Update on Haiti

Update on Haiti 421 421 SVDP USA
By Pam Matambanadzo,
International Territorial Vice President – America 1

We have been receiving calls seeking some guidance on the situation in Haiti. Vincentians want to know if they can send funds to help. It is difficult to answer this without first giving some background to fully understand the magnitude of the reality on the ground.

Earthquakes and Hurricanes

Haiti has a tragic history of devastating earthquakes and hurricanes. The 2010 earthquake, in particular, left thousands dead, injured, and displaced. The country’s infrastructure was severely damaged, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities.

Hurricanes, such as Hurricane Matthew in 2016, have repeatedly battered Haiti, causing loss of life, destruction of homes, and disruptions to essential services.

Cholera Epidemic

In 2010, shortly after the earthquake, Haiti faced a cholera outbreak. The disease spread rapidly due to inadequate sanitation and limited access to clean water. Thousands lost their lives, and the healthcare system struggled to cope.

COVID-19 Pandemic

Like the rest of the world, Haiti grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic. The fragile healthcare infrastructure faced immense challenges in testing, treatment, and containment.

The pandemic exacerbated existing vulnerabilities, impacting livelihoods, education, and overall well-being.

Gang Violence: The Current Crisis

While natural disasters and epidemics have caused immense suffering, the gang-related issues in Haiti pose a unique and immediate threat.

Gangs control neighborhoods, extort businesses, and perpetrate violence. They hinder humanitarian aid distribution, making it difficult for organizations like SVdP USA to reach those in need. Violent gangs roam the streets, perpetuating fear and violence. They control local resources, including food distribution points. Civilians face danger while trying to secure basic necessities.

Unlike natural disasters, which eventually subside, gang violence persists, creating an ongoing cycle of fear, instability, and suffering. Residents fear for their lives, so they are forced to stay at home. Schools and businesses are closing.

Absence of Government

Haiti’s political instability has led to an ineffective government. The absence of governance has resulted in chaos, impacting essential services. Food distribution, security, and public safety are compromised. And this in turn led the US Embassy in Haiti to take precautionary measures, urging citizens to leave the island due to safety concerns. This closure disrupts communication channels and assistance for organizations like ours.

Haiti’s banking system faces uncertainty. SVdP must navigate this challenging financial landscape to manage funds transparently and ensure donations reach those in need. We need to reassure donors that we are fully considering the volatile situation. There is the uncomfortable reality that when we send aid to Haiti, it is unclear whether the funds are reaching those in need or whether have gangs infiltrated there (as they have done everything else).

We are asking for not only your patience as we try to find ways to work for the poor through these challenging times — but more importantly your prayers. We have had various twinning opportunities that have afforded us the ability to help where we can through all those natural disasters and the pandemic. Through these opportunities we have faced many challenges, but none has been more heartbreaking than watching from afar as we are having to do now. It is not watching in vain. Our team at the National Council office are working diligently to find solutions within extremely volatile conditions.

In summary, while Haiti has endured significant historical suffering due to natural calamities and health crises, the current gang-related situation presents a more dangerous and persistent challenge. Addressing gang violence is crucial for restoring safety, stability, and hope in this resilient nation.

Notes from Our Friends in Haiti

“Thank you for always being there on our side and for accompanying and encouraging us; it does us good. Yes, the situation in Haiti is very tense like never before… this period is really distressing for the poor who already have a precarious life and for us who must give them courage in proximity. In Tabarre – Fleuriot, the school has been closed for two weeks, and in Gonaïves, it has been closed since January 2024. The closure of daily activities and street movement is paralyzed due to insecurity and violence. It’s also sad because there is looting of big stores, and we can hardly find essential products. People who live day by day really face great difficulty, increasing misery and life’s movements. This is the picture I can give today of Haiti. For us believers who believe in the presence of God rich in grace and kindness, we hope that this situation will change. God, our strength, and grace, help us overcome this time of injustice with the peace of Christ our Savior, whom we will celebrate on Easter day. Thank you for your constant presence and support. Have a blessed Holy Week. Fraternally, Sr. Matilde fdlc”

– Sister Mathilde, who oversees two schools in Haiti, and her translated message was as follows

“Good morning! I apologize for the fact that it is you who is asking me about the chaotic situation that Haiti has been going through for years and is now worsening. It is very concerning now, and that’s why I didn’t have time to inform you about this situation of poverty and insecurity. What is the problem?

