Happy to be learning! 

Notes from a School Visit, April 2013

By Arianne Pingledis, Program Manager

Hurricane season may be behind us, but rain has been falling steadily in Les Cayes this week.  It’s not enough to cause serious flooding, perhaps, but it is enough to disrupt schools that lack proper classrooms – something I saw firsthand while visiting one of our education partners a few months ago.  Just a few days of rain had left the classrooms, which are temporary, outdoor structures, muddy and flooded.

With the destruction of the school during the 2010 earthquake, classes have taken place in these structures for the past three years.  The classrooms are incredibly basic, comprised of only benches for the students and a single chalkboard.  The roof sits atop wooden poles, the walls are made of tarps and plywood, and the floor is nonexistent.

I removed my shoes and carried them in my hand as I walked through the mud – ankle-deep in some places – to visit each class.  Instead of being greeted with the unhappy children and teachers you might expect to find in such a situation, each class was more excited to greet me than the last.  In anticipation of Hope for Haiti’s visit, each class had prepared a different song to welcome me to their school.

Happy to be learning!
Happy to be learning!

In spite of these conditions, the 533 students enrolled have gladly come to school for the last three years, eager to learn.  Soon these students will be in a brand new school building currently being built by Hope for Haiti, but until then, they are simply thankful to be given the opportunity to gain an education that will provide them a better future.

Photo l r michael sherman, mayvis gibus, elizabeth davison, yvette ebb, cathy grassi, ida soderlind, stephanie jepsen. 

Rotary Group Study Exchange

From The Field- By Elizabeth Davison, Executive Director – April 30, 2013

This week the Naples office was honored to participate in Rotary International’s Group Study Exchange, a program that provides cultural and vocational opportunity for young business professionals to be paired with Rotary districts in different countries.

When local businessman and Pelican Bay Rotarian Jim Rice (and longtime supporter of Hope for Haiti) asked us to host Mayvis Gibus for a day, we gladly accepted. Mayvis is from Martinique, studied in France and holds a Masters in Business Administration and International Relations.  She is an Economic Affairs and Development Officer with an NGO in Martinique which has initiated co-operation projects with Haiti in the framework of the reconstruction after their 2010 earthquake.

For the past month we talked about how we would share our knowledge and processes with our visitor and looked forward to learning from her also.  Our plan was to have each member of our staff spend an hour with Mayvis and explain exactly how they accomplish their goals while also reviewing their job responsibilities.

Photo L-R - Michael Sherman, Mayvis Gibus, Elizabeth Davison, Yvette Ebb, Cathy Grassi, Ida Soderlind, Stephanie Jepsen.
Photo L-R – Michael Sherman, Mayvis Gibus, Elizabeth Davison, Yvette Ebb, Cathy Grassi, Ida Soderlind, Stephanie Jepsen.

Mayvis spent the first hour with me and I was honored to also have her Rotarian host Tim spend that hour with us.  I gave a PowerPoint overview of what Hope for Haiti accomplishes each year and ended the hour with a 10 minute video which depicted scenes from a recent visit to Haiti by Bob and Renee Parsons of GoDaddy.com and The Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation.  They are our largest donors and have made 2 trips (they call them fact finding missions) to Haiti to see how our programs are progressing.  It was so rewarding to hear Tim and Mayvis marvel at the amount of work we do and the fact that we are touching over 500,000 Haitians each year through our mission to improve the quality of life for the Haitian people, particularly children, through education, nutrition and healthcare.

Operations Director Cathy Grassi spent her hour going over the process of receiving in-kind donations, logging, packing and palletizing in preparation for shipment to Miami and then into container ships bound for Haiti.  Stephanie Jepsen, Director of Development, shared her expertise in overseeing all the fundraising activities for the organization as well as events and grant research.  Michael Sherman, Development Analyst and IT Specialist, went through the intricacies of our enterprise data system- this really fascinated Mayvis.  Yvette Ebb, Office Manager and Ida Soderlind, Executive Assistant, explained about the many duties that go into the smooth running of the office.

