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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