Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas in Haiti Fundraisers Thanks!

Bonjou tout moun / Hello Everyone!

To our fundraisers and Christmas box donors, to all of you who have supported Starthrower Foundation this year, and to Starthrowers true as well as new, a huge Thank You!

Sarnia, Ontario:
Congratulations and many happy returns to Mme Marjorie on her 80th birthday! Instead of gifts at the open house held in her honour, Marjorie had requested donations to the students in the nursing program.

Thanks for your thoughtfulness, Marj! (Earlier this year, Marjorie went parasailing in the Dominican Republic. I want to be just like her when I grow up!)

Orangeville Ontario:
Thanks to Cindy S. who organized the Acheson's fundraiser last week. Cindy would be the first to say that she did not do it singlehandedly. Thanks, too, to Martina, Cindy's business partner who shared the load.

Thank you, too, to everyone who helped make this fundraiser a success!
  • Dianne and her staff at Acheson's: You made us feel so welcome. It was a great event!
  • Harmony Market and Mochaberry coffee shop, who supplied beverages.
  • Angela who designed and supplied tickets for the draw (which will take place Dec. 23rd).
  • Ste. Anne's Spa for donating spa packages.
  • Special thanks to Scotiabank for committing to match funds raised by Acheson's.

Mme Cindy and her elves have been busy preparing Christmas boxes for each of our kids, and the boxes are now on their way to Haiti. As well, they've sent a donation to purchase rice, beans and oil for Christmas distribution.

Although I won't be there this Christmas to distribute them, I know from other years how much these boxes and foods are appreciated, and the joy with which they are received. To all who participated in this huge undertaking, my gratitude and that of our staff and students!

Web Comic for High School Sponsorship:
Thanks to Daniel Lafrance, Toronto, ON, for his continuing work on the web comic to raise funds to sponsor High school students in Haiti. The web comic continues to receive positive critical reviews. If you haven't yet had the opportunity to read it yet (see, perhaps you'll have some time over the Holidays.

The latest pages tell Auguste's story. Auguste writes that he is very pleased with how Daniel has portrayed his situation, and that the web comic is vreman bel (very beautiful).

Thanks, too, to those who have donated (often anonymously) through the link on the webcomic!

Sponsorship Thanks:
To each of you, thank you for supporting the amazing young people we sponsor in Haiti. The Christmas break approaches and the first trimeste is coming to a close. Some students completed exams last Friday and others will finish this week. Then we will all wait for the results. In the interim, there will be Christmas boxes and the fet of Jou endepandans (celebrations for January 1 Haiti Independance Day).

As is the case with first year post secondary students everywhere, not all of Starthrower's students will 'make the cut' at Christmas. Once we have the exam results, we will know who will be going on to the next term, and who will be looking to other endeavors.

Other News:
Sad news: Charlie Brown, our fierce guard cat, died last weekend. His unrelenting 'critter control' services will be sorely missed.

I continue to recover after surgery, though a bad bout of flu kept me close to home for a week or so. Thanks to all who lent a hand during this time.

In 2010, Starthrower will likely face new challenges as well as the all-too-familiar old ones. But as in the past, so in the future: Working together, we will continue to make a difference in the lives of our young adults in Haiti!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!



Thursday, November 26, 2009

Food, Water, Exams, Supplies Cap-Haitien Haiti, and Thanksgiving

Hello, Everyone!

Here's our news about the food, water, and supplies on this day of Thanksgiving in the USA. In a few short weeks it will be Christmas, the students will have written their exams, and the web comic will have posted its final pages. A busy time for us all!

Web Comic
To Daniel, thanks and congratulations on your wonderful web comic

For those of you who haven't had a chance to read it, do try to find the time, and feel free to post a comment to Dan and pass on the link to friends, colleagues and family.

Dan is not only receiving positive peer reviews on his amazing talent, but also educating people about life in Haiti and raising funds for our students in post-secondary.
Food, Water, Proba

Auguste, our director of education, writes that many students in both Sen Rafayel and Cap-Haitien have malaria, and that hunger is again a major problem.

Although we really don't have funds for rice, beans, oil and charcoal, we are doing what we can to help feed these kids:

Thanks to Mme Cindy who has been sending us protein powder, we have begun distributing it in zip lock bags, along with plastic glasses and spoons.

Normally we distribute a container of our own home made peanut butter mixed with protein powder (Proba).

However, we do not have any jars (bokal yo) in which to put the Proba mixture, so we are doing the next best thing by distributing the powder, spoons and glasses.

We are distributing potable water daily, as well as distributing peanuts and hard boiled eggs, which Carmene prepares Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Exams, Students Updates
Exams will be taking place over the next couple of weeks so study space at Lakay is at a premium. We hope to have an update on all our post secondary students at the Christmas break in a few weeks.

Marlene, our student in Santiago, Dominican Republic, was in hospital with a severe infection, so she missed a week of classes. Now she is being treated for dental infections. Hopefully she is able to find better dental care than we have in Cap-Haitien.

Auguste has wired extra funds to cover these unexpected expenses. However, she is still alone, and ill in a strange country.

Supplies, Brailler, etc.

Some supplies are arriving at the centre in Cap-Haitien. Boxes from Pennsylvania have arrived, as have the back packs Daniel sent in July.

We are still waiting for Kayla's supplies as well as the house supplies I sent in September (this post).

Communication to and within Haiti continues to be a challenge. Claudy and Auguste have been attempting to contact our blind student, Guilene, to find out how the machines provided by Don and the folks at the PA Lions club are holding up.

As Guilene is back at school in Potoprens (Port-au-Prince) and we have no address, phone number, school name, it will probably be Christmas break before we have news. I'll let you know as soon as I hear from her.

Thank You!
Thanks again to the folks on the UN committee in Boulder, Colorado! The fund raiser which I attended in September has reaped more benefits, so our potable water program is in very good shape.

Thanks again to Mme Cindy for all the support from her and her 'helpers'.

Thanks, too, to Teena in Australia, who is also raising funds through her artful scarves!

On a Personal Note
On Nov. 11 my wonderful, courageous, high spirited mother, Betty Anderson, died of post op complications after emergency surgery.

Unfortunately I have been experiencing post op complications myself and had landed back in hospital the day she died. I was unable to travel to the funeral, but had spoken with her daily.

My sister who was so instrumental in my air lift to Canada from Haiti last fall, once again guided the family through another life changing transition. Thanks, Boo! You are the best!

Thanks so much to all who sent emails and cards, or phoned. This journey with the destructive E coli has again challenged me physically. Although the reversal has been successful so far, my doctor says he'll review my condition in about 6 months, and that one more surgery will be necessary.

I will be able to return to Cap-Haitien before then, although the current complications are slowing recovery.

Wishing  our friends in the States a joyful Thanksgiving!

Beni-w Sharon

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Starthrower in Haiti Webcomic Fundraiser For Education Program Launched

Starthrower Foundation is pleased to announce the launch of a unique fundraiser to raise funds for the Education Program in Haiti.

Starthrower in Haiti is a web comic, an online version of a graphic novel, created by Dan Lafrance that tells in picture form the story of Starthrower Foundation and Sharon Gaskell's work in Cap-Haitien and Sen Rafayel, Haiti, to sponsor Haitian youth in school.

Begin with the Starthrower in Haiti Welcome page  and the Prologue, which tells the story of Loren Eiseley's The Starthrower in picture form. Follow the Next links to read the full story. The story of daily life in Haiti begins with Home Visits. Use the Next or Previous buttons to read ahead or go back in the story.

