American volunteer in Haiti makes ‘transition from teacher to relief worker’

American volunteer in Haiti makes ‘transition from teacher to relief worker’

Elissa Kergosien
Elissa Kergosien


An American volunteer in Haiti has stepped up to the challenge of helping the country cope with the aftermath of the massive earthquake that flattened the city of Port-au-Prince last week. Elissa Kergosien, of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, returned to Haiti just before the earthquake hit and feels herself to be “in the center of God's will.”

Kergosien, a recent college graduate, was interviewed by the Diocese of Biloxi's Gulf Pine Catholic just days before the 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti. 

She told the newspaper that her decision to spend a year at the Louverture Cleary School as a volunteer teacher wasn't a difficult one.  Her parents had involved their family in missionary work for a long time, from countries in Eastern Europe to the Dominican Republic.

Though she had worked with the poor before, “It was still kind of shocking to see the poverty that exists in Haiti. It was shocking to see all the malnourished children in the neighborhood surrounding the school. They’re happy children, but they have bloated stomachs and it was shocking to know that it’s just a 90-minute plane ride from Miami and people are dying from malnutrition.”

During a brief visit to the U.S., Elissa spoke at her home parish and raised $1,500 for the school in Haiti. “It’s a school that completely supported by U.S. parishes and donations and it’s doing incredible work in Haiti,” she said. “It’s raising up a generation of leaders in Haiti who are going to help to rebuild the country. These are children who are dedicated to staying in the country and using what they’ve gained at this school to become leaders in government or become doctors to help their country.”

And on January 10, Elissa Kergosien boarded the plane to return to Haiti for the spring semester. On January 12, the infamous earthquake hit the country. Kergosien’s parents, who still reside in Bay St. Louis, found out about the quake on the ABC News website.

Her mother told the Gulf Pine Catholic, “I called Patrick Moynihan (the President of The Haitian Project, which runs the Louverture Cleary School) and he told me that he had spoken to Elissa just prior to my call and that the school buildings had not collapsed, and no one was killed. A few children were injured, but no life threatening injuries.”

The subsequent aftershocks knocked out all communication with the school. A day later, a missionary from an organization nearby stopped by the school and offered internet access to Kergosien. She was able to send an email to her family, and has kept the outside world updated as to the status of the school and country.

Elissa’s family is just happy to know that she is doing all right and that she “has made the instant transition from teacher to relief worker and has adjusted well.” “They are doing a very good work and we should not worry. She says she is where she is supposed to be and that we are to trust that she is in God's hands and all will be well,” Carolyn Kergosien said.

For more information abou The Haitian Project, visit: