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


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