New Pages
New pages will be posted Tuesdays and Thursdays from now until Christmas. You can use the Email sign up box on the web comic site to have new pages delivered to your inbox as they are posted. This is done automatically, so your email is not divulged to anyone.

Backgrounder Starthrower in Haiti Webcomic
Dan Lafrance is a Toronto, Canada-based professional storyboard artist who has been working in animation for more than 24 years. Last March, Daniel contacted Starthrower Foundation with his unique fundraising idea to tell its story in a graphic novel format.

Daniel wanted to reach a wider audience and a totally different demographic to tell the story of life in Haiti, and to raise funds to help our students get an education.

After months of meetings and phone and email discussions with Sharon to make sure the graphic novel portrayed Starthrower Foundation as accurately as possible, Daniel began drawing his wonderful pictures.

He enlisted the help of Cassi Fuertez, a talented colorist, for the prologue and the webcomic banner.

How Webcomics Work
The practical business-minded will be asking, "How do webcomics raise funds?" In the webcomic community, creators are shown appreciation by the inclusion of a Tip Jar - a Donate button on the comic pages.

Why not have the webcomic Tip Jar/ Donate button go directly to Starthrower Foundation's Canada Helps page, Dan thought, so all tips would go directly to the Education and Food Distribution programs.

The donate link is on the web comic site, and at the bottom of the web comic email updates.

More Than a Fundraiser
But Starthrower in Haiti is much more than a fundraiser in novel format with lovely images: It is also a fantastic resource for educators everywhere who are looking for ways to teach units about Haiti, charities, and social justice.

If you are a teacher, or know someone who is, send them the link to the web comic. The graphic novel format is appropriate for all ages, and many levels of reading skills.

How You Can Help Raise Awareness
If you enjoy the web comic and appreciate the incredible amount of time and work that has gone into its creation and development, then help spread the word.

Send the web comic link to your contacts that would enjoy reading about life in Haiti. Post the link on your Facebook status and your Twitter feeds and MySpace pages.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Starthrower in Haiti speaks volumes. And though the web comic is scheduled at this time to run for a few short months, the content is evergreen and will be an ongoing, online global resource.

What Next?
Daniel is currently looking for ways to publish Starthrower in Haiti in print form. If you can help, please contact him through the web comic site.

To Daniel and all who supported this project, a big Thank You from Starthrower Foundation!

As much as fundraisers are urgently needed to keep our university students in school after Christmas, and as urgently as funds are needed to re-establish the Food Distribution program, this web comic will be invaluable for helping others understand life in Haiti, and the difference between Charity and Social Justice.

Like It? Comments?
Please take a minute to leave a comment on the web comic site, to show your support or to ask questions or make a comment about a particular issue.

Start Reading
Here's the Welcome Page. Working together, we CAN make a difference!


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Haiti News Students, Airline, Shipping, Schools, Hydro, Heat, New Campaigns

Bonjou tout moun / Hello Everyone!

I am back, safe and sound from Cap-Haitien. The trip was all too brief but certainly very busy and rewarding! Here's some news about shipping, new airline to Haiti, and pictures of some of the post-secondary students and life in Lakay.

Student News - Good News
Auguste and I reviewed the finances, and requests for aid from students, and then took Jackson's taxi to town to do the banking. As always, a challenge in Haiti, but they're all sorted out now.

Nursing School Students: Wisly, Alland, (Sharon) Brunie, Gaby

Looking over the papers from the School of Nursing, plus a phone call for clarification, we found out that what appeared to be a yearly fee of $200USD per student for dormitory and cafeteria use is actually turned out to be a monthly fee. Yikes!

Vincent, Auguste, Sharon, Cap-Haitien Haiti

Vincent, our third year agriculture student at the university in Limbe, and Plenitude had both received the demi bous (half bursary) they applied for. Vincent 's dormitory fees were waived for the year.

Plenitude demi-bous for the university in Port-Au-Prince to begin a 5 year program in master electronics. There is no dorm or cafeteria there, but a small allowance from Starthrower will allow him share a ti kay (house) and to eat daily.

Casimyr, Sharon, Osmann ~ Teacher's College Haiti

Casimyr and Osman were both admitted to the 5 year Teacher's College program. We provide a small stipend to assist with room and board. This is a new state university highly recommended by one of the nuns currently in second year. A phone call from Rosemary yesterday provided new information: There is free bus service for these students to the school. It is a fair distance outside of Cap-Haitien.

Micheline ~ Year 2 Medical Technology

Micheline successfully entered the second year of the Medical Technology program. It was so good to talk to all of them, and catch up and celebrate their successes with them.

Rosenie, back from her trip to France, also successfully entered the second year Kindergarten teacher training. Talking with Rosenie was a riot! I didn't have to say a word. All she could talk about was the trip to France and every new experience from airplane rides to the food to the Eiffel Tower, to meeting young people from all around the world to the challenge of many languages!

I am so proud of our staff and students. In my absence everything continued. As there were enough funds in the bank to get everyone enrolled in to school and cover tuition until Christmas, Auguste and I agreed to go moso pa moso (pay a portion at a time) and leave it to the universe to provide for January to June. This is a strategy we have employed many times.

Haiti Shipping
On the way to Haiti, in Ft. Lauderdale, I purchased, packaged and delivered supplies needed in Haiti and took the boxes to CAS Xpress (the new shipping company), who assured me that the supplies would arrive in Cap-Haitien via Port-au-Prince on October 20. We shall see. We are still waiting for boxes sent in June and August.

Florida Coastal Airlines
Since Lynx Airlines, the usual carrier, has ceased operations, Marjorie, who travelled with me from Ft Lauderdale, and I flew to Cap-Haitien on the new Florida Coastal Airline (see Lynx site for details). The plane had 31 seats and a lavatory, though no running water. WOW! After a smooth flight, then the usual dance through customs, we were finally out the door to meet Auguste and Jackson, our usual taxi driver. I was HOME. I would have kissed the ground except that it is too difficult for me to get down and up!

Lakay Fondasyon - Our Home in Haiti
In the taxi to the house (kay la), we all talked non-stop as we caught up with each other's news. Then to greet me at the house were Carmene, who takes care of the house and cooking, Joceline, Jack, Wisky and Diuegrand. It was so very good to see them all.

And the garden! How it had grown. The house was spic and span, cleaned by Joceline and Carmene. Because my surgical dressings must be changed daily, the house had to be as clean as it possibly could. It also smelled heavenly!

Carmene had cooked us dinner, her variation of traditional Haitian foods -- Mayi Moulen (a cornmeal mush cooked with kidney beans, coconut, peppers, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese) and Militon Gratine, a very mild pepper-like vegetable. A real treat! Sister Rosemary and long time driver, Jud, joined us for a catch-up visit. So much has happened while I have been in Canada.

Hydro and Heat
Once again, I woke with the roosters at 4 a.m. and, miracle of miracles, we had electricity! Hydro seemed to work during the night for a few hours, so that made it the ideal time to do my dressing change. It was also a little cooler then. When we arrived, Sister Rosemary reported that the temperature in the courtyard at the convent was 47 C (117 F) in the shade. This is very unusual heat for the end of September; It was more like July.

Dr. Coq, Sister Rosemary, Dr. Jerome, Sharon

On Sunday just before Marjorie and I left to go to the airport for our flight from Cap-Haitien to Ft Lauderdale, in addition to Rosemary, Dr. Coq (surgeon) and Dr. Jerome (Internal Medicine) came to our kay la. They had heard on the street that I was back in town, and they wanted to say hello and take some pictures of 'the team'. My gratitude to them is boundless: They literally saved my life!

