My name is Patrick O’Neill and I am the Chairperson of Soley Haiti, an NGO I co-founded in 2018. Fr. Tony was one of my closest friends and I, along with so many of you, witnessed the inspirational courage with which Tony lived his life with Motor Neuron Disease until he passed away in August 2019.
Tony’s work reached some of those most in need all around Ireland, but equally it has made an incredible difference to the most vulnerable in society all around the world. Those of us who were blessed to call ourselves friends of Tony know the extremely special place Haiti and its people held in his heart.
During the months of lockdown post March 2020 and as we approached Tony’s first anniversary in August 2020, I found myself thinking of Tony more than ever. I began to think more and more that the best way we as a charity could honour Tony, his memory and his work, was a project in Haiti in his name.
What we want to do is build a ‘Fr. Tony wing’ of four additional classrooms in a local school in which Tony worked, L’Ekol Jezi Mari’ – the Jesus & Mary School. Poverty is at its most extreme in rural communities in Haiti. The school is located in a community called Fon Ibo which is in an isolated part of the village of Gros Morne, which in itself in an isolated rural village in the North West of Haiti.
Currently the school can only accommodate students up to 6th Grade (6th class in the Irish system). Fewer than 30% of children in Haiti reach the 6th grade, with secondary schools enrolling fewer than 20% of eligible age children.
The ‘Fr. Tony wing’ will allow for the first time in the Fon Ibo community for children to complete 7th, 8th and 9th grade. It will also help to alleviate the pressure in terms of numbers and space as it currently stands in the school – for example 1st grade currently has 102 students enrolled. The objective is for the project to be completed in the summer months of 2021.
We would be incredibly grateful for any support you can give to this project by either 1) Donating whatever you can on the ‘Fr. Tony Haiti Memorial Project’ page on the parish website 2) Sharing the page on your social media, whatsapp groups etc or 3) Both.
Please be assured that in doing so you are truly changing the lives of the most vulnerable in Haitian society and allowing them access to their best possible chance of a better future for themselves – a chance that exists through education. I can think of no better way that we could all honour Fr. Tony and ensure his legacy and name lives on in the hearts and minds of the Haitian people for generations to come.