Worth Every Penny: Blessed Sacrament students raising money to help protect sister school in Haiti

Haiti school

Students at St. Antoine School in Lavanneau, Haiti, play kickball in the schoolyard. Students at Blessed Sacrament School in Quincy are raising money to help pay for a $30,000 fence around the school to protect the students. | Photo courtesy of Kailee Flesch

QUINCY — Members and school children at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy pray daily for people in St. Antoine Parish in Lavanneau, Haiti, which is about three hours from the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Other options for Blessed Sacrament to assist its sister parish, however, are dwindling.

Students at Blessed Sacrament School are determined to help during Lent — a period of preparation to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection at Easter — with a school-wide penny war.

“We’ve been talking a lot about Haiti lately at church, and the kids have heard this conversation. It has really kind of opened their eyes,” said Joe Bordewick, chair of the Haiti Committee at Blessed Sacrament. “The kids are like, ‘Gosh, we can’t even believe that this is what school or what life is like for these kids who are just like us.’ These kids can’t go to school safely, and we’re in a different place here.”

The United Nations recently reported more than 2,300 people were killed, injured or kidnapped in Haiti from October to December last year. St. Antoine Parish officials want to build a $30,000 fence around the school to protect students. Blessed Sacrament wants to help with the cost. 

Heather Friday, a fourth-grade teacher at Blessed Sacrament, came up with the idea of the penny war. Students bring to school pennies on Mondays, nickels on Tuesdays, dimes on Wednesdays, quarters on Thursdays and bills on Fridays.

“They’ve made a big chart on the wall in the hallway (of the school) to keep track of how much (money) each class has raised,” Bordewick said. “The kids are doing extra chores to earn money, going through the couch cushions … it’s really taken off. It sounds like they’ve already raised a couple thousand bucks.”

More than 15,000 people have been forced from their homes in Port-au-Prince since the end of February, joining the more than 300,000 people displaced countrywide in recent years. Hunger is at critical levels and primed to get much worse, according to the World Food Programme, which said more than a million people could face famine and starvation.

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti said earlier this month that U.S. citizens in Haiti should leave as soon as possible in light of the security situation. Ariel Henry took over as prime minister and president following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, but Henry resigned in March 2024 after weeks of mounting pressure and increasing gang violence. 

Churchgoers stand outside St. Antoine Parish in Lavanneau, Haiti. | Photo courtesy of Kailee Flesch

Blessed Sacrament, the sister parish for St. Antoine, had routinely sent parish members on missions to Haiti for nearly three decades. However, COVID and the political unrest have prevented that from happening lately.

“We send chat messages and talk with them about some of the pressures there on a pretty regular basis,” Bordewick said. “We try to encourage them and remind them that we’re praying for them and we’re doing everything we can here to try to help relieve their suffering. They really appreciate that. 

“But it’s amazing because they’re always praying for us, even though they struggle so much. Recently a young lady over there told me that sometimes it feels like God has forgotten about them. (She said) sometimes it feels like they’re not even humans anymore because of some of the things they have to deal with and the way they’re having to live right now.”

Blessed Sacrament takes up a collection on the first Sunday of each month to send to the church and school, as well as a clinic it helped establish years ago. Bordewick also said a spaghetti supper and a trivia night will be offered to help raise funds for the fence at St. Antoine. Anyone who wants to contribute to Blessed Sacrament’s efforts to help in Haiti should contact the school office at 217-228-1477 or the parish office at 217-222-2759.

Bordewick says it’s heartwarming to see the students get involved.

“There’s an eighth grader who has gone door to door canvassing the neighborhood, and I think she’s collected like $500,” he said. “Several kids have really taken it to heart and are out there trying to make a difference. That’s incredible.

“Sometimes we question what our kids are learning at school today. These kids at Blessed Sacrament are learning exactly what we want them to learn.”

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