classes ranging from reading and writing to teaching and engineering for students between 5 and 17 years old. The school was also home to the renowned National School of the Arts and Trades.
As school leaders work to rebuild their facility, help will likely come from abroad. Five million Americans have donated to Salesian missions around the world since inception. And their buildings have provided more than just classrooms. It was home to an orphanage and a youth center as well as trade shops. Before the quake, it was also part of the mission’s purpose to feed more than 25,000 children a day in Haiti.
The mission is still housing some 3,500 refugees in whatever buildings are left standing. However, many of the children cared for prior to the quake are now out on the streets, sleeping in cars or wherever they can find shelter, church leaders say.
Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, is traveling to Haiti, along with a photographer. Their goals are to boost morale and to create a strategic development plan for the future.
Pierre Jorcelium, a priest at the mission, says that the school will rise, as will all of Haiti.
But first comes the horrific task of finding the hundreds of students still buried in the rubble.
Edited by: Alex Presha