Dear St. John’s community,
As you know, St. John’s has been supporting sister church and school St. Philippe-St. Jacques for many years through the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti Partnership Program. This support provides teacher salaries so that local children can receive free education, which would not otherwise be possible. Participating U.S. Episcopal churches send funds to the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti Partnership Program, which collects a 10% fee to support administering the program and then forwards the remaining money to the relevant church / school. However, we recently became aware of a report issued on Oct. 14, 2022 by a Haiti-based nongovernment organization known as the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) which alleged that the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti misused its customs exemptions to smuggle weapons, ammunition and other illicit objects through shipments to the church. Several people were arrested, including the diocesan executive secretary of EDH. Since then, searches, arrests, and summons have been carried out. RNDDH is demanding a full investigation into the matter.
At the October Justice & Service committee meeting we discussed this report to determine any possible impact on our fundraising and donations to the teachers in Haiti. At this time, we have no reason to believe any of our donations have been misdirected or that we cannot continue to provide support to Haiti. However, we felt it prudent to keep you informed of what we have learned and what we are doing to mitigate risks.
The past several weeks have enabled Lisa, the Wardens, our Treasurer Kathy Schweikart, and the Justice & Service Committee to work with St. John’s Haiti ministry leader Dianne Pizey to gain more information about the context of the allegations, and to clarify whether our donating procedures follow the Haiti Partnership Program Guidelines. These Guidelines set forth a process for all Episcopal churches to provide financial support to Haiti in a way that ensures transparency and increased security.
To the best of our knowledge, none of the money provided by St. John’s has gone astray. We have no current reason to believe the work we support has been compromised by the allegations. In addition, we believe the Partnership Program is being run as efficiently as it can be under the circumstances, and we plan to continue to support the teachers financially. Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s office believes that the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti is taking appropriate measures to address all concerns related to these allegations. Our Senior Warden Mark Lindberg has also talked to the EVP of Episcopal Relief and Development, who provided helpful guidance on revamping our procedures and comparing them to what other churches are doing.
In an abundance of caution, we are making a few adjustments to our process, including now wiring our funds instead of sending checks, and increasing the number of persons at St John’s to whom documentation is sent confirming receipt and use of funds. We believe these steps, along with the several others set forth in the partnership agreement, will increase transparency and reduce the onus on reporting from just one person at St. John’s. In addition, Dianne Pizey’s knowledge of the personnel involved will help provide practical checks and balances from time to time, and we are grateful for her ongoing engagement in these efforts. Looking ahead, we plan to continue sending financial support in the near future. St. John’s sent a check for $2500 to St. Philippe and St. Jacques in September, of which they received the customary 90% after the administrative fee to the Haiti Partnership Program. When school is in session under normal circumstances, we have sent $22,000 per year to support the program, and had hoped to increase that to $25,000 this year to add an additional school year grade.
Haiti is troubled by political and economic instability right now, and we cannot guarantee there won’t be an issue with EDH in the future, or that there will be a resolution to the current allegations. We will continue to monitor news from Haiti as best we can. In the meantime, our plans are to continue the efforts begun in 2007, to support education in our sister parish, and to support the teachers who seek to make Haiti a better place through their work. The children whose education we are supporting continue to need us, and we are doing our utmost to continue that support in ways that are faithful, prudent, generous, safe, and transparent to supporters of the Haiti Partnership.
Please reach out to any of us if you have any questions or concerns about the situation in Haiti, or our approach as outlined above.
Lisa, Mark, Kathy, Steve and Dianne