Founded in 1945 by Sister Joan, a physical therapist and member of the Society of Saint Margaret, Saint Vincent’s Centre for Handicapped Children (SVC) is one of more than 250 institutions operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti. Unique among all the valuable ministries in the diocese, Saint Vincent’s is the only one providing academic, clinical, and residential services for blind, deaf, and physically disabled children and adults. At Saint Vincent’s, students learn to work with their disabilities while also studying reading, writing, history, geography, mathematics, English, art, and music.
The purpose of SVC is “to provide children with disabilities in Haiti special opportunities, support and resources to learn, grow and reach their full potential in their young life’s journey toward adulthood.” In addition to operating as both a day and residential school, SVC offers a variety of medical services to its students and the surrounding community. Services offered include pediatrics, orthopedics, and physical therapy, as well as resources for those with hearing and/ or vision-related conditions. Prosthetic services are provided by a brace shop located on the Centre grounds.
In October 2016, Saint Vincent’s Centre had 343 students and residents. Over 100 caring individuals serve as teachers, administrators, physicians, physical therapists, nurses, technicians, cooks, caretakers, and maintenance staff. It currently has an annual operating budget of $325,000. While Saint Vincent’s can serve only a small number of the estimated 500,000 disabled people in the country, it strives to create a model of care and education for others to replicate.
The powerful earthquake of January 12, 2010 took the lives of seven students and three staff members. It also destroyed most of the SVC complex – classrooms, dormitories, clinics, and administrative space. In the aftermath, the academic, administrative and residential facilities were relocated to a nearby site, and temporary structures were built to provide additional classrooms. The medical clinic and brace shop remained at the original site and were renovated and expanded in 2012. Since that time, these two sites have continued to serve as the primary locations of the Saint Vincent’s Centre.
In the fall of 2015, generous gifts from Dr. Mary White, Episcopal Relief and Development, and the Episcopal Church were used to purchase new property for future development. Referred to as “Santo 17”, the seven-acre site is located in a suburb northeast of Port-au-Prince. Surrounded by a security wall, the new property includes a large house which can be converted into a residence hall, fruit trees, and farmable land. It also includes a swimming pool which can be adapted for physical therapy.
Also in the fall of 2015, The Episcopal Church USA and the Rt. Rev. Jean-Zaché Duracin (Bishop of the Diocese Haiti) called for the formation of a new governing board to support the work of the Centre. The SVC Board of Directors (which includes members from both Haiti and the United States) is responsible for creating a strategic plan, setting policies, and providing oversight of all daily and long-term activities of of SVC.
In June 2016, the SVC Board of Directors voted to proceed with renovations to the Santo 17 site. Construction plans include housing for residential students, kitchen facilities, classrooms, and administrative offices. Andy Ripp from MSAADA Architects estimates that students will be able to relocate within the next several months. The brace shop and clinic will continue in their current location downtown. A fundraising goal of $400,000 has been set to cover the cost of renovation, construction, equipment and furnishings at the new facility.
As of September 1, 2016, the SVC Board of Directors has received commitments totaling $200,000 from both Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) and the Children’s Medical Mission of Haiti (CMMH). These gifts will be used for renovation and development of the new site, and we are extremely grateful for their partnership. Additional donors are currently being sought to help cover the remaining expenses.
How You Can Help
Many students and clinic patients are unable to pay for the services they receive at Saint Vincent’s Centre, so we depend heavily on the generosity of others to help us fulfill our mission. Ongoing financial support is needed to help provide food, water, classroom supplies, transportation, salaries, utilities, medicines and other items. Visionary donors are also needed to invest in the Centre’s future development. In addition to construction costs, funds are needed for relocation expenses, furniture, supplies and other items to help the community establish a new home.
Please consider making a one-time or regular gift on behalf of your household, business or organization. If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Jennifer Wickham, the Development Coordinator for Saint Vincent’s Centre. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please send your tax-deductible donation to:
925 Hertzler Road
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055
You may also make an online donation by clicking on the “Donate” tab at
In a memorandum of understanding with the Saint Vincent’s Centre’s Board of Directors, the Children’s Medical Mission of Haiti (a 501(c)(3) charitable organization) has agreed to function as the fiscal agent for SVC. All donations received for the benefit of SVC are tax-deductible, and gift acknowledgements will be provided by CMMH. Funds sent to SVC by CMMH go directly to the Centre’s bank account in Port-au-Prince and are used to pay salaries, buy food, electricity, and cover other operating expenses. Both CMMH and the SVC Board of Directors receive regular financial reports from the Centre detailing funds received and payments made.