Deacon and family reunited in Haiti to assist cleanup, aid efforts

The Haitian Project, earthquake, Haiti, Catholic Relief Services, Louverture Cleary School, Port-au-Prince

The Haitian Project, earthquake, Haiti, Catholic Relief Services, Louverture Cleary School, Port-au-PrinceSENECA—A South Carolina family that was separated following the devastating earthquake in Haiti was reunited last week.

Deacon Patrick Moynihan, president of The Haitian Project, left his family about three weeks ago to lead recovery efforts at the organization’s Louverture Cleary School near Port-au-Prince. Parts of the school were damaged in the Jan. 12 earthquake that has killed thousands in and around Port-au-Prince, and has left millions homeless.

The school is a Catholic mission that offers a tuition-free, Catholic secondary education to more than 350 economically under-privileged Haitian children.

Elizabeth O’Connell, director of community development for The Haitian Project, said last week that Deacon Moynihan’s wife, Christina, and their children — Robert, Mikhalia, Timothy and Marianna — had also returned to Haiti.

O’Connell said in an e-mail that the family had been in the United States for Christmas break and were preparing for their return when the earthquake hit.

They have a home in Oconee County where Deacon Moynihan serves three parishes: St. Andrew Church in Clemson, St. Paul the Apostle Mission in Seneca and St. Francis Mission in Walhalla. The family has lived off and on in Haiti since the deacon first became director of The Haitian Project in the mid-1990s.

O’Connell said Mrs. Moynihan has resumed her service in the neighborhoods surrounding the school, an area that suffered extensive damage from the quake. She is working with mothers and their children, O’Connell said.

“The four Moynihan teens bring not only the sense of family and family values to the [school] community, but they also offer a significant amount of support and add to the school’s spirit,” she said.

 O’Connell added that more than half of the student body has returned to the campus and cleanup of the facility continues.

“We have also started interviewing staff about their families and immediate needs,” she said.

The staff has also begun dispensing direct aid for housing, medical needs, funerals and “getting people back to business,” she added.

A number of small markets in the neighborhood outside the school were damaged in the earthquake.

“With Christina back, direct aid to the neighborhood will increase exponentially,” O’Connell said.

Deacon Moynihan said last week that nine Louverture Cleary graduates and staff members have died as a result of injuries suffered in the quake.

He said life is slowly improving in Port-au-Prince.

“I spend a lot of time on the roads, traveling by both private and public transit,” he said. “People are moving.”

Deacon Moynihan said commerce is also returning to normal in the city.

“A box of frozen chicken is priced just as it should be, given the change in exchange rate,” he said. “And, we can buy the amount we need at the normal location.”

School cleanup last week included the removal of a cracked concrete exterior wall, he said, and some corrugated roofing used as a temporary fence on the campus will be put to permanent use to roof a house in the neighborhood.

On a lighter note, the deacon said members of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne, who are providing security in Port-au-Prince, plan to stop by the school every week for a friendly game of basketball with the school students and staff.

In the inaugural game last week, they defeated the soldiers 38-15.

See related article on Catholic schools around South Carolina organizing and donating to help Haitian relief.