Families Celebrate in Haiti

Author Portrait_Yamileh Théodore, Sponsorship Servicing Coordinator
Yamileh Théodore

Sponsorship Servicing Coordinator

Save the Children in Haiti

January 26, 2018

Two hours north of Port-au-Prince is a community rich in colorful culture and history. Dessalines, the hometown of the founder of this nation, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and also named after him, is an interesting place with a historical past and many forts. At these forts, the locals can be seen gathering during certain times of the year, paying tribute, holding voodoo ceremonies and feasting in honor of their patron saints.

Families gathering for mass at the Saint Claire Catholic church.
Families gathering for mass at the Saint Claire Catholic church.

The annual Patron Saint Claire is one of the biggest celebrations in Dessalines and is funded by the mayor, the department senator’s office and other local businesses. The Saint Claire celebrations are held every August 11, and are traditionally considered mostly a festival for socializing. For example, many go to church, share in a family meal and perhaps watch a soccer game together or gather in parks and streets to listen to local bands play kompa music – a type of lively dance music similar to méringue. However, some residents, depending on their beliefs, will wake up at the crack of dawn to go the mass at the Saint Claire Catholic church. These church goers dress in all white and carry a lit candle in a procession, and pray and sing for hours, until the sun comes up.

Alternatively, the voodoo believers have a more colorful and animated ceremony at “la source imperial”, a natural spring, where they dance to the rhythm of drums and sing and clap. Their outfits are a mix of colors from the Haitian flag – blue, red and white – or other vibrant colors with many layers of fabric that helps the dress to swirl and flow when dancing and twirling.

One of the many historic forts in Dessalines.
One of the many historic forts in Dessalines.

To mark the festival this year, Save the Children participated in its own way. With support from our sponsorship teams, we spent two full days taking advantage of the massive gathering of people, speaking with children, teens and adults, to raise awareness on good hygiene practices, nutrition skills and sexual and reproductive health. After the awareness campaigns, we organized quiz-style competitions in which the winners competed for prizes such as hand soap, hygiene kits with soap and chlorine tablets to clean water, backpacks and dictionaries. A stand was even built for condom distribution and HIV testing, in collaboration with local partners like the Claire Heureuse Hospital and the UAS, or Unité d’Arrondissement de Santé Unit Health Department.

How do you celebrate with your family during special times of the year? Do you sing or dance together, like they do in Haiti? Consider writing a letter to tell your sponsored child about how you celebrate holidays. You may find you have more in common than you think!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

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