I'm so glad I took the time and took the chance to make the trip to Haiti. Seeing how well the centre is running, and knowing for sure how the staff and students are doing will help me through my upcoming surgery and recovery.

Two New Campaigns for school, food program
Although Starthrower Foundation welcomes individual sponsors for our students, we decided that 'many hands make light work'. That is, many small donations soon add up! The two new campaigns will be ongoing, and run in tandem.

We need to raise $20,000 USD to cover costs for our post secondary students, and a similar amount to restart our Food Distribution Program for secondary school students. This week we received $660.00 USD. Thank you so much! We are on our way!

It bears mentioning that when one donates through Canada Helps, it is not necessary to register or set up an account (see information in right menu). And already, several fundraisers are being planned in Ontario. Working together, we CAN make a difference!

Thanks, Everyone, for your continued support.

And Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

Beni tout moun

PS If you are planning a fundraiser, do let us know and we can post details on the web site.

PPS Rose Youdeline's sewing machine arrived last week. It has been assembled and will be delivered up the mountain to her in Sen Rafayel this week. See photo on this post.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Climate Change Haiti Deforestation Hurricanes Poverty Linked

In small island countries like Haiti, climate change is exacerbated by a dispiriting merry-go-round of deforestation (removal of trees), Caribbean hurricanes and tropical storms, and the resulting landslides and floods, and lack of infrastructure and extreme poverty: Is poverty the chicken or the egg? Which came first? Or are climate and poverty co-dependent?

Since climate change is the focus for today -- Blog Action Day 2009 -- and Haiti and its poor are the focus of the Starthrower Foundation blog, it's a good time to think about how climate change affects poor countries like Haiti, and how the actions of Haitians and lack of actions of First World countries keep Haiti on a poverty continuum.

Effects of global warming on Haiti has a Top Ten list of the effects of global warming climate change; Haiti has seven of them.

Disappearance of coral reefs:

The beaches of northern Haiti near Cormier Plage are composed of sheets of dead coral:

From the air, the deforested (treeless) mountains of Haiti mark the border with its greener island-mate, the Dominican Republic. Without trees to hold soil and absorb rainfall, the stage is set for landslides. Poor people do what they can to survive, and use whatever materials are available to them, like cutting trees to make charcoal for fuel.

Rise in sea levels
As an island country, Haiti is at the mercy of rising sea levels. Major Haiti cities such as Cap-Haitien, Port-au-Prince and Gonaives are located at or near sea level. Gonaives has been devastated by floods several years in a row.

More killer storms:

Haiti is in the Caribbean hurricane zone. While 2009 saw no hurricanes or major tropical storms make landfall, the country is still feeling the effects of 2008's major hurricanes.

Crop failures
Crop losses from storm-induced landslides and flooding in 2008 meant poor people got poorer, hungry people lost a source of food, and farmers had no crops to market.

Water shortages
Like all poor countries, Haiti lacks the infrastructure to provide clean drinking water and irrigation for farms.

Fossil fuels use:
Poor countries like Haiti, those who have vehicles at all will have older, less fuel efficient vehicles and use more polluting 2-cycle engines. Most cars and trucks are used gas guzzlers discarded by richer countries.

Reforestation, Hurricane preparedness
The vicious cycle continues as poverty begets poverty. Even first world countries are unable to decide how to cope with the effects of climate change; poor countries cannot cope at all. Hurricane and storm warnings and shelters would help lower loss of life and property. Reforestation of Haiti would be a good start; Planting trees would help reduce the devastating effects of hurricane rains and flooding, and protect crops.

But given that Haiti is a small island nation roughly the size of the U.S. state of Maryland, would new forests in Haiti make much of an impact globally? Compared to the deforestation of millions of acres in large rain forests like the Amazon, likely not.

Making a Difference, One Child at a Time
But like Starthrower Foundation's slogan (making a difference, one child at a time), we can make a difference one poor country at a time, if needs be. Working in Haiti, we can help them to mitigate the effects of climate change; By planting one tree at a time, upgrading one vehicle at a time, cleaning one well at a time. Helping one country at time, we can help effect change over time.

As long as we don't run out of time.

-Karen Zabawa
Related: Blog Action Day 2008

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Haiti School of Nursing, France Pictures, Trip Colorado & Cap-Haitien, No Internet Lakay

Bonjou tout moun! Hello Everyone!

And welcome back from France, Sister Rosemary and Rosenie! This photo of them was taken at the base of the Eiffel Tower.

And Great News! Last night Auguste, Starthrower's director of education at Lakay Fondasyon, in Cap-Haitien, emailed with wonderful news!

Brunie, Gaby, Wisly and Alland, the four new grads that Starthrower had sent to register and write entrance exams for a Leogane, Haiti, nursing schooll were ALL bon (accepted)! Congratulations, to you all!!

How I wish I could have been at the kay for the cheers that must have resounded! All of us can be very proud of them.

This relatively-new School of Nursing, begun by Haitian-American Hilda Alcindor, has a demanding curriculum, and as we have been disappointed before, we didn't have high hopes for their success.

However, now that all four students have been accepted (you know what is coming!), we now need to find the money to pay for their tuition! I spoke with Auguste briefly this afternoon about the fees for the nursing school.

The total annual cost for each nursing student in residence is $2,000 USD. Comparatively speaking, this is such a small amount needed to do so much good!

Add that to the money needed for our other students in post-secondary: Vincent is still waiting to find out if he will be able to enter third year of the agriculture degree program; Plenitude was accepted at the private university in Port-au-Prince for a degree in electronics, and Casimyr and Osman were accepted at Teacher's College.

These young people are breaking all stereotypes, beating all odds (see Haiti exam results). I often refer to these students as "our kids'. Not mine, but ours. That is because they are children of the universe -- yours and mine. If we don't support them, who will?

There are many wonderful people who contact us, and offer support in whatever way they are able. They are the foundation of our Starthrower community. Blessings to all of you!

UN May 2002
Here's part of a May 2002 presentation to UN General Assembly Special Session on Children by Children's Forum members Gabriela Azurduy Arrieta, then 13, from Bolivia, and Audrey Cheynut, then 17, from Monaco. I re-read it often.

The statement opened as follows:
"We are the World's Children; We are the victims of exploitation and abuse. We are street children; we are the Children of War; We are the victims and orphans of HIV/AIDS. We're denied good quality education and health care. We are the victims of political, economic, cultural, religious and environmental discrimination."

And closed as follows:
"We are not the sources of problems, we are the resources that are needed to solve them. We are not expenses, we are investments. We are not just young people, we are people and citizens of the world. You call us the Future, but we are also the Present."
And even today, in the Toronto Star, Faith reporter Leslie Scrivener wrote a feature on the value in educating girls in developing countries. But in our opinion, all young people deserve an education. See full article here.

Trip to France ~ More Pictures

Here are more pictures that Sister Rosemary took of Rosenie and Nadeg when she accompanied these young Cap-Haitien Haiti students on the trip to the conference in France.

It's still hard to believe that one of our kids from the poorest of Haiti had the opportunity to travel to France!

Thank you, Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto!

And in this photo from a ceremony at the start of the conference, Rosenie and Nadege are adding soil from Haiti to the pot.

When soil from every participating country had been added, all soils were mixed together, and seeds were planted.

By closing day of the two week long peace conference, new plants had sprouted.

