Theology Alumna Works Toward Lasting Change in Haiti

February 21, 2017

Marie C. Fouché ‘11G moved permanently to the United States from her native Haiti in 1968, but she has spent a lifetime working to give back to her home country. Most recently, she developed a program, Renesansavo in collaboration with La Coalition Pour le Relèvement de L’Anse-à-Veau (CORA), to educate Haitian youth about community sustainable development and the Catholic faith. She is a member of the Ladies of Charity at SJU and serves as the Ladies of Charity International Representative (AIC) to the Vincentian Family Haiti Initiative Commission.

Fouché maintains a blog about her experiences in Haiti, The Haiti Diaries: A Journey Through Haiti. Her service to the country began in 1975, as a founding member of Haitian Americans United for Progress, Inc. (HAUP). Through HAUP, Fouché has been a strong proponent of Haitian and the Creole language. She has published Jean-Claude Martineau’s book and record, Flè Dizè, and written plays that were performed as fundraisers for HAUP. She also co-hosted a Radio Tropical show on women’s issues with Marie Therese Guilloteau entitled Fanm Dayiti.

Fouché has had a long and successful career first as an administrator at the European American Bank and the National Pastoral Life Center of the Archdiocese of New York, and then as a bilingual elementary school teacher in the New York City public school system.

She is also a long-time active member of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Cambria Heights, NY. As part of her service there, she worked as an administrative volunteer for the National Haitian Apostolate Center, and chaired an advisory committee for Retired Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq.  In 2012, she attended a conference in Washington sponsored by the Committee on the Church in Latin America of the Catholic Conference of American Bishops about the earthquake devastation in Haiti. The conference made her want to do more to help her native country. “I looked around and thought, Why are they going [to Haiti] and not me?” After 16 years in the U.S., she travelled to Haiti with a group of NYC educators to give workshops on teaching literacy and loved the experience of being with “committed people making a difference.”

Fouché directs her current efforts at the diocese of Anse-à-Veau, where her husband was born. Anse-à-Veau will celebrate 300 years in 2021 and Fouché felt that the town needed some improvements before it would be ready for this milestone. “I looked around and didn’t see what young people would celebrate. The only people who can change this situation are the youth if given the opportunity.” Fouché’s program, Renesansavo, educates the young people of Anse-à-Veau about sustainable development and Catholic social teaching to attract tourism and revitalize the town. So far, the program has run through the summers of 2014 and 2015. Two graduate students of Ciné Institute in Jacmel, Haiti attended the second part of the program to film a documentary about the experience. In its third year, the program held a summer camp for 50 disadvantaged children in the rural area of Brossard, partially sponsored by the Ladies of Charity at SJU and Forgotten Children of Haiti. Some Renesansavo participants served as camp counselors for these children.

Fouché decided to pursue her M.A. in Theology at SJU when she retired from teaching. “I’ve always been involved in the Church, and I wanted to understand my faith better,” she said of this decision. At St. John’s, Fouché met Rev. Michael D. Whalen, C.M., who referred her to Sister Margaret John Kelly, D.C. at the Vincentian Center for Church and Society. “It fit into what I’d always been doing,” said Fouché, “and I was really inspired by the Vincentian Family model of organized charity. You’re not giving charity; you’re working and walking with others for complete change.”

Her work has earned Fouché honors within the Catholic community. In November 2015, she received the Pro Ecclesia Pontifical Honors at St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral of the Diocese of Brooklyn. She also won the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Medal from St. John’s University in September 2016.

In addition to her M.A. from St. John’s, Fouché holds an Associate Degree in Management from New York University, a bachelor’s degree in Education from Empire State College, a master’s degree as a Reading Specialist from Queens College, and a master’s bilingual extension in Haitian Creole from City College. She became a member of the Ladies of Charity at SJU in January 2012.