Making a Concrete Difference

Junior Anthony François as a student at Louverture Cleary, with his graduating class, and hard at work ensuring the quality of building materials for the rebuilding of Saint François de Sales Hospital in Port au Prince.

Junior Anthony François always wanted to be an engineer. “My parents wanted me to be a doctor,” the now 31 year old said with a slight grin on his face, “but I was fascinated with building things. I wanted to make something tangible.” He has been living that dream since he graduated Universitè Quisqueya in 2009 with an engineering degree.

As a student at Louverture Cleary School, a tuition-free secondary boarding school owned and operated by The Haitian Project (THP) and located just outside of Port-au-Prince, François got his first taste of the pride of building something with his own two hands. While a student, François helped with the construction of Agora, LCS’s main academic building and boys’ dormitory, and with construction of the third floor of Claire Heureuse, a girls dormitory.

After graduating from Universitè Quisqueya, François had the opportunity to continue his education in the United States at Virginia Tech. Unlike many Haitians who leave Haiti and never return, there was never a doubt in his mind that Haiti was his home. He chose to leave only so he could become better equipped to help build his country. “Americans already have all that they need,” he said with an earnest look. “They have educated people, they do not need me, but Haiti does.”

In the 2010 earthquake, almost 80% of one of Haiti’s most iconic hospitals, the historic Saint François de Sales Hospital in downtown Port-au-Prince, was reduced to rubble. The nearly century-and-a-half-old hospital has been serving the poor of downtown Port-au-Prince since 1881. Nearly 140 patients and hospital employees lost their lives when the building collapsed. In the months following the earthquake, tents were erected as makeshift surgery units to treat the countless victims of falling rubble and collapsed buildings.

It was in these very tents that LCS students acted as interpreters for international doctors, standing for hours in operating rooms. THP Volunteers led cleanup efforts around the hospital, burning trash to ensure a more sanitary environment free of trash. THP also provided logistical support; President of The Haitian Project, Deacon Patrick Moynihan drove medical teams back and forth from the hospital. THP also spearheaded an effort to provide secondary care, rehabilitation and physical therapy for the patients treated at the hospital.

THP’s connection with St. François de Sales Hospital started when LCS graduate, Dr. Théony Deshommes, then a medical student at Haiti's private Catholic medical school, UNDH, arrived at the hospital just hours after the quake. Now a doctor, Deshommes vividly remembers his first hours at the hospital. Though only a medical student at the time, the situation demanded he act and learn quickly. He worked three days straight aiding in the emergency relief effort.

François is now the quality control manager for the rebuilding project of St. François de Sales Hospital, and is one of the highest-ranking Haitian engineers on the project. The construction is being overseen by Catholic Relief Services and contracted by Otesa, a company from the Dominican Republic.

François is responsible for ensuring that the hospital is built to international standards, guaranteeing that the right materials are brought in and that everything is built to fit the required specifications. CRS's project chief, Ariel Sadural, describes Francois as a stand-out among his colleagues. "He displays tremendous dedication in guiding the Contractors and CRS Field Engineers in addressing the daily quality control and quality assurance.” Sadural sees in François the intangibles needed to succeed in his line of work, remarking that, “Junior is a fast learner and able to manage his time wisely. He is focused in dealing with his tasks and ensuring that deadlines are met. He is a responsible, punctual and disciplined person.”

François credits LCS with instilling in him the organization and discipline needed to carry out tasks in a timely fashion. He remembers that “at LCS everything was in harmony. There was a time for everything. This discipline has helped me in my planning.”

LCS challenged François to be proactive in his work. He credits LCS with teaching him, in his words, “to fight for what I wanted, fight to succeed, fight to complete a job the right way.” François work ethic and determination has not gone unnoticed. CRS’s in-country director, Darren Hercyk, sees in Junior the realization of the power of education. “The rebuilding of Hôpital St. François de Sales is an enormous undertaking and it would not be possible without staff with the technical skills, commitment, and integrity,” stated Hercyk. “Junior is a young leader with all of these attributes and Deacon Moynihan and the Louverture Cleary School should be very proud of what he is accomplishing for the Church and Haiti.”

As François and his team of engineers inch closer and closer to their goal, François finds inspiration in his one-year-old daughter. In the singular tone of a new father, he says with concern, hope and determination, “I want to build a better, safer Haiti for my daughter. I want to be able to tell my daughter, ‘I built that, and this and that building over there.’”

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The Haitian Project, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that runs a tuition free Catholic boarding school in Haiti for 360 students in order to nurture the future leaders of the country.  Visit their website for more information or donate now.