What a beautiful lesson: One family, one earth. We all have the same basic needs and same basic mandate.

Boulder Colorado Trip
I returned safely from Boulder, Colorado on Sunday night, after a whirlwind weekend of new faces and experiences at the UN committee fund raiser to support our Potable Water Distribution Program in Haiiti.

Many thanks to Jan and Tom, Ann and Oliver who went out of their way to make certain I arrived and departed all activities on time. (Jan, thanks also for a lovely evening with the board!).

To Nancy and the UNA committee: Thank you again for selecting Starthrower Foundation for this program, and for following through with a beautifully orchestrated event.

Our condolences go out to Starthrower Jackie on the death of her mother, Eleanor. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Trip to Haiti End of September
I am making a trip to Cap-Haitien prior to my next surgery, scheduled for October 20. I will leave Toronto on Monday, September 28 and return on Monday, October 5. And yes, I realize that this is almost the exact date that I was airlifted out of Haiti last fall.

Starthrower's friend, and mine, Mme Marjorie, a retired nurse, will travel with me to Cap-Haitien and stay at the house. I know it's a short visit, but this is better than no visit at all. I really want to see staff and students and reassure them that I am very much with them.

Internet Cap-Haitien Down
We've lost internet contact at Lakay in Cap-Haitien. Auguste says that the 'NetGear' component (router) of our internet set up is kase (broken). Hopefully we can get the internet back up and running while I'm there. It appears that it will need services of a technician or a replacement. We really miss it as cell phone international calls are a lot more expensive.

Congratulations once more to all to our students in Haiti who worked so hard to pass their exams, both high school and entrance to post secondary.

To alll Starthrowers, please keep these young people in your thoughts and prayers and pass along their desire to attend post secondary programs to anyone who might be able to help. A little goes a long way ... a lot of 'littles' go even further!

Beni w

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Haiti School Registration, Supplies, Shipping Backpacks, Exam Results

Hello Everyone,

As yet, I don't have an update from Sewoz (Sister Rosemary) on her trip to France with our student. When she phoned on their return two weeks ago, the phone connection was too poor and full of static, and she has been on retreat ever since. She did say the trip went amazingly well, and I will report details when I again hear from her and Rosenie.

Registrations, Text Books, Uniforms
Auguste, our director of education, has emailed that he is extremely busy registering (fe insripyson an) our students in school in Cap-Haitien, and arranging for registration in Sen Rafayel.

When students are registered, the schools provides the book lists and uniform material samples they will need to attend classes this fall. As the text book lists come in to our office, Starthrower's book repair team begins to assemble the necessary texts, and to compile lists of books that we do not already have. Each day, the staff will go to the market. look through the book stalls and let the vendors know which titles we need, and to hold them for us.

As well, funds to cover the cost of material for uniforms, and tailor / seamstress fees, and buying items like underwear and shoes will be distributed to each student. Claudy in Sen Rafayel is coming to Cap-Haitien this weekend to pick up the money needed to pay for inskripsyon and uniforms in Sen Rafayel schools.

Tuition First Semester
This coming week Auguste will make a return visit to the Cap-Haitien schools to pay the first trimester fees, and Claudy will make another trip to Cap-Haitien to pick up money to pay tuition in Sen Rafayel. Starthrower makes school tuition payments in stages because carrying large sums of money is not wise anywhere, and especially ill advised in Haiti.

School Starts, Exam Results
Haiti school classes are scheduled to begin on Monday, September 7, barring any tropical storms or hurricanes. The weather this year has been much calmer than last year. However, now that Bill and Danny have skirted Haiti, there is another storm brewing with the potential to escalate: See National Hurricane Center

Those students who were ajournee rewrote final state exams last week and are once again awaiting the results.

Sponsors Needed
Vincent, Brunie, Plenitude, Gaby, Alland, Wisly, Casimyr and Osmann are still praying for sponsors (see this post and this post for details on some of these students). Brunie, Gaby, Alland and Wisly will travel to Leogane to write entrance exams for Nursing Sciences program next week.

Currently we have no back packs to fill with supplies and distribute to about 125 students. Judy in NB Canada has some backpacks ready to ship, as do I here in Orangeville, but there is no cost effective way to get them to Haiti. Daniel in Toronto has purchased some in the U.S, and is working with cargo company CasXpress in Ft Lauderdale to ship 48 packs.

If anyone is planning to travel to Florida or Haiti and can deliver these packs part way or all the way to Haiti, please let us know. We are following up on a shipment of supplies (Thanks, Kayla) whose journey to Haiti began in June, and as of yet, have not arrived in Haiti. But many thanks to all who are doing their best to help these students. Whenever the packs arrive, they will be put to immediate use

Reading List
I have been reading lately; it's gift to have the energy and the time. In Teatime for the Traditionally Built, a novel by Alexander McCall Smith, his fictional African Bishop, speaking to a distraught parishioner worried about 'future doom', says,
"Our concern should be what is happening right now. There is plenty of work for love to do'".(p.56)

There is plenty of work for love to do: Such a simple sentence, yet such a profound sentiment.

In Wayne Dyer's Change your Thoughts, Change your Life, he quotes his teacher Nisargadatta Maharaj (pg. 23):

"Wisdom is knowing nothing, Love is knowing everything, and between the two, my life moves. And while you're living, stay as close to Love as you can."

What a challenge: To stay as close to love as you can. Easier said than done with the busy-ness and distractions of every day life. But what a difference we could make in this world if we each consciously make the effort to stay as close to love as we can. Think of the healing that could take place!

Boulder CO Trip
On the weekend of September 11, I plan to travel to Boulder, CO to attend a fundraiser to support our Potable Water Distribution Program. This will be my first solo trip since last summer, and I am looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

Thank You
On a personal note, I spent a day at St. Anne's Spa in Grafton, ON as the guest of owner Jim Corcoran. Jim had invited me to come to St. Anne's last summer, before my illness and surgeries intervened. Thank you, Jim and staff, for a very relaxing, rejuvenating day! As I have another major surgery scheduled for October 20, the timing was perfect.

I know what a fine job Auguste and staff are doing, and that we are all doing everything possible to keep programs running smoothly in my absence.

Thanks again to everyone who is supporting these young people. You are helping them change their lives, and that of their country.

Beni w (Blessings)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Haiti National Exam Results ~ Starthower Students Make Us Proud!

Haiti Exam Results are now posted for the country as a whole, and overall, Starthrower's high school students are more than holding their own, they are doing better than the national average!

This is especially gratifying for us at Starthrower, since these Haiti - wide results include all socio-economic levels, while Starthrower sponsored students are almost exclusively drawn from the poorest of the poor. Yet, once again, these hardworking and motivated young people have demonstrated that given proper support, they can not only compete with Haiti as a whole, they can and do excel!

I am not sure of whom I am prouder: Our students for their hard work, our staff who tutor them, or our sponsors who enable them to go to school! A pat on the back and big hugs to all of you!

2009 Exam Results are In
For 2009 Haiti overall: 23.42 percent success (16.27 percent en rhéto; 32.68 percent en philo) [Selon les statistiques fournies par le Bureau national des examens d'Etat (BUNEXE)].

Starthrower students' 2009 average is currently at 40 percent but hopefully that will improve after the rewrites.

[For those wanting more information, go to Haiti MENFP. Unfortunately, we don't know the breakdown for Haiti north, as the site only gives a breakdown for 3 of the 6 departments in the country.]

