“This is My Haiti” – Sister Gisèle, Saint François de Sales School
Sister Gisèle Chaperon smiles when she leads visitors through her school. Wearing a construction hat over her religious veil, she speaks of the future – a new library, a state of the art computer room and multi-media center for the first time, and vocational training available for all members of the Riviere Froide community. Behind the optimism lies difficult memories; located just outside of Port au Prince, Haiti’s capital city, the school was completely destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake. However, it is leaders like Sister Gisele that make progress possible.
Says the enthusiastic Sister, “I always wanted to help those who couldn’t help themselves.” At 18 years old, she decided to enter the Order of the Little Sisters of Saint Therese—supported by Hope for Haiti’s Founder and Chair, JoAnne Kuehner, for over 10 years. Within the Order, she continued her education through the university level and became an educator herself. “When I was a child, I was always reading! Today, my job is to help those who want to study so they can improve their own lives.”
In 1998, Sister Gisele became the Director of St. Francois de Sales, a school which in the 50 years prior had grown from 5 to over 900 students. Through her leadership, the school continued to expand – and now hosts over 1,300 students, with 350 children coming from homes vulnerable to hunger and poverty. “My job is to help. Hope for Haiti allows me to accept children from difficult circumstances, and through education they can become autonomous.”
Self-sufficiency is important for Haiti’s future as a country, as well. “I hope Haiti takes on our own agriculture once again.” Sister Gisele was born in Camp Perrin, about 1 hour away from Hope for Haiti’s headquarters in the lush Southern Department. “My parents were farmers, and there are riches here,” she reflected. “If I could give advice to the future’s leaders, I would tell them to have discipline, knowledge, and confidence in themselves.”
Qualities like these define Sister Gisele in her remarkable efforts to not only re-build but also improve her facility. Despite holding classes in tents, the school was able to add a summer camp and maintained extremely high passing rates on national standardized tests. Hope for Haiti “collaborates” as a partner, and we are so thankful to work with Sister Gisele as we look to the future of her school and of Haiti.