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


Anonymous said...

Foto: Sherline (lt) and Edwina sit on the gallery at Lakay. They are wearing their school uniforms.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sharon,

Great blog, as always. All of us who read your blogs are being educated about the situation in Haiti - bit by bit.

I noticed you briefly mentioned "apprenticeships"as a career path for Haitian youth.

If you ever feel so inclined, I for one, would love to hear more about this facet of the education system in Haiti.

Are these opportunities "officially" sanctioned by government?

Are there any standards in place to assure a high quality of training with regard to the individual placements - as opposed to the proverbial "sweat shop" where trainees might learn little?

What are the chances of the participants gaining permanent employment at the end of their apprenticeships (or being able to open their own business)?

Which "trades" are open to apprenticeships?

How long do apprenticeships generally last in Haiti?

How many Starfish are waiting to enter an apprenticeship right now, and are there spaces available for them if the funding becomes available?

Is the cost to sponsor a student in an apprenticeship less than say ... a university sponsorship? I would hope that this is the case because university training is probably longer. Additionally, in an apprenticeship, the sponsoring enterprise should be gaining from the work of the trainee, so I would hope the net costs to the trainee are less.

Some of your supporters who may not be financially able to support a full, post-secondary sponsorship at university ... might, on the other hand, be able to help with a lower cost alternative.

At the end of the day, you still have a Haitian young person who is trained for an honourable, life-long career through the apprenticeship route.

Blessings to all,

in New Brunswick

Sharon ... we are all so happy to continue to read of your improving health status. Does that siren "Cap-Haitien" still beckon???

Starthower Founder said...

Thanks for your interest in apprenticeships, Dave.

We learn through trial and error as there is no manual.

Apprenticeship with a master craftsman (carpenter, mason, mechanic etc.) is 4 or 5 years.

This works better up in the village of Sen Rafayel than down in the city. Djohn is in his 4th year of carpentry and has repaired our chairs and built tables and work benches.

We have also loaned him money for supplies to take on private jobs.

Jetho apprenticed for 4 years and is now working as a mason's assistant.

Other trades require school/co-op programs as there is no regulating body or set of standards.

We discontinued apprenticing to mechanics as garages closed, bosses died or went to jail. There are school programs.

Plenitude wants to study electricity (5 years) at a private university. The cost is about $3000 CAD for the year which includes a small living allowance.

The school is in Pot-au-Prince which increases costs (travel, etc).

Johnley want to study at a Professional school in Cap-Haitien. Again the program is 5 years, cost lower at about $2000 CAD per year, and also includes a small living allowance.

Hope this gives you some idea.

Re: siren song - Haiti is home and I am homesick.

Anonymous said...

Hello again, Sharon,

Your reply to my inquiry concerning apprenticeships has peaked my interest even more so ... as to what opportunities may currently be available to Haitian students.

Here in Canada (as you know), we have many Trade Schools and Community Colleges that offer relatively short programs of study. Some are government run while others are "for profit" training institutes.

Are there similar short, trade school programs in Haiti or even in the Dominican Republic that would offer Starfish a chance to learn a trade in a relatively short period of time?

If so, which trades are available and how much would these programs cost? Surely some must be less expensive than a full five year university program.

I am thinking of Rose-Youdeline and the three year program she took in Sen Rafayel to become an accomplished seamstress. What other similar programs are there out there, what do they prepare students to do for a living, and how much does it cost to attend these trade programs?

I noticed that in your reply regarding "apprenticeships"that you named several male students who may be candidates. Are there any
apprenticeship openings for women?

What about trade school programs for females? Certainly there is the sewing program mentioned earlier, but are there others a female student might aspire to?

Thanks for clarifying these various options for me, Sharon. I truly appreciate your deep knowledge on this subject and am anxious to learn even more.

Warm regards,


Sharon Gaskell said...

Hi David

Unfortunately Haiti does not have the type of trade school to which you refer.

There are however many small schools which offer sewing/cooking in tandem with some high school courses. This is what Rose Youdeline has come from. Currently, we have 4 others registered in these programs, one in Cap (Karen I forwarded pictures from Auguste of Compere, Paulaine and her sewing samples from this school year - do you want to maybe showcase them at some point in time?) and 3 in Sen Rafayel. One of these is a young man , Kesner C., who chose this path when he became responsible for younger siblings after both parents died. The youngest has since died and he felt responsible. But I digress.

We pay for these programs with our general high school funds as the cost is the same except for the cost of materials etc.

To become qualified in a trade, one really needs a diploma from a recognized program ( which includes co-op) This is 4 or 5years. This is why we ask for sponsorship.

Hope this provides some information.

Daniel said...

Hi Sharon,
you list the cost for sponsoring Plenitude and Johnley but not the others. I would find it useful to know how much it would cost to sponsor Vincent or Brunie.


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