Group photo with the children from fraternite des jeunes orphanage 

University of Scranton students visit Hope for Haiti for a life-changing week

Jessica Jean-Francois, Program Assistant, June 27th 2011

This June, the University of Scranton’s International Service Program (ISP) was able to join our team in the field and assist with our ongoing Education, Nutrition, Healthcare, and Emergency Response Programs. ISP is a student service program that selects the best and most capable applicants to participate in various mission trips in developing countries throughout the hemisphere. The hope of each trip is to revitalize students in their principles of “devotion to justice, dedication to service and principled respect for the dignity of people.” After their week with Hope for Haiti, students walked away with a better sense of self, an increased desire to understand and support existing community structures, and concrete skills with which to evaluate the needs of others.

Through open discussions and long hikes to rural school sites, the University of Scranton students learned about the reality of being a primary or secondary student at the rural and urban schools which Hope for Haiti supports. At the St. Laurent High School outside of Les Cayes, the ISP students discovered that St. Laurent’s 11th grade class will have to transfer schools or stop their education if the school is not able to expand to 12th grade next year. Currently the school is able to provide an education to 7th through 11th grade students, but in order to add a 12th grade, St. Laurent needs to hire new teachers, acquire materials for additional classrooms, and strive to add both computer and chemistry labs. Hope for Haiti supports St. Laurent High School through teacher salary subsidies and in procuring basic schools materials. These efforts can help St. Laurent grow with their students during the next school year.

During our visit to the Infirmary St. Etienne, Hope for Haiti’s primary healthcare facility in downtown Les Cayes, students were moved by the amount of people lined up to receive affordable healthcare. This Hope for Haiti Infirmary is an anomaly in the area, offering outstanding care at a very low cost. Students met with Dr. Steeve and Dr. Elmide, the Haitian doctors who operate this beautiful facility, which houses a pharmacy, a laboratory, two consultation rooms, and a dental clinic.

Group Photo with the children from Fraternite des Jeunes Orphanage
Group Photo with the children from Fraternite des Jeunes Orphanage
Playing Red Rover with the children from Fraternite des Jeunes Orphanage
Playing Red Rover with the children from Fraternite des Jeunes Orphanage
University of Scranton students with 11th grade students from
University of Scranton students with 11th grade students from
the Saint Laurent High School after an open discussion

Arguably the most influential moment of the students’ visit was working with our staff to fill 1,200 Survival Buckets to prepare for Haiti’s upcoming hurricane season. The Survival Buckets include a week’s worth of emergency food, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, candles, matches and additional emergency items that can support families for up to one week in the aftermath of flooding or an emergency. Locally procured five-gallon buckets were lined up outside in the heat of the summer sun, while the ISP students worked vigorously to fill them efficiently with critical supplies, knowing the impact that the Survival Buckets will have on numerous families in need.

On the morning of their departure, the University of Scranton students felt proud, having completed a week of challenging and fulfilling activities. These students and their dedicated faculty chaperones now have a better understanding of what it takes – how hard and diligently we must work – to provide effective support to improve the quality of life for the Haitian people. From all of us at Hope for Haiti, we thank you for your service!

Tiami primary school 

Visit to Tiami highlights the importance of Hope for Haiti’s support to rural communities

Paula Prince, Program Assistant, June 8th 2011

Last Wednesday Hope for Haiti visited Tiami Primary School with the University of Scranton’s International Service Program. When the day began we were uncertain if we would be able to make the hour-long hike to the rural community because of the torrential rains that had fallen the night before. Haiti is currently in its rainy season and has been experiencing some unrelenting downpours. Luckily, we awoke in the morning to clear skies and were able to stick to schedule.

Once embarking on the small, bumpy, dirt road that leads to Tiami’s trail, our truck got stuck in inches of thick mud and our hiking distance was extended. Despite this minor setback, our group started up the muddy mountainous trail with much enthusiasm. Everyone appreciated the scenic views of both lush jungle and crystal blue coast from atop the mountain.

Tiami Primary school
Tiami Primary school
The beautiful view from atop the mountain trail to Tiami
The beautiful view from atop the mountain trail to Tiami
Hope for Haiti and University of Scranton pose for a picture on the trail to Tiami
Hope for Haiti and University of Scranton pose for a picture
on the trail to Tiami

When we arrived in Tiami we were happy to find that, despite the rain and difficult conditions, around 30 students were present in the tiny two-room chapel that is used as a schoolhouse. The differences are striking between Tiami Primary and some of the larger, more urban schools supported by Hope for Haiti’s Education Program. With only two professors, Tiami’s teaching staff must work tirelessly to provide a quality education to the nearly 70 students that attend the school. Without a clean water source or a school lunch program, the students of Tiami are highly unlikely to receive nourishment throughout the day.

After an interesting conversation with the parents of some of Tiami’s students seated beneath the shade of a towering mango tree, we went inside to talk with the students and teachers. Our group was pleasantly surprised at the enthusiasm and dedication of Tiami’s staff, despite the school’s large obstacles. Hope for Haiti’s support for extremely rural mountainous schools such as Tiami plays a vital role in ensuring that students in remote areas have access to an education. As one of the primary components of Hope for Haiti’s education program, teacher salary subsidies help rural communities such as Tiami maintain a steady and dedicated teaching staff.

