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Boro church, artist mount relief effort

Even though it has been a full year since the 7.0-magnitude earthquake ravaged Haiti, killed thousands of its residents and left more than a million homeless, a Whitestone artist said the nation of her birth is still reeling from the devastation.

“Port-au-Prince is completely covered in tents,” said Patrica Brintle, president of the nonprofit From Here to Haiti. “There doesn’t seem to be that much construction.”

Brintle and the members of her Catholic parish took the first small steps in getting Haiti back on its feet Saturday by collecting money for a school. Over the last few months, donations to the poor box at St. Luke’s Roman Catholic Church, at 1634 Clintonville St., have been going toward helping the impoverished people of Haiti.

Brintle, who was born and raised in the Caribbean country and has been an active member of the parish for years, asked the parish’s pastor, Monsignor John C. Tosi, for help with a project her group has been working on.

The students at the College St. Augustin, the parochial school of St. Anthoine l’Ermite in the diocese of Jeremie in Haiti, have had only one bathroom for its 650 students, priests and teachers. The unsanitary conditions are much worse for the students because of the growing outbreak of cholera in the nation, according to the president.

“Cholera is such a contagious sickness” said Brintle, who works as an artist and has donated some of her paintings to raise money for her native island. “For the kids, it’s difficult to make them wash their hands and with one bathroom for 650 kids, you can imagine how contagious it will get.”

From Here to Haiti, which has been working to restore churches and other buildings owned by the Catholic church, was able to work with contractors in Haiti to come up with a suitable plan for the school. Their project involved the construction of modern bathroom stalls: three for the girls, two for the boys and one for instructors.

The last hurdle was the $5,560 cost for the bathrooms, but Brintle said she knew Tosi and the church would help out. The parish has given money collected in its poor box over the last year to Haiti relief efforts and donated church materials such as stations of the cross to parishes in Haiti.

When Brintle approached him about the new project, the pastor said he and many generous parishioners did not hesitate to chip in. The majority of the donations came from two families from the church, according to Tosi.

“They are people who want to help other people. They understand the need,” Tosi said during a special ceremony Saturday at the church’s rectory where he gave the check to Brintle.

This is not the end of the church’s efforts, according to the president. Her next project involves repair and restoration of the cistern and well at St. Helene in Jeremie, Haiti.

The people of that town have not had clean water for months and have to travel far to other towns for it, according to Brintle.

Tosi said his church will continue to assist the organization with more poor box donations.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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