It began in 1983 with a Walk for Hunger at the poorest parish in a working-class section of Quincy, Massachusetts. The parishioners of St. Boniface decided to donate half the money they raised in the walk to the poor of Quincy and the other half to Mother Theresa’s newly-opened Home for Children in Port-au-Prince. They were told their money would be graciously accepted under one condition: That they hand-deliver it to Haiti themselves.
And they did. After the trip, the group, led by Father Jerry Osterman and parishioner Nannette Canniff, made a commitment to continue fundraising for Haiti. Eventually, they traveled to the remote village of Fond-des-Blancs in the mountains of southern Haiti where they were impressed with the hospitality and resiliency of a community suffering in extreme poverty. After meeting with community members and learning about what they needed most, the group decided to build a school and the turned its focus to healthcare, with the construction of a small clinic. Led by president Nannette Canniff, the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation officially incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 1989. The 20-bed St. Boniface Hospital opened in 1992 and has since expanded into a 124-bed full service hosptial facility.
The St. Boniface Haiti Foundation has grown into a non-governmental and non-sectarian organization drawing support from donors and partners at the national and international level with over 200 employees in the U.S. and Haiti serving more than 100,000 patients and thousands of community members in southern Haiti every year. Since 2014 the number of patients seen by SBHF has increased by 50% each year, driven solely by word of mouth and a guarantee of quality healthcare.
Following the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, at the request of the Haitian Ministry of Health (MSPP), SBHF established Haiti’s national Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Rehabilitation and Reintegration Program. SBHF’s program was the first in Haiti to provide comprehensive SCI care. Since then, SBHF has helped over 150 people with spinal cord injuries, 108 of whom are still active in the program. SBHF has also leveraged its resources to assist non-SCI patients at the 16-bed SCI Center with physical therapy and other support services.
In 2014, SBHF’s new, state-of-the-art laboratory opened, followed in 2015 by the opening of the Southern Peninsula’s most advanced Maternal and Neonatal Health Center, with the South’s only 24/7 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The Haitian MSPP has since recognized SBHF one of three national training centers for maternal and child health.
In August 2015, SBHF implemented a full-time surgical program, and we opened a new surgical center with three operating suites in November, 2016. Over 130 surgeries are performed each month, and demand is so high that non-emergency surgeries are scheduled five months out. SBHF has also begun a surgical residency program for Haitian residents in order to ensure the sustainability of surgical services at the hospital, in partnership with Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante.
SBHF has grown into an organization drawing support from partners at the national and international level, serving tens of thousands of patients and community members in southern Haiti every year.