As the day finished with a slippery hike down the mountain, the Hope for Haiti staff and University of Scranton students departed reflecting on life in Tiami. Taking the same long and treacherous mountain route that the villagers must take to go to the market or that students must take in order to attend secondary school, we were able to appreciate the hard work and motivation that are the crux of daily life in Tiami.

Gregory and scranton student matt after discussing the education system 

Perseverance Dictates Education at Les Cayes’ College de Saint Laurent

Jennifer Lang, Program Assistant, June 6th 2011

The College of Saint Laurent provides secondary schooling to over 400 Haitian teenagers. Just like American high-schoolers, the students gossip and laugh about romantic relationships and popular music. However, many of them face incredible challenges to continue their education in a meaningful and substantive way.

Gregory is a 20 year-old who moved to the southern region from Port-au-Prince three years ago. Despite learning English independently, he struggles to find the money for the short daily taxi ride to school and often has to walk. Constrained by circumstance, Gregory maintains his ambition to attend university and become an engineer. Passing his sixth-grade, ninth-grade, and high school exams will allow access to his dreams but he and his parents will have to sacrifice their modest farming income in order to finance his continuing education.

Most of St. Laurent’s families work as farmers or vendors of millet, beans, corn, bananas, and rice. Some get by from the sale of verti-vert, a plant used to extract oil in the luxury perfume industry abroad. Despite Haiti’s exports of verti-vert, the benefits of the international commerce rarely trickle down to those at St. Laurent. Most families live in houses with their extended family, 9 to 11 members under one roof often caring for young children.

Gregory and Scranton student Matt after discussing the education system
Gregory and Scranton student Matt after discussing the education system
Saint Laurent's low tuition helps educate these girls
Saint Laurent’s low tuition helps educate these girls
Program Assistant Jennifer talking with Saint Laurent girls about their upcoming exams
Program Assistant Jennifer talking with Saint Laurent girls
about their upcoming exams

Thankfully, these children have hope for the future. St. Laurent is able to offer discounted tuition prices in part because of the teacher salary subsidies provided by Hope for Haiti’s Education Program. Gregory excelled in his physics and mathematics classes, and other students demonstrate great aptitude in languages and felt confident about their approaching exams. While they will face continued difficulty in their advanced education and finding jobs, they seek to change their lack of opportunity for generations to come. Hope for Haiti’s Education Program helps offer access to quality education for ambitious youth like Gregory and his peers – Haiti’s true hope for the future.

Students of mr. duclair's 3rd grade class 

Jean Paul II Congregational School, a Safe Haven for Students

Students of Mr. DuClair's 3rd grade class
Students of Mr. DuClair’s 3rd grade class

Jessica Jean-Francois, Program Assistant, June 1st 2011

After the 2010 earthquake in Port au Prince, Jean Paul II Congregational School in the community of Baradères provided 25 internally displaced students with free admission, books, uniforms, and school supplies with which to continue their education. With an enrollment of about 490 students from the surrounding area, the John Paul II School finds that many parents cannot pay the 1,485 goud (or $37 US) needed for their children to go to school. Despite how poverty leaves parents unable to pay their students’ school fees, Director Sister Alouse makes it clear: “We cannot turn them away.” Some parents pay what they can, but since most pay little to nothing, the school must find other ways to provide a quality education. Working with Hope for Haiti, the school provides consistent salaries for teachers, books and notebooks to every student, and access to purified water. Hope for Haiti also supports the health of the school and wider community by supporting the nearby clinic which is also run by the same order of dedicated and passionate Haitian sisters.

Walking onto the school ground, which sits on top of a hill, we were greeted by the 5th and 6th grade classes as they commenced their recess period. Upon entering each classroom, we received a chorus of “Bonjour, chére visiteur!” (Hello, dear visitor!) and with every exit “Au revoir, chére visiteur!” (Goodbye, dear visitor!). Large classrooms of smiling faces were eager to meet and share a moment with us. The school, which includes 7 classrooms serving the primary school grades, as well as open-air classrooms at the bottom of the hill to serve its preschoolers and a third grade class, is still growing and improving. Constantly pushing its students, the schoolteachers gather lessons from many different sources to create a curriculum that prepares students for national exams and ensures that they are ready for the next grade and beyond. During our meeting to discuss updates, Sister Alouse, was eager to do more and wanted to discuss her plans to continue improving the school.

Paula Prince, Program Assistant, with 2nd grade class at John Paul II Congregational School
Paula Prince, Program Assistant, with 2nd grade class at
John Paul II Congregational School
John Paul II Congregational School
John Paul II Congregational School
Students of one pre-school class hard at work.
Students of one pre-school class hard at work.

From parent/teacher meetings and applications to food programs to rigorous exams, the school constantly finds and maintains solutions to student and community issues. With class sizes ranging from 33 to 46 students, the school is still willing to expand to fit the needs of the community and hopes to create a new pre-school class for the next school year, which will enroll 3 year olds for the first time. Knowing the importance of early education and the impact that it has on child development, I am impressed. In light of their longstanding partnership with Hope for Haiti and their commitment to educational quality, we want to do everything possible to enable Jean Paul II Congregational School to expand and to guarantee that the hundreds of students that want to attend are able to do so whether they can afford it or not.