Last year, 2008, we had 100 percent pass at the Philo level.(see post July 2008) This year, Deles was unable to tutor students in Sen Rafayel due to his own school schedule, and his absence was keenly felt. Both he and Auguste are natural born teachers, and their tutoring and mentoring is a large factor in the students' success.

The 2008 Haiti country average was 62.19 percent. Quite a drop in 2009, notes Charles, who follows the results from Switzerland, considering the general calm this year in Haiti. But remember, too, that the 2008-9 school year began a month later than usual due to the series of tropical storms and hurricanes that hit in September.

For Starthrower Students July State Exams

Sen Rafayel: 2 pass Philo; 4 ajournee
Cap-Haiien: 2 pass Philo; 2 ajournee.

There were no failures at this level. Those who are ajournee (adjourned) will rewrite exams from August 24-27.

Congratulations to Gaby D. (Philo) and Rose-Guerlande B. (Rheto) who were bon (passed).

(Anna and Cindy from Penn. were able to meet and talk to Gaby, as he happened to be doing a bit of maintenance on the house.)

Gaby has worked very hard since he came to us 5 years ago. He has had malaria at least once every year, as well as other infections. The little kay (house) in which he and his brother, Lusnot, live has been flooded every year. And so every year, the boys have to find temporary shelter while cleaning up.

Now that he has graduated, Gaby wants to continue on to become a nurse, or a medical technologist. I have asked him to decide before we ask for a sponsor. Luckily, either course of study is less expensive than university tuition, and either one will lead to a good job when completed.

Alland and Wisly dropped by the other day. They originally wanted to be doctors but when they didn't get in to State University, and also decided the cost was too prohibitive for sponsorship, they settled on Agriculture at the University at Limbe, which costs between $4500 and $5000 per year.

Now they have been talking and thinking that they would like to apply to the new School of Nursing program at Leogane (they probably talked to Gaby!) which costs about $3,000 per year, and includes room and board. With their original interest in medicine, and with nursing school costs much lower than medical school, a much lower amount of sponsorship money is needed. Conversely, donations go further when programs cost less, and so will benefit a greater number of students.

Inskripsyon Registering for Fall Term
Auguste, Starthrower's director of education, is starting to visit area schools to pay for inskripsyon in order to hold places for our sponsored students. And we still need backpacks for September, though not as many as we did last week, thanks to Daniel in Toronto. He is trying out a new shipping route to send some of the needed backpacks and pencil cases, and will let us know how successful it is!

Post Secondary Sponsors Needed

As well as students listed above,sponsors are needed for Casimyr and Osman, Teacher's College (5 year Co-op), about $3000/year.

That will include a small allowance for room and board as well as travel twice a year home to Sen Rafayel.

If Micheline (see photo here) passes her Philo, she will return for the second year of the medical technologist program. Cost is about $1500/per year which includes a daily travel allowance as well as a stipend for room and board.

Elorge and Marlene, our current students in pre med in Santiago, Dominican Republic, need $5,000-$7,000 per year. This includes apartment, food, travel to Haiti twice a year.

We subsidize the sponsor money as there are always costs popping up throughout the school year which we cannot anticipate.

Johnley wishes to attend the Ecole Professionelle to apprentice electrician. (This is different from Plenitude in that it is not a University program; the requisite is 5 years of high school, or Rheto which he has.

It is a very well known and respected school. Cost per year is about $1500. Will have to check length of program but know that all are co-op. Diplomas are awarded and valued.

For more photos of these and other students see pictures on the Starthrower site.

Once again, thanks to everyone for helping make this possible. And we welcome any and all initiiatives to continue to support these deserving young Haitians!


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Travel to Haiti ~ American Visitors Bring Rice, Oil to Lakay Fondasyon in Cap-Haitien

Much excitement this week in Haiti, as long-awaited visitors from America -- Starthrowers Mme Cindy and Anna, on their first trip to Haiti -- traveled by plane and bus to meet the staff and students at Lakay Fondasyon in Cap-Haitien!

Welcome Sign at Lakay Fondasyon

Staff and students had prepared a Welcome sign to greet Mme Cindy and Anna. Until now, the stafff had known of Mme Cindy and her friends in Pennsylvania by name only, and through the parcels they send several times each year. How exciting to put a face to a name, and to finally meet one another!

How to Carry a Sack of Rice in Haiti

And they came bearing gifts! Along with good wishes and clothing, Mme Cindy and Anna, with one of their Haitian friends (yellow shirt), brought some rice and oil they'd bought in Cap-Haitien for Starthrower staff and students. In the foto, Cindy's friend shows Anna how to balance and carry a sack of rice (diri) on her head.

Starthrower Students at Lakay Fondasyon Cap-Haitien

Several of the Starfish sported new Tshirts, which I believe were part of the gifts brought from Pennsylvania. At the Lakay, we keep an assortment of games and balls on hand for the kids to use. You may notice that socks and running shoes are lacking. Flip Flops (those flat, plastic sandals) are fine for walking around, but not suitable for playing soccer.

Mme Cindy, Micheline, Anna at Starthrower Lakay

No one was more excited to finally meet in person than were Anna and Micheline, one of Stathrower's senior staff on the Text Book Refurbishing Program. The girls have been emailing for almost two years (thanks to donors who arranged for internet access and computers at Lakay Fondasyon!), ever since Anna sent Micheline a Christmas gift box as part of Mme Cindy's holiday initiative that year.

Starfish Micheline, Anna, (Friend), Mme Cindy

This visit gave them a chance to meet one another and for the American visitors to see first hand Life in Haiti. Anna and Cindy will be back in the U.S.A. this week, and I look forward to talking to them about their trip.

For those of you interested in travel routes to Cap-Haitien, Haiti, Mme Cindy flew to Santiago, Dominican Republic, then traveled by road via Caribe Tours bus from Santiago DR to Cap-Haitien (Caribe Bus to Haiti Info) This is the same bus service that our two students Elorge and Marlene take to get to medical school in Santiago.

Mme Cindy's trip coincided with high school graduation in Haiti, and she was on hand to congratulate our new grad Gaby! (see update and photo here)

On another but related topic . . .

TS Ana map National Hurricane Center

Travel to Haiti at this time of year (late August, September) is often difficult as this is the time when tropical storms and hurricanes usually appear (see post last September - Hurricane Ike). For current information on tropical storms in the Caribbean see National Hurricane Center updates. Today, Ana and Bill, the first storms of the season, are south east of Hispaniola, Haiti's island.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Texts, Supplies, France trip, University Sponsors, News from Haiti

Bonjou tout moun / Hello Everyone!

Auguste has sent news of what's happening at Lakay Fondasyon, our centre in Cap-Haitien.

Here's the news about the text book program, trip to France, school supplies status, and more high school grads who need sponsors for university.

Supplies In, Backpacks Needed SAP
Two boxes of supplies (school shoes, dental supplies and meds) sent by Mme Cindy in Pennsylvania arrived yesterday (Big Thank You!). We'll distribute them with backpacks to our students. But, we need more (new, please) backpacks. Last September, we used every one we had in stock to replace the ones that students lost in the storms and flooding.

France Trip, Text Book Program
Rosenie leaves for France on Saturday (August 1) to attend the Peace Conference with Sister Rosemary and Nadege. When she gets back to Cap-Haitien, she will resume supervision of the text book repair program, and distribute texts according to students' school book lists, as well as stock students' backpacks with supplies. In September, Rosenie starts classes for her second year of teacher training for Kindergarten (Jardin des Enfants).

