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Dyersville parishioners cling to faith that, someday, they’ll return to help out in Haiti

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 10:38 PM CDT
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DYERSVILLE, Iowa (KCRG) - Joan Steger and Cookie Scherrman have many fond memories of their time in Haiti.

As part of the Spires of Faith cluster, they have traveled to the country in the Caribbean many times to help those who need it the most.

“Our main vision at the beginning was catholic education, to keep the school going and also catechesis, which would be helping support the parish there,” Scherrman said.

“And then as we kept going,” Steger continued. “We found there were more physical needs that needed to be met as well.”

The group started a system to try to get drinkable water for Haitians in the mountain region, started a medical clinic that treats people in the area, and collected money for a bank branch, among other things. Steger explained the goal is to make the residents of the area self-sufficient. They said the experience of getting them to that point has touched them tremendously.

“It is the most uplifting thing I do because I see hope,” Steger added. “Our mission is not down there; our mission is when we come back here and we spread that word. The people of Haiti have become our friends.”

The parishioners have not been back to Haiti since 2019. The main reason behind that, they explained, is safety concerns.

“The people that help us down there told us it is just too dangerous,” Scherrman said. “The parish would be fine, but we would have to fly into Port-au-Prince. The airport is a very scary place sometimes; even in normal times the airport is a little scary coming out.”

The political unrest had gotten so bad that you just did not know what you were going to get into when you went there. We take high school students with us a lot of times and we take that very serious when we tell their parents we are going to keep them safe and it was not safe.

Joan Steger, parishioner

This comes after the leader of a Haitian gang who police say is holding 17 missionaries from the United States and Canada hostage is now threatening to kill them if he does not get what he is demanding. He is asking for $1 million per kidnapped missionary.

Scherrman and Steger said the news of the kidnapping rocked them.

“First thing I did was pray because it could be anybody at any time and it is sad to watch what this has come to,” Steger said.

“You worry for everybody that you knew down there because it eventually affects everybody,” Scherrman added.

UNICEF said 71 women and 30 children have been kidnapped in 2021 so far in Haiti, which, overall, is up from 59 women and 37 children in 2020.

The parishioners said going back to that place they love now is not possible, so they are holding on tight to the hope that, sometime soon, they will be able to reconnect with their extended family.

”I always say I am going back someday,” Steger said. “I just do not know when I am going back.”

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