Onè! Respe! — A traditional Haitian greeting.

Since 2008, the Episcopal churches of St. James in Minneapolis and Bonne Nouvelle in the mountain village of Bigonet, Haiti have worked in partnership with one another.
Together we work for the mutual transformation of lives in Minnesota and Bigonet.

Visits to one another’s communities are a center-point of our relationship. Minnesotans visiting Haiti stay with village families for 4-5 days at a time, not doing a project but being friends. Together we worship, visit classrooms, walk the mountain trails, call on families, cook, do dishes, and sit under the almond tree where we share stories of our communities and ourselves. Similarly, Haitian visits to Minnesota are two-week-long stays of mutual worship, education, service and play — activities that take our relationship to new levels of understanding and trust. The U.S. government’s restrictions on Haitian travel to the U.S. present significant challenges, but we remain committed to a schedule of even-numbered-year travel of Minnesotans to Haiti, odd-numbered year Haitians to Minnesota.

Over the years our partnership has expanded. Trinity Lutheran Church in Hovland Minnesota is now an intimate part of our relationship. So too are St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Anwatin Middle School in Minneapolis, and the Kenwood Retirement Community, also in Minneapolis.

Financial support for our partnership is many-faceted. St. James holds an annual Haiti Fund Drive. Trinity typically hosts a yearly community-wide fish supper. St. Mary’s and Anwatin and the Kenwood contribute through a variety of fund-raising activities: raffles, sales of Haitian art, luncheons and more.

Bonne Nouvelle’s leadership team determines the best use of partnership funds. Typically they use about $10,000 a year to help pay teacher salaries, enabling them to grow their enrollment from 200 to 300+ students, and to enlarge from pre-K through 6th grades in 2008 to through 9th grade by 2011.

Partnership funds have also led to creation of a vocational sewing class, a playground/soccer field, and a school library, plus purchase of school equipment and furnishings. Following massive destruction from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, a special Crowdrise campaign paid for emergency food relief and distribution of trees to re-establish Bigonet’s economic base.

To learn more about our partnership, please contact any member of St. James’ Haiti Committee:

Louise Robinson — larobinson303@gmail.com
Kurt Hall – Kurt.Hall@fiserve.com
Liz Athorn – lathorn01@gmail.com
Mary Heltsley — mkhelts38@gmail.com
Sue Maas – scomaas@earthlink.net
Karen Murdock – murdock1212@gmail.com
Ruth Anne Olson – olson248@gmail.com