While Rosenie is in France, Marlene will manage (degaje) the Text Book restoring/distributing program, then return to Santiago, Dominican Republic, to start classes for her second year of university. Both girls are fortunate to have sponsors for post-secondary studies.

Working on the text book program with Rosenie and Marlene are Christamene, Sherline, Edwina, Modeline and Camios. Claudy has been collecting books in Sen Rafayel and will come down the mountain this weekend to deliver them.

As the volume of work grows, so will the staff: New additions are Micheline, Marie-Modeline and Marie Vonette, who is coming from Sen Rafayel to stay with friends in Cap-Haitien while she is working.

Although Jak is working night security at Lakay Fondasyon while I am in Canada, he still has to do our regular maintenance jobs. On Monday mornings, after being up all night, he stays to set up the weekly work schedule for Dieugrand, Gaby, Kenston and Stephen. Auguste oversees the work and prepares all salaries.

Sponsors for University
On the last blog I profiled Vincent and Plenitude. We are still looking for sponsors for university for both of them.

This week, I am adding Brunie Gilles (05/09/87) to the list of students needing sponsors for university. Brunie graduated from Philo last year, but she was unsuccessful when applying for the nursing program at the State University. She is anxious to reapply this summer.

Brunie has 3 brothers and 2 sisters (Marie-Vonette, who will work on our book program, is a younger sister). Brunie is one of the first students I met my second trip to Haiti so many years ago. Her father has been dead many years now.

Her mom, who worked as a seamstress in the village until arthritis set into her hands and back, and her vision deteriorated, maintains a small garden that does not produce enough food to feed the family. There is no money to pay for school fees. The younger children have never attended school, as the free primary school begun by Sister Cecilia, Sisters of St. Joseph, no longer exists.

Help Break the Cycle of Poverty
Unless change takes place, and these grads have access to higher education, they are destined to live the lives of their parents -- brief and filled with despair. I have been struggling with the reality that a sizable amount of money is needed to support the Haitian youth who have requested Starthrower Foundation sponsorship in post secondary institutions.

Our young people have worked so hard to get through the grueling state exams at the Philo level. Several have been sitting since last year, waiting and hoping -- Plenitude, Brunie, Alland, Wisly, Casimyr, Osman, Line, Johnley.

Vincent (entering 3rd year, and at the top of his class) is waiting to find out if he will be able to finish his Agriculture program. Ten more young adults are waiting results from state finals and all have expressed a desire to go on in post secondary.

Only Game in Town
We know that much of the time, these students have been ill and hungry. Having sponsored them through high school graduation, is Starthrower still 'responsible' for their continuing education? These young people are not just citizens of Haiti -- they are citizens of the world. Right now we are the 'only game in town'. There is just no other option (possibilite).

Starthrower Mission

"The mission of Starthrower Foundation is to raise and distribute funds for the education of youth in San Rafayel and Cap-Haiten, Haiti, who are unable to support themselves and/or who have no family support. All levels of education (elementary, secondary, university, apprenticeships) are worthwhile."

If Starthrower cannot sponsor these young people, and they are not able to attend university or college, then, if they are very lucky, with their high school diploma, they might be able to get a minimum wage paying job ($1.75 USD per DAY).

Sadly, it is not uncommon for daily wages to be paid in kind (crusts of bread, etc) instead of hard currency. However, a minimum wage job, though better than being unemployed, will keep these young graduates mired in the poverty - malnutrition - illness continuum on which they have lived all their lives.

Wages in Haiti
Currently, a Haiti parliamentary bill is on the table to increase the minimum wage to $5 USD per DAY. Given the cost of living (price of rice, beans, oil), those lucky enough to have jobs and receive a salary would still not have a living wage.

In Haiti, staples cost more than they do in the U.S. and Canada. In Canada, the new minimum wage is $10 CAD per HOUR; in the U.S. it's $7.25/HOUR.

Having been privileged to live and work with these young people, I know first hand that they truly are resources and investments in a brighter, healthier future for Haiti as well as themselves. Post secondary training would make the BEST use of the talents, education and experiences of these young people. An educated citizenry is the best hope for Haiti.

To those who have supported and continue to support them, I can only say Thank You, again, from the bottom of my heart.

To those who ask What can I do? Know that every dollar makes a difference when it joins with other dollars.

Working together, One at a time . . .

Thank you for keeping them in your thoughts and prayers.

Kenbe pa lage

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Haiti Post-Secondary, Summer Travel to Cap-Haitien a Possibility

Hi Everyone!
Finally, I am able to type again! Hard enough to explain in English what's been happening.

Just imagine how much harder to explain in Kreyol, to Auguste, our Director of Education in Haiti.

If anyone has been waiting for an email from me, here's what's been going on the past two weeks.

After being diagnosed a few weeks ago with multiple infections in the surgical wound, I spent the last two weeks quite incapacitated; first with an IV line in each hand, then with an improperly installed PICC line (see Wiki def.) in the bend of my right arm. The pain from the PICC was as miserable as the side effects of the IV meds!

Simple hygiene routines that you usually take for granted became chores: Flossing teeth is impossible, brushing slightly less so. As for washing your hair, well, forget that! Especially since my left wrist, broken and improperly set in Cap-Haitien a few years ago, wasn't exactly up to the job of taking over all chores.

On Friday, the PICC was finally removed, with much difficulty. (OUCH!) Thank goodness my amazing nurses Leslie and Jenna came as a team for the job. They are truly amazing. Thanks also Pam, Peter and Elise who did night duty with the IV bags. When this is all said and done, I will have so many new life experiences from which to draw nuggets of wisdom!

Speaking of new experiences, we have a list of young people who would dearly love to continue their education after struggling through seven years of high school. I have had a lot of time to reflect on the changing mandate of Starthrower Foundation. Originally, we hoped to help these Haitian youth graduate high school. But now, as they graduate, I can see that some of these young people still need help and support to get beyond secondary education.

Educated citizenry is vital to the growth of Haiti. So although sponsoring youth in post-secondary studies is new territory for us, we are all up to the challenge. Even something as simple as their moving from small villages to large cities is daunting, but I am confident our young people can handle this and other challenges. Our current university students had wanted to go to summer school but we had no funds left in the budget. They will start again in August.

Here are two young men who we feel can use this ongoing support. As post secondary is expensive ($4500 USD-$5000 USD/year, which includes room and board and travel twice a year to home base), we don't expect each student will have a single sponsor.

Perhaps a group of people, a community, a club or association can work together to sponsor them. Just let us know where you would like the support directed. We don't expect sponsors to commit beyond a year. No one understands better than I how quickly life circumstances can change.

Students in Post- Secondary
Plenitude Jean - Baptiste (14/09/84)
You may remember Plenitude (nickname Plenito) from mentions in earlier blog posts.

His dad had died just 2 days before he got his final results last year. He has one brother and one sister living, and neither has ever gone to school.

Plenito wants to study genie electronique (master electrician), which is a 5 year program offered at both state and private universities located in Port-au-Prince. He didn't go to school last year because we were unable to raise enough money to support him.

We are currently sending him to the PREFAC course in Cap-Haitiien to brush up his skills so he can rewrite the entrance exams he took last year. Although he was successful for the private university, he must take the entrance exams again.

Vincent Robert (22/03/84) is entering his third year of a 5 year program, studying agronomie (Agriculture). Vincent's sponsor was unable to continue after the first year and although we have supported him through the last year, we don't have enough in the budget to cover his continuing in the program.