It was a delight to take Mayvis to lunch at our favorite neighborhood pizza café accompanied by volunteer Pat McGloin who helped me explain how we couldn’t accomplish all we do without the support of our many volunteers.

It was wonderful to help Mayvis achieve her goal of this trip which was to “share great human experiences based on friendship, brotherhood and good will as well as widening her perspectives and improve her working skills and competencies.”  We’ve invited lovely Mayvis Gibus to come back and spend a day with us anytime.  She also invited us to come to Martinique for a visit.  We are all packing our bags!  Thank you Mayvis.

A healthy and happy kettia! 

Transport Assistance Can Save a Life

Jennifer Lang, Program Director – April 1, 2013

A healthy and happy Kettia!
A healthy and happy Kettia!

Kettia Jacobs is a thirty-five year old woman who suffers from severe anemia. She came to our primary healthcare facility, the Infirmary Saint Etienne in downtown Les Cayes, from her home in Bergeaud –with trouble breathing. Our Infirmary Director, Dr. Elmide Nazaire, immediately helped the patient, and she realized a blood transfusion was necessary.

We referred the patient to an in-patient facility, the public general hospital here in Les Cayes. However, medical resources in rural Haiti are scarce, and all blood donations are dependent on the Red Cross blood supply. Kettia was out of luck – there was no blood in her type available in the South. The only way to receive care would be to travel the 4 hours by car to Port au Prince, a journey which she and her family couldn’t pay for.

Hope for Haiti intervened using our Robert E. Hord Emergency Medical Fund. For a small transport fee, 2,000 HTG or $50 USD, we were able to send her and a caregiver to the Port au Prince Red Cross. She received type AB blood as needed.


Raymond Lucien

Raymond Lucien – Hope for Haiti’s Vehicle Manager

“When I think of Raymond, I think of the day he made me a road,” says incoming Country Director Jessica Jean-Francois with a smile of remembrance. “We were on our way to a rural school site visit. They had been working on building a road, but there were really steep hills and construction wasn’t finished through the ravine. We got out of the car to start hiking – it’s usually about an hour hike, and Raymond said he’d catch up later. Sure enough, he came and met us, and since then we’ve driven the whole way on the school site visits!”

Raymond laughs at the story, a contagious giggle that surprises when it erupts from the forty-one year old father’s thoughtful face. “All the time my work makes me laugh,” he says. The leader always keeps calm in adversity, a pillar of stability in charged situations. “My job is surprising because I do so much.” As Hope for Haiti’s vehicle manager, Raymond checks and services the emergency power generators, batteries, and cars for our team. With a demanding schedule of 104 rural site visits per year, repairs sometimes have to be made in the field – requiring a skillful worker that takes initiative.

“How I would describe Raymond,” muses Country Director Sarah Dutcher while reflecting on her two-year experience here, “is super, super smart.” Raymond started as a mechanic sixteen years ago after leaving school. “In Haiti, when you’re a kid and you need a job, its good to learn a métier. I decided to learn several, like constructing traditional toll roofs, so I could have many skills to apply in my work.” After working in local garages and as a driver for the Oblate priests, Raymond found Hope for Haiti. “We do good work, helping those who can’t afford school or healthcare. I would like all Haitians to be able to live like me, even better than me! I would like Haiti to be a grand place, like the U.S. or Canada.”

“In Haiti, we need to show people everything—the good and the bad. If I could plan a visit, I would show people the tourist areas – the beaches of Port Salut and in Aquin. Maybe it could change peoples minds a little bit; they might even want to live here!”

As a leader of Hope for Haiti’s team, Raymond has met many visitors. “I would like to visit other places, but Haiti is my home. Its my country.”

As he drives up mountains and through rivers, Raymond sees the countryside he grew up in. “When I was a boy, I wanted to study Agronomy – because my father’s work was cultivating corn and sugar cane.” This past year, he started growing corn on the land next to his house. Some days, he’ll bring a bag of ears for the staff to eat grilled as a snack. Quiet generosity defines Raymond’s personality and his job, serving to keep our staff safe and our programs successful.