After the fall of the Duvaliers, the victims of the regime came with the uprooting of the Tonton Makout (supporters of the Duvalier regime), which consisted of freeing Haiti from this group. Since then, there has always been conflict between the people and the leaders. It is difficult for a president and his government to finish their term; there is always a coup or the president is forced to resign until in July 2021 President Jovenel was assassinated. It is total instability. All the country’s institutions are weakened. Criminal gangs are growing like rain. They evict the people, kidnap, and kill in the face of the government and the police. The people are left alone with no one to watch over them or defend them. The country has been like this for 2 years and 8 months, and now the criminal gangs are federating and are looking for those who will arm them and provide them with ammunition to oppress the people. This movement totally paralyzes all activities in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti.

All schools are closed. Those that can offer virtual classes are functioning, and those that cannot are waiting for everything to calm down to continue. Adelia Felix School is one of those waiting without knowing when, but we are in communication with our students. Dialoguing with them, it is evident that they have many problems because they cannot go to school, but a more serious problem arises which is “not being able to eat,” and later there will be more hunger in the country. That’s why I ask the donors of Adelia Felix School that if there are no possibilities to help our students with food. So, after this storm, we can relocate them for the reopening of classes.

 Today, it is true that there are economic problems everywhere, but in Port-au-Prince, it is worse because the people do not have the right to go out, meaning they are prisoners in their homes. Therefore, food assistance would greatly benefit our students and their parents. The school relies on you! God will reward you!”

– Raphael Verlux

National Council Welcomes International Twinning Coordinator

National Council Welcomes International Twinning Coordinator 400 400 SVDP USA

The National Council of the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul is excited to welcome the new International Twinning Coordinator, Valeria Vlasich.

Valeria will focus on managing the International Twinning program. She will continue to connect Conferences and Councils across the United States with Conferences in need in other countries.

Valeria is from Mexico City, Mexico. She attended Sacred Heart School and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Global Affairs from Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico.

Valeria has always been passionate about nonprofits and volunteering. She was very interested in diplomacy which drove her to take an internship at the Mexican Embassy in Budapest, Hungary.

“I think I’m most passionate about connecting cultures through service and building bridges to connect people instead of separation,” said Valeria. “I love the idea of community and support, and that’s the reason I’m especially excited about joining SVdP.”

She got married in February 2022 and currently lives in St. Louis with her husband.

If you would like to contact Valeria, she can be reached at (314) 576-3993 ext. 225 or by email at

03-18-2021 Letter From Our Servant Leaders

03-18-2021 Letter From Our Servant Leaders 600 685 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentian Friends,

Two weeks ago, I saw a couple hundred of you on my computer screen as I sat at my desk. We were at our National Council Midyear Meeting, and it was good to see the faces of so many friends. Thank you to all our National Council staff and the many presenters who made this a successful virtual gathering.

Once again, we made the best of the situation. The workshops were great, and our Board and National Council met, passed resolutions and started the process of creating our next strategic plan. Many who participated appreciated the opportunity to attend the meeting without having to travel, while many others felt the loss of personal contact. As we move back to holding our meetings in person, I hope that we can continue to find ways to maintain this element of virtual attendance.

It was great to have more than 250 people attend our meeting. I am very aware, however, that as the months pass, our Zoom calls reveal more and more faces I have never met. I find I may not know your interests – or what motivates and excites you. I also may not know what bothers or worries you. We can get our business done virtually, but a network of friends requires fuller presence.

I am very hopeful that soon we can start meeting again in person. Likewise, I look forward to a return to in-person mode for our Home Visits. In my talks at the Midyear Meeting, I strongly encouraged us to begin to prepare for this reopening. If you haven’t already begun to do so, I urge you to start planning for how to revitalize your Conferences. We need new members, and we need to attract people with diverse backgrounds. Talk with pastors and bishops to let them know that we have been active during the past year but that we need their support to renew the Society in the months ahead.

