The path to mogis primary school 

Nutrition Outreach in Hope for Haiti Schools

The path to Mogis Primary School
The path to Mogis Primary School

April 28, 2010

Experiences like today make me feel as though things might one day be right with the world.

While visiting schools in our Education Program, I was accompanied by our two community health nurses, Miss Pierrette and Miss Rachel. Together they’re leading our newest Nutrition initiative to deliver public health outreach to Hope for Haiti’s 25 supported primary schools in the south.

The program, which all started thanks to Hope for Haiti’s partnership with Vitamin Angels out of Santa Barbara, California, has three components: distributing Vitamin A boosters to preschoolers five and under, providing all students with Albendazole (de-worming medication) and one-month packets of multivitamins, and leading an interactive lesson on hygiene, health, and nutrition.

Mother and her 7 kids come for Vitamins at Marre a Coiffe Primary School
Mother and her 7 kids come for Vitamins at Marre a Coiffe Primary School
Community Health Nurses Miss Rachel and Miss Pierrette Prepping Multivitamins
Community Health Nurses Miss Rachel and Miss Pierrette Prepping Multivitamins
Beginning the public health lesson inside Mogis Primary School
Beginning the public health lesson inside Mogis Primary School

What makes today stand out is the distance we traveled to connect this program with students in rural areas. I hiked with Pierre, our agronomist and translator, and Ronald, the area’s school supervisor, to Marre à Coiffe, Tiami, and Mogis Primary Schools. These schools are far away – inaccessible by car, over two hours above the nearest healthcare facilities – and filled with hundreds of children in need of nutrition interventions.

Maudeleine on Pierre's shoulders
Maudeleine on Pierre’s shoulders

One of these children was Maudeleine, the Director of Mogis’ niece. Because of where she lives, Maudeleine doesn’t go to a doctor regularly. She doesn’t get the Vitamin A boosters given in equipped health clinics, and she doesn’t take multivitamins every morning. Chances are, she gets worms regularly and lacks essential components of her immune system to fight off common childhood illnesses. Sadly, Maudeleine is not alone.

As we left Mogis, Maudeleine came teetering down the mountain past me. Her little arms outstretched, she hopped delicately over the rocks; a playful four-year-old balancing act in a crisp white dress. Without second thought, Pierre bent down, scooped her up, and placed her squarely on his shoulders. As they plodded down the mountain in front of me, smiling and laughing, I saw the purpose of this program before me. In a snapshot, it all made sense:

Maudeleine doesn’t have to make it entirely on her own. Yes, perhaps she could. But she shouldn’t have to. Today, on Pierre’s shoulders, she won’t. And maybe when things actually are right with the world, no child ever will.

But until then, I’ll keep feeling good about today. And Hope for Haiti will prepare to replicate it for the months to come. Our endeavor was small, but it was real and measurable. Mountains were crossed to make it happen, but each of the beneficiaries-each student, every face; was far worth the effort.

Patrick Eucalitto, Program Director

St. francois de sales, 2008 09 school year 

St. Francois de Sales

St. Francois de Sales, 2008-09 school yearSt. Francois de Sales, 2008-09 school year

April 3, 2010

How do you tell the story of a school that once was, when the classrooms you’d describe no longer exist? Where do you begin to fill in the pieces? Among the rubble, between the bodies – where can we find a narrative that helps destruction make sense?

Spending the past week visiting schools in Haiti’s capital, I struggled immensely with these questions. The closest I came to clarity was at St. Francois de Sales in the neighborhood of Rivière Froide, commune of Carrefour, Port au Prince.

At the epicenter of the quake, Carrefour saw horrible destruction. The private school run by nuns had kindergarten, primary, and secondary levels. Over 1,350 students. Upwards of 50 teachers. Dozens of other nuns running crosscutting healthcare and social programs. A community of care on a hill, overlooking one of the most notoriously neglected areas of the capital.

Now, this is what’s left of that hill. Where the school stood, primary and secondary, each several stories high, the rubble has finally been cleared. Eight of the Sister’s 11 main buildings came down. Fortunately, the lack of rubble leaves space for tents under which school can continue and life can move on. But so far only three tents have come, and heartbreaking loss turns “moving on” into wishful thinking.

St. Francois de Sales, April 2010St. Francois de Sales, April 2010
A notebook in the rubbleA notebook in the rubble
Sr. Mary Jeanne, a Little Sister of St. ThereseSr. Mary Jeanne, a Little Sister of St. Therese

The Sisters ran a primary school program for very poor children, many in “restavek” situations who are forced to work or do chores in the mornings and attend school in the afternoon. Class gets out around 5:00 pm, to accommodate the children’s unjust reality. The earthquake struck at 4:50 pm. St. Francois de Sales is down to 1,200 students.

Boy after poking around in rubbleBoy after poking around in rubble

I imagine 150 bodies are never easy to extract. When they’re children, the task to me is incomprehensible. Somehow the Sisters did it, and continue onwards ever stronger. Adapting. Regrouping. Growing where they must, in whatever space they can.

My attention is diverted from the Sister I’m interviewing by a collection of green plants, potted delicately in a row to my left. They start to move, new and fragile but strong enough to hold firm as a group of children scurry to pick them up.

“To decorate the Church under the tent,” the Sister tells me. A weak smile breaking below distant eyes. “We’ll hold mass in the yard. The children, they can help.”

I don’t quite know how to make sense of the school situation in Port-au-Prince, but I know when I see people who do. The Little Sisters of Saint Therese, Haitian nuns and one of Hope for Haiti’s partners for the last 10 years, will continue moving forward with learning amidst reconstruction. And Hope for Haiti will be there, at their side. After all, 1,200 is still a number worth fighting for.

Patrick Eucalitto, Program Director

 

Country Director

The Country Director is Hope for Haiti’s senior representative and principal manager in Haiti responsible for insuring all in-country operations are effectively and efficiently carried out and for coordinating as needed with other non-profits, international agencies, the Government of Haiti, and others as appropriate.

 

Click here to see the full job description.