Thanks to all of you with the creativity and skills to use other media and means (YouTube - Michael, Webcomic-Daniel, eBay- Maureen) to support Starthrower Foundation. If I've overlooked anyone, I apologize, and please remind me!

Sister Rosemary emailed me yesterday when she was at Lakay Fondasyon, our house in Haiti. She said that the internet and the phones at the convent are still not working, but that our 'little cyber cafe' at Lakay Fondasyon is chugging along.

She said that she had read the email that I had sent to Auguste, so she now knows why I have not been in touch. She also wrote that as well as the two students already mentioned above, three more -- Peterson, Alland and Wisly -- have all requested sponsors for post secondary. I will get details from Auguste and let you know. All we can do is ask on their behalf, but at least this is better than not trying at all.

Thank you for staying with us through this unpredictable time, and thank you for taking these young people into your hearts, and for your ongoing support.

I am missing being in Haiti very much, and I feel the need to go to Cap-Haitein for my mental/spiritual well being, so I am working hard to get fit for travel. I hope to go this summer, even if it's only a short visit just to see how everyone is doing, and to see Mme Cindy when she comes to visit and to reassure to the staff and students that I am indeed coming back at some point.

The picture at the top of the page is of Rosenie, Alex (intern) and me at Lakay Fondasyon last August.

Ala pwochen
Kenbe pa lage

Monday, June 29, 2009

Packing Supplies for Haiti, Sponsor Seamstress Business, Student Profile, Paris Trip

Hello, Everyone!

A big Thank You! to Alex and Laura, who traveled from London ON to Starthrower Foundation to pack supplies for Cap-Haitien and to Jane, here in Orangeville.

Thank you, too, to Daniel and Amy who have also volunteered to come pack supplies. We just have to find a time when my energy level can keep up with theirs!

Last week I asked for support for Rose-Youdeline (DOB 03/07/85) who wants to put her newly acquired sewing skills to work making school uniforms. Thanks to Ingrid in Ontario and Dave in New Brunswick for their quick response to her request (see Dave's comments following last week's blog post)

Here is some information about Rose-Youdeline. Her story is very typical of all our students' stories.

Once Rose-Youdeline is set up in her new business, she will be able to support her 5 sisters and 4 brothers. She is the only one of them all who has had the opportunity to go to school.

Her mother died in 1994, her dad is blind and very frail, and requires constant assistance. Her older sister (a year older than Rose) has been mothering the family since she was 10 years old. Since this older sister is currently in hospital (she was injured in a bus accident), Rose-Youdeline is now responsible for taking care of them all.

Whether this older sister lives or dies, someone in the family will have to find the money to pay the hospital bill. In Haiti, unpaid hospital bills mean that someone in the family will go to jail; in this case, it would probably the blind dad.

I know from past experience that the first thing Rose-Youdeline will do when she receives the money for supplies is take a small portion to buy food to feed her family. I also know from experience what her future will be unless drastic changes take place.

She will set up her sewing machine outdoors in the daytime, hunched over it for as many hours as there are daylight. At night, she will move the machine inside (the sewing machine will have more room than anyone in the family) and continue to work until she is exhausted.

Seamstresses are prone to damage to their eyesight, postural muscles and fingers. Fingers usually become arthritic after about 10 years. Someone will always stay home to prevent thieves from taking the sewing machine. It is the most valuable thing they own.

Although Rose-Youdeline knows the challenges she faces, she was ecstatic when Auguste contacted her last week in Sen Rafayel to tell her the good news about her sponsor. However when Auguste contacted Soeur Fernande to ask about buying the sewing machine for her, Soeur told Auguste that the machines she had in stock had all been sold within a day or two to people who had the money at their disposal.

Soeur Fernande will search for and find another machine for Rose-Youdeline. When it arrives, the money will be on hand. This delay is difficult for Rose-Youdeline but she knows that it will happen and is very thankful for sponsor support.

Sewing Machine for Rose-Youdeline

Update on the sewing machine October 2009: The machine as been found, and assembled, and will be delivered to Sen Rafayel so Rose-Youdeline can begin her business. Thanks, Folkie! See more updates on students here.

An update on our Paris traveller-to-be Rosenie (this blog post):
Rosenie has written her exams and begun to hire staff for Starthrower's summer text book restoration program. We have asked for a sponsor to come forward to pay for her second year of the 3 year Kindergarten Teacher program.

And more good news! A group of the most amazing young people on the planet -- the mighty girls of the Golf Road Junior Public School Girls Club, in Scarborough, ON, organized and mentored by Linda, Penny and Nancy -- have collected money to sponsor her. Imagine that! These junior Starthrowers who are actually still Starfish themselves. Thank you each and every one!

I know Rosenie will be so relieved to know that she can continue her studies for another year. Although she excited about the upcoming trip to France, she and Nadege, who will travel with her, both expressed apprehension about traveling so far on their own. They've never been anywhere away from home, let alone on an overseas trip!

Sister Rosemary has decided to accompany them, which makes me feel better as well. Sister Rosemary will not attend the conference sessions but will be present to debrief the girls when needed.

On a personal note:
There is still so much I'd like to say, but I am somewhat handicapped this week. I learned that I have 3 bacterial infections which have been hanging on since the surgery, thereby delaying my recuperation.

Last Friday night, our local hospital (Headwaters, in Orangeville) began intravenous antibiotic therapy three times a day. I have one IV line in my right hand and another on the inside of my left arm. I am at home now with the one on my hand hooked up to a pump which runs 24 hours a day dispensing one antibiotic directly. I carry it with me.

The amazing nurses of St. Elizabeth Health Care come in each morning and evening to administer the other antibiotic through an IV drip, as well, and also change the dressing on the surgical wound. We shall see if there is light at the end of THIS tunnel.

It seems I have used much of this post to saying Thanks! but Thanks are called for. Thank you all for your ongoing support. We are all very grateful.

Though there is still much to be done in Haiti with and for our students, it is encouraging to have your help. Remember that many of our young people will be writing exams well into July. Please send your prayers and positive energy their way. We have 10 writing Philo, the 7th and last year of secondaire.

Kenbe (hang in there)

It's national holiday week: Canada Day July 1, and Independence Day USA July 4. Stay safe and happy, everyone!

Next week I will profile our students Plenitude and Vincent in hope of generating sponsor relationships. Please leave any comment you might have after the blog, as Teena and David did last week. It helps us get to know each other a little! And sharing ideas and concerns is good for us all.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Haiti High School Exams, Sewing Machine for Grad, Contracts, Programs

Greetings from Orangeville, ON

Lakay Fondasyon, our centre in Cap-Haitien, is very busy these days as many students have finished writing exams and have begun to return their text books to us.

Rosenie, who directs our summer book restoration program, has finished writing exams and has now started to work full time at the centre.

Foto: Claudy packing the trusty hockey bag with food for distribution in Sen Rafayel, Haiti

It will be a rush for her to sort books, purchase supplies, hire and train staff as she leaves for the adventure of a lifetime mid August -- a trip to France for 10 days to attend a Youth Conference sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph (see earlier post).

She manages this with the occasional assistance of Auguste, our Director Of Education. He is busy with logging report cards, tracking and paying salaries, the food and water distribution programs, and last minute tutoring.

Meanwhile others continue to toil for State finals:
  • Certificat (high school entrance) on June 25, 26
  • 9e AF (third year high school) on June 29, 30 and July 1
  • Rheto and Philo (baccalaureate, the final 2 years of high school) July 6-9

We are continuing to distribute food sacks to those who are writing exams. For the Philo exams, students must travel to another school district, find a place to stay and write for 4 consecutive days.

