Mortel Foundation 15 Year Anniversary of Haiti SchoolsDelicious endless shrimp, pit beef and pit ham are on the menu March 5th, to celebrate a special kind of goodness that’s been happening in St. Marc, Haiti over the past fifteen years. Long known as one of the poorest countries in the world, the terrible problems faced by Haitians on a day-to-day basis were only increased by the catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010.

 

But there are bright spots to celebrate, and in St. Marc, several derive from a unique connection with Baltimore. Both cities are coastal towns, but in St. Marc–where cars are a luxury and nearly 100,000 people live without electricity, sewage, or clean water–a story that spans a decade and a half began with a family who could not afford $4 a month in rent for a mud hut.

Dr. Rodrigue Mortel became known as one of the world’s premier cancer surgeons, but as a child, he saw his family evicted from that hut, the meanest of human dwellings. His mother’s words were seared into his heart and mind. “This would not have happened if I had been educated,” she said. In that moment, the boy Rodrigue vowed to get enough education to make certain his mother would have a home to call her own.

Rodrigue Mortel knows the value of education. He fought overwhelming odds to gain a medical degree in Haiti, followed by graduate study in Montreal. He trained at Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia, and sub-specialized in gynecologic oncology at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The recipient of numerous awards, Dr. Mortel was a founding director of The Penn State University Cancer Center. He served Congressional committees, advised the National Cancer Institute for 21 years, has published numerous articles and books, and has received some of the highest honors our country can bestow.

Retirement held little rest for a man who had learned the ability to help improve the lives of others. Dr. Mortel is now a permanent deacon in the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, and in that capacity he continues working to help others in Haiti. The Mortel Family Charitable Foundation and High Hopes for Haiti.org partner with the Archdiocese to connect the community of Baltimore with men, women and children in Haiti who want to work their way out of poverty through education, that precious tool that Dr. Mortel’s mother so desperately lacked. Across the past fifteen years, the Foundation and the Archdiocese have created a preschool, an elementary school, a secondary school serving over 400 students annually, and an adult literacy program, in the belief that “empowering people with education is the most effective means to achieve a self-sufficient and productive life.”

To celebrate their milestone, the Foundation will be hosting several events in 2016, including a March 5th Bull & Shrimp Roast, a Spring Fashion Show, a 5K Race and their Annual Gala of Hope scheduled for October.

It’s not magic, just basic human goodness that’s destined to keep giving hope to the people of St. Marc, and sharing the goodness of that hope with the generous hearts of those here in Baltimore.