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Christmas Madonna - Haiti

Christmas Madonna - Haiti by Lewis Williams, OFS

Artist Narrative:

Christ; Our Light in the Darkness
A portion of one of Mother Teresa’s favorite prayers by John Henry Newman.

“Dear Lord: Help me to spread your fragrance wherever I go. Flood my soul with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that my life may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only you, O Lord! …to be a light to others. The light, O Lord, will be all from you; none of it will be mine; it will be you shining on others through me.”

Image of a mother and son in a village near Gonaives, Haiti, supported by programs of Hands Together Haiti, an incredible non- profit run by Fr. Tom Hagen O.S.F.S. and Doug Campbell.

Art Collection: 
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Hands Together was founded by Fr. Tom Hagan after he led a group of Lafayette College students to Haiti and was compelled to respond to the needs of the poor there. He left his post as Catholic Chaplain to Princeton University and moved to Port-au-Prince in 1997.

 

Since then, Hands Together has emerged as a key educational and development organization working in Haiti's largest and poorest slum, Cite Soleil. We have built free schools where there were none and provided every student with a daily hot meal. We have 8 campuses, including a high school, as well as a free clinic and an elderly outreach and housing program. We are one of Cite Soleil's largest employers, giving decent, service-oriented jobs to hundreds of residents.

 

Our programs outside of Port-au-Prince promote human development among the rural poor through water well digging, promoting agricultural and production, and assisting the poorest schools, clinics, and parishes in the northern dioceses of Gonaives and Fort-Liberte.

Hands Together provides hope to the poor living in Haiti. Our work is founded upon the Catholic teaching that recognizes the dignity of every human life and a fundamental responsibility to the poor and vulnerable.

 

Mission

Hands Together is a nonprofit organization devoted to educating, inspiring, and encouraging people to understand the importance of responding to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged. Our Mission, as we strive to build a more compassionate and human world, proceeds from the spiritual belief that we are all members of one, equal, interconnected family under a loving God.

 

Focus - "responding to the cry of the poor"

Hands Together grew out of Fr. Tom Hagan's wish that college students and others hear "the cry of the poor" and "see the face of Jesus" in people living in the slums and rural areas in Haiti. Our projects rest upon a foundation of Catholic social teaching that recognizes the dignity of every person and the fundamental option for the poor and vulnerable. We embrace, with a special love, people who are completely marginalized and are living in squalor.

 

Service

By establishing schools, orphanages, nutrition and feeding programs, medical clinics, sustainable-development projects, and by establishing partnerships with local leaders and communities, Hands Together is building a better world for thousands of suffering people in Haiti. Hands Together volunteers bring needed skills to many of our educational, health and sustainable-development projects.

 

Message From Fr. Tom Hagen - Founder

Many years have passed since my first trip to Haiti in 1985. It's with warm fondness and lasting satisfaction that I remember the handful of enthusiastic young students who organized efforts to help two dozen people suffering from leprosy in Gonaives, Haiti. I thank God for the wonderful, caring people that joined me in doing something for this great world of ours - joining "hands together" and discovering the joy that comes from helping others.

 

Much has been accomplished since our incorporation in 1989 and I am extremely proud of all the dedicated people who have participated in Hands Together's efforts to build a more compassionate and human world. There seems to be an urgency now more than ever to offer challenges and give meaning to our young people's lives. We must be willing to teach that we are all linked together; our only lasting bond is the bond of love. We must be willing to join hands with the poorest of the poor and work together to overcome all kinds of bigotry and hatred. Our spirit should be one of continual joy and optimism - knowing that we are indeed loved by God and through grace and prayer we are drawing closer to him as time passes. In the words of the prophet Micah we are required "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to talk humbly with your God."

 

Our mission, first and foremost is that each of us be a loving teacher and humble student. We provide learning experiences that urge people to discover beauty in every culture and truth in every human encounter so that bridges are built and linkages among people strengthened. We spiritualize our involvement with Hands Together. We dedicate ourselves to God and to serving the least of our brothers and sisters. We continually respect this great earth and all of its people.

 

May God bless you,

Father Tom Hagan, O.S.F.S.

 

Message From Doug Campbell - Executive Director

In 1986 a handful of students from Lafayette College returned home from a Haiti trip led by Fr. Tom Hagan, OSFS, our Catholic Chaplain. I was one of those students and I never could have guessed that the experience would impact my life so profoundly. Fr. Tom Hagan helped me, and many other young people at Lafayette, see more clearly our responsibility to serve others. He taught us that true joy and real satisfaction come when one gives of himself. Fr. Tom encouraged me and many of my fellow students to "strive to see Jesus in every human face." These simple teachings were the beginning of what would become Hands Together.

 

Hands Together is first a fellowship of people working to build a better world, and second, a program of interconnected outreach activities designed to help the poorest of the poor. The ministry of Hands Together is best described by Bishop Ken Untener who wrote

 

We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.

We recognize that the results of our work are ultimately in God's hands. This dependence upon God has transformed this small student-based group into a program helping thousands of families in the poorest areas of Haiti. Please continue to pray for us that we may continue to hear the cry of the poor and, through God's grace, help those are suffering.

 

Our Vision

We hope that members of Hands Together work passionately to build a more compassionate and human world; that Hands Together's workers will be known for their tenderness and mercy, especially toward the poor; that people will visit our projects and experience the beauty and goodness of the people they encounter; that our volunteers will assess the needs of their own communities with a renewed sense of compassion, and search for ways to respond respectfully to help others; that the families who live in Haiti's desert villages will be healthy, that the people in the slums of Port-au-Prince will drink clean water; that everyone in Haiti will have access to education; that in the poorest communities, Hands Together helps people use their resources so that they become free and live dignified lives; and we hope that the people of Haiti will be able to build a strong community with their friends from Hands Together and exchange ideas in order to improve their quality of life.