In Sen Rafayel (the mountain village inland from Cap-Haitien), one of our students has successfully completed the 3 year sewing program at College Sen Jozef and has made a special request.

Her name is Rose-Youdeline, and she wants to start a business making school uniforms. Sr. Fernande, who is the founder and director of the school, can acquire a treadle sewing machine for her for just under $100 USD. This is NOT a new machine, but would be suitable for her needs.

As our meagre resources will now be diverted to the text book refurbishing program, as well as continue to pay for the water distribution, medical and dental referrals, it would be wonderful if someone could help her get started in business.

She will also need supplies, such as needles, thread, buttons, etc., all things that are available in the Cap-Haitien market. For those of you not familiar with how we handle such start-ups, here's what we do. When we receive funds in response to a special request such as this, we make a contract with the student, asking that they repay a portion of the money when they get on their feet.

This model has worked well for us: Those asking for help recognize the contract as a commitment. The small amount that we ask to be repaid to Starthrower is then done so with great pride and accomplishment, and they know that this repayment will be used to help someone else (see Social justice).

Happy Father's Day to all the dads who read this blog. Designated special days like Father's Day, Mother's Day, etc., always put me in a reflective frame of mind.

The reality for many hundreds of thousands of young Haitians is that Dad (and often Mom) died at a very early age, leaving these young people filled with unexpressed grief and very few role models on whom they can rely.

At a hospital visit last week, when I expressed dismay at my slow recuperation, a health care professional said to me, "I don't know why you are so stressed. You're retired, you have no ties, no time commitments."

I didn't tell her that at least a hundred and fifty people were anxious to see me again, to make sure I was all right. I didn't tell her that I wanted to be helping with the book restoration, to be monitoring their progress, that I wanted to celebrate their good exam results or commisserate with them over failures. I doubt she'd have understood.

I admit to being stressed. These young people need and deserve so much -- not just the basics but some joy and comfort as well. They have built Starthrower into more than a community, they have become a family. And we all like to be with our families.

Thank you so much for supporting our family. May you and yours be blessed!


Here is an email in kreyol from Auguste, and my English translation:

Bonswa Manmi

Dieugrand te achte epi Mme Carmene, Martha, Modeline ak Gaby te prepare sak yo. Mwenm et Dieugrand te distribiye nouriti, dlo potab ak vitamin osi. Paske premye semen te gen konje pou fet drapo et profese.

Gen mirak! yo repare pon-an machin yo pa pase nan dlo-a anko. E y'ap repare wout la, y'ap mete gravye sou tout wout la.(men, pou yon ti tan).

4 jenn fiy -yo pa anko vini.

Mesi, Bondye beni-w.

Good Afternoon mother

Dieugrand bought food supplies in the market and Carmene, Martha, Modeline and Gaby prepared the sacks. Dieugrand and I distributed food, water and vitamins (sent by Mme Cindy).

(Students were availabe to help because of holidays: May 1st Fete de l'agriculture et du travail [ Agriculture and Labor Day] and May 18 Jou de Drapeau or flag day)

We have a miracle! The bridge (to Sen Rafayel) has been repaired and the buses no longer have to go through the river. Also they repaired the road by putting down fresh gravel. (that won't last long)

The 4 new students haven't come yet.


Monday, June 8, 2009

School Supplies, Clothing, Vitamins, Monthly Donations, Webcomic

Salye tout moun (Hello Everyone),

A big Thank You to all of you who responded to help fund our food distribution program!

We have been able to purchase and distribute food sacks for the remainder of the school year, the end of June (photo).

As I have written before, Lakay Fondasyon, Starthrower's centre in Cap-Haitien, is busy year round, with the ongoing need for school supplies, vitamins, clothing and funding for programs (food, water, text refurbishing, water). Here are some of the things we need this summer, and things that we need year round. If you can help, please let us know.

Text Books
As soon as all school exams (konpoze) are finished, the students in Cap-Haitien will return their text books to the center. In Sen Rafayel, Claudy and Fabiola will collect texts and travel by tap tap then taxi to bring those texts to the center in Cap.

Rosenie (overseen by Auguste, our manager) will be responsible for our text book refurbishing program: She will hire part-time staff, purchase any supplies needed to repair the texts, then set up work stations for the staff. It's quite a production line, and the workers are thrilled to have a part time job to help support their families. Auguste will prepare and distribute salaries.

At the same time (July, August), every student we support will be coming in with their final report card or a request for money: Many schools charge a fee to release final report cards, money the students usually do not have. Those students with 'ajoune' (borderline grades) will begin studying at the center, often with tutors, to prepare for their rewrite exams in August.

School Supplies, Clothing, Vitamins
While Starthrower looks for ways to support the local economy, and spend donations on goods rather than on shipping, customs and exise, we do realize that some of you are more comfortable (or find it more productive) to collect and ship actual goods and supplies. Of course that is fine, and we are grateful for all help!

If you are able to or prefer to help by collecting and sending school supplies, please let us know which supplies, and the quantity. Ideally, if school and hygiene supplies were being sent on a regular basis year round, we could avoid the panic and scramble which til now has been our modus operandi. And it is reassuring to our staff in Haiti, who can better plan the distribution items and amounts when they know that replacements are being shipped.

Like most charities, we realize the benefits of monthly donations and for a regular supply of recurring items such as school supplies, vitamins, sunscreen, etc. When shipments are coming in on a regular basis, we have on hand the necessary supplies for emergency responses.

Last September (2008), several hurricanes devasted much of north Haiti, and many of our students' homes and therefore their school supplies were destroyed. We didn't have any reserve supplies to replace them, so the students went without a backpack for the 2008-2009 school year. And it is now hurricane season in Haiti.

Here is a list of some needed items:

School Supplies
  • At least 125 backpacks and pencil cases
  • pens, erasers, pencil sharpeners
  • running shoes (new only)
  • (Note: No pencils please. Pencils can be bought in Haiti)

Personal Care, Health
  • toothpaste and toothbrushes
  • bar soap, face cloths and towels
  • sanitary napkins
  • multivitamins, vitamin C
  • (NB Clothing can be bought in Haiti)

We are also hoping the new shipping company CAS Xpress (see last blog post) proves to be a reliable delivery source. Ideally, items shipped by mid July should arrive in time for packing and delivering in mid-August.

In addition to the ongoing need for funds for our operating expenses in Haiti (rent, salaries, supplies), and programs (food distribution, texts), there is also a need for funds to pay for our students' medical and dental care as needed.

Graphic artist Daniel La France, of Toronto (, contacted us a few months ago with a fund raising initiative: He would create what is known as a webcomic based on Starthrower and our work in Haiti. Dan traveled to Orangeville to look at my Haiti photos that would form the basis for his artwork. I will let you know when the webcomic is online.

Help Needed Packing, Shipping in Orangeville
Unfortunately post-surgical complications and upcoming surgery (#3) will keep me from to Haiti this summer, as I had hoped. I do however, have some supplies here in Orangeville waiting to be packed and shipped, and I would welcome some help with this task. They will do more good in Haiti than here in Canada. Any students in need of volunteer hours?

If anyone is traveling from the south Ontario area to Florida this summer, and can deliver a few boxes to the shipping company in Ft. Lauderdale, then please get in touch with me.

Auguste emailed with some news which will have a positive impact on our ability to travel between Cap-Haitien and Sen Rafayel. I'll send you his news along with translation.

Thanks again for helping to keep alive the dreams of these young people!

Beni-w (blessings)


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