St. Mary’s University President Thomas Mengler traveled to Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, July 15-21 as part of Catholic Relief Services’ Journey of Hope delegation.

Mengler visited Port au Prince, Les Cayes and Port Salut with five others, including J. Mark Brinkmoeller, the U.S. Agency for International Development‘s Director of the Center for Faith-Based Community Initiatives.

St. Mary’s graduate Michael Galligan-Stierle, Ph.D. (B.A. ’72), President and CEO of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, also traveled with the group, along with the Rev. Richard P. Salmi, S.J., President of Spring Hill College; Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Vice President of U.S. Operations for Catholic Relief Services; and Mary Hodem, CRS Regional Director.

Haiti was staggered by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake in 2010 and is still recovering. As many as 230,000 people were killed; 300,000 injured; and 1.2 million left homeless. Two years later, only half of the rubble has been removed.

“As Christians, we are called to deliver care and comfort to those in need,” Mengler said. “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to witness firsthand what Haitians endure and learn about how we can help. I hope to relay my experience to others and motivate them to act.”

The group lent support to relief programs such as the Community Resettlement and Recovery Program, a CRS project that helps neighborhoods rebuild, and Water Sanitation and Hygiene, a program that improves sanitation infrastructure in a country that has 500 cases of cholera a day. They also toured the reconstruction of St. Francois de Sales Hospital, which was devastated by the earthquake.

Mengler’s group also visited a health clinic to learn about a mothers’ infant health program and a community garden to assist an agriculture enterprise project, as well as a Commission for Catholic Education teacher-training session, the local watershed system and several small businesses.

Catholic Relief Services, founded in 1943, serves more than 100 million people in nearly 100 countries who suffer from poverty, hunger, drought, disease and emergencies. CRS has been in Haiti since 1954.

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