At the National Council we are beginning to develop our next strategic plan, and revitalization will be an important element of it. During coming weeks, you may see a survey requesting your input for our plan. Please respond. Especially after this period of isolation, we need to take the temperature of the organization to help figure out what can happen next.

As I work with the Society on the international level, I recognize how fortunate we are in the United States to have COVID-19 vaccines available to so many of us. Some of the International Board members with whom I serve have no vaccines available in their country and do not expect them for many months.  These countries and their councils of the Society are struggling, and I appreciate those of you who have accepted my encouragement to begin Twinning with our Conferences around the world.

In Wisconsin we had a week of nice, warm weather, but it snowed again yesterday. Spring is close, but it is not here. That reminds me that we cannot assume we are finished with this pandemic. So please be patient, and continue to be cautious and safe. I want to see you in the months and years ahead.

Serviens in spe,
Ralph Middlecamp
SVdP National President

International Twinning – How SVdP Reaches Across Borders

International Twinning – How SVdP Reaches Across Borders 940 788 SVDP USA

Back in 2019, 30 million people in North and South America lived in extreme poverty, which means they were trying to survive on less than $1.90 a day. Then came 2020. It is estimated that an additional four to five million people in North and South America will be forced into extreme poverty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Council of the United States, Society of St. Vincent de Paul is uniquely positioned to help our international brothers and sisters in need. We are not a social service agency or a top-heavy disaster organization – we are a global family. The heart of Vincentian service is the Home Visit, where we meet personally with our neighbors in need. We affirm the inherent dignity and worth of each human being and provide whatever help we can. This Vincentian spirit is the same, whether we are in St. Louis, Missouri; Houston, Texas; or Kingston, Jamaica.

Another core tenant of the Society is Twinning, which connects Councils and Conferences who have greater resources with Councils and Conferences who lack the means to carry out their works of charity. This can be done directly within the U.S. through Domestic Twinning; or the National Council also offers the opportunity to Twin Internationally.

Right now, we have over thirty aggregated Conferences and Councils in Central and South America waiting for a Twinning partner. These Vincentians provide basic necessities to people living in extreme poverty. The need is enormous, but their resources are scant. Due to the buying power of U.S. dollars, as little as $100 in Twinning contributions can make a huge difference in the services and care they can provide to their neighbors in need.

The Society’s network of charity reaches around the world. Talk to your Conference about partnering with a Conference in Central or South America. You may be able to give $100 each quarter; you may be able to give $500 every month. The amount and frequency are up to you!

To get started, download an International Twinning Application, and return it to the National Office. Elizabeth Martinez, the International Twinning Coordinator, will help you find a good match with an available Conference. If you have questions or want to learn more about International Twinning, email Elizabeth at or call (314) 576-3993, extension 225.

Middlecamp Appointed International Territorial Vice President

Middlecamp Appointed International Territorial Vice President 600 685 SVDP USA

SVdP National Council President Ralph Middlecamp has been appointed as the new International Vice President for Solidarity and Special Projects to the Council General International of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

In his new role, Middlecamp will oversee the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s international efforts in the following areas:

  • Twinning, a program connecting Conferences and Councils in developed countries with Conferences and Councils in areas lacking the means to conduct their works of charity.
  • CIAD (the Commission for International Aid and Development), which provides financial assistance to member national Councils who have had a disaster and are providing relief to the victims. CIAD also prioritizes and funds projects submitted by member countries for financial support via resources from member countries with the means to provide assistance.
  • Special Projects.

Says Middlecamp of the honor, “The programs that our Society operates in the United States have been recognized by our international leadership as models of effective service to people living in poverty. I will be privileged to work with our members throughout the world to bring support to their efforts to relieve suffering in their communities.”

“The Society globally shares its resources among its more than 150 national Councils to get help where it is most needed for disasters and development projects,” says USA National Council CEO Dave Barringer. “Ralph has long been a global citizen in his concern and actions on behalf of the poor. He is a great choice to oversee these cost-effective and efficiently-delivered efforts.”

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