Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Sustain Women and Children in Haitian Slum

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur operate an education center in the midst of the largest slum in the southern Haitian city of Les Cayes. Hundreds of women and children receive a rudimentary education and food supplies along with other services.
Oct. 23, 2012 - PRLog -- ‘La Savane,’ the largest slum in the southern Haitian city of Les Cayes, is home to thousands of impoverished women and children. To address some of their immediate needs, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur established the Notre Dame Family Education Center within the slum’s sprawling borders. Primarily, the Center offers job skills training as well as basic adult literacy classes and an after-school program for children, but it also serves as a food distribution center and part-time health clinic. These services are increasingly important, as impoverished residents of earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince continue to seek refuge in the south two years after the massive earthquake.

“The people in the ‘La Savane’ slum come to us ‘naked,’” said Sister Jeannette Pierre-Louis, Executive Director of the Center. “And by ‘naked,’ I don’t mean without clothes. I mean without any safety net whatsoever. We call that being ‘naked.’”

Sister Jeannette, who was born in Haiti, opened the Notre Dame Family Education Center in January 2009. Sister Janelle Sevier and she conducted an in-depth assessment of the types of programs and services that the people of ‘La Savane’ requested and required most.

“As Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, we try never to second-guess what the needs of a community are,” said the Congregation’s Director of Mission Support Sister Leonore Coan. “Our work is not about imposing our ideas or Catholic faith on others. It’s about working out of our own faith to stand in solidarity with others.”

In the case of ‘La Savane,’ the Bishop of the Diocese of Les Cayes asked the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to establish a ministry for the people of the slum. What that ministry looks like today was determined by the people who showed up at the Sisters’ door: women and children in need of a rudimentary education and basic health and nutrition services.  As of this date, 100 women and their 552 children frequent the Notre Dame Family Education Center for a variety of services and regular food distribution.

“We give the people what feeds their families and their bodies, but also their self-worth,” said Sister Jeannette. “There is nothing more valuable than acquiring a solid job skill and knowing how to read and write.  It’s called empowerment – something that’s in short supply for the impoverished women and children of Haiti.”

To read more in-depth stories of the Sisters’ work in ‘La Savane’ slum, visit

Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are an international Congregation of women religious, founded by St. Julie Billiart (1751-1816) in Amiens, France in 1804.  The Congregation is committed to making known God’s goodness through education in a variety of ministries. Sisters serve on five continents: Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America, and work to change lives by a “fundamental commitment to stand with our sisters and brothers who live in poverty and accompany them in their struggle.” Offices/centers are located in Rome, ITALY, Namur, BELGIUM and Ipswich, MA, USA.  Visit our web site at:
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