Southern Territory Represented at Port-au-Prince Corps Dedication

By: Christopher Priest

On a joyous day in mid-September, soldiers, civic dignitaries and senior Salvation Army Leadership gathered for dedication ceremonies outside the enormous sliding doors of the newly built Port-au-Prince Central Corps, part of the Salvation Army Delmas 2 campus.

It was a day to celebrate the adversity resulting from the January 2010 earthquake that shook Port-au-Prince, Haiti, killing an estimated 160,000 and displacing about 3 million people. Salvation Army properties in in the city were devastated.

Representing the USA Southern Territory was Lt. Colonel Ron Busroe, former divisional commander in Haiti, and the leader of the long term earthquake recovery effort. Also present were representatives from The Salvation Army World Services Office and Commissioners Gerrit and Eva Marseille, Caribbean territorial leaders. The USA Southern Territory contributed to the construction of the new corps, many signing up for the $10 for Haiti (per month) fund-raising effort.

The Delmas 2 campus now consists of all newly built structures: College Verena, with 1,200 students ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade; a medical clinic serving mainly women and children; a social services distribution center; and the Port-au-Prince Central Corps. The latter building was the center of attention on this special day, being the final building to be completed, six years after the former structure was condemned as unsafe. It is said to be the largest Salvation Army corps in the Western world. The 900-plus soldiers, adherents and friends at one time met under canvas on the site, then moved to a temporary wooden structure as work began on the new facility. For the past year, the corps has met in a smaller meeting area of the reconstructed College Verena.

The Haiti Divisional Band played joyful music as a large crowd gathered in the extreme heat outside the four huge sliding doors which form the entire back wall of the new corps building. Yellow, red and blue ribbons stretched across one door section, signifying a new start.

Inside the cathedral like structure, more music enhanced worship and celebration as several representative speakers addressed the crowd. A large part of the construction crew was present dressed in their company logo T-shirts with “Eglise Armee du Salut” (Church of The Salvation Army) printed on the back. Lt. Colonel Busroe reminisced during his moment at the podium, reflecting on the enormous outreach the Army made to countless people who arrived at the campus for help.

The Delmas 2 surrounding landscape is predominantly impoverished housing, and waste areas. The Army’s campus has always been a safe place to gather, as thousands took refuge there after the earthquake. Over 10,000 settled immediately behind the campus, occupying a former soccer field and stadium in one of many “tent cities” dotted around Port-au-Prince. The government asked the Army to adopt the occupants of the tents with practical help. “Tent City” remained for several months until residents found alternate housing. It is now restored as a soccer field.