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 Children  Haiti Project #14673

A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!

by Colorado Haiti Project
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
A School in Haiti- changing 300 children's lives!
First mandalas!
First mandalas!

In Haiti, especially rural Haiti, education is about learning the right answer.  Because of the class sizes, students don't have the luxury to participate in active learning and participatory class work.  There are state exams for the 6th, 9th and final year of high school and school focuses on preparation for these critical milestones.

St. Paul's school was able to host a two day workshop with artist, Janet Strickler, to provide an opportunity for open and creative thinking through Mandala building.

A mandala is a geometric Hindu or Buddhist symbol representing the universe.  As an artistic form, they are a circle created in a geometric pattern working out from the middle.  Haitian students focus all the art around structured figures and patterns. Rulers are always a huge part of their work, so mandalas were a perfect way for them to expand their creativity.  Janet told them there was only one rule: no copying others, just use their own ideas to create their mandalas.  

After an hour, there was a wonderful array of artistic designs, each one unique!  The students were able to open up their minds and decide for themselves which pattern was right for them.

To reinforce and to make the class Haitian-led, a second workshop was offered the following week, led by Joseph Alvins, a young Haitian who took part in the first workshop as an assistant and who brought his own style to the second class. The students truly opened up even more, with larger, richer mandalas at the second workshop.

It is always important to abide by the school structure designed to best serve the educational needs of the country.  It is also wonderful to be able to supplement the standard curriculum with an out of the box program like art. It was a joy to introduce mandalas at St. Paul's and to watch the students expand their creativity. Yay Art!

Mandala Pride!
Mandala Pride!
Each one unique!
Each one unique!
Joseph runs the second workshop.
Joseph runs the second workshop.
Wanting to show off their mandalas!
Wanting to show off their mandalas!

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Changing Plastic Garbage into Useful Plant Pots
Changing Plastic Garbage into Useful Plant Pots

Haiti has almost no waste management: infrastructure for sanitation, garbage removal or recycling. Only 17% of the country has any type of improved sanitation systems, and that number is even lower in rural areas of Haiti.

That is the situation in Petit Trou de Nippes where St. Paul’s School is located. There is NO garbage collection. What do the people do? Most of the garbage is thrown on the ground or sometimes burned, neither of which is good for human or environmental health.

At St. Paul’s School this fall, there is a new agricultural educator, Raphael Fernandez, who is passionate about the environment. He has designed a curriculum that interweaves environmental awareness and stewardship with agriculture. He has engaged students in trash cleanup both on the campus of the school and at the students’ homes. But with no garbage collection, where will this garbage go? Students will work with their new instructor and their families to decide what can be burned, what can be recycled and what must be buried. Agronom Raphael, as he is known at St. Paul's, has also found a use for the ubiquitous small plastic bags that deliver a single serving of safe water.  The children use them at school and people use them at the market, they are sold for a few pennies everywhere.  After the water is gone, there is a small plastic bag that ends up on the ground.  Agronom Raphael has put them to use as small containers for starting plants from seeds.  The school garden now uses these little "pots" for all their seed germinating!

It is not a beautiful solution that speaks of a “Happy Ever After” and the elimination of the garbage problem. It is the reality of their world, where there is no infrastructure for their waste. But it is a start. Students are learning about the waste, what is dangerous for their health, what cannot be recycled and what has a long half-life. And their immediate environment is cleaner, safer and better for their gardens and families.   

Please help us support this creative educator along with all the teachers and staff at St. Paul’s School. Help us support faculty and students work towards practical and appropriate solutions. By donating, you are supporting Raphael’s vision of interconnected curriculums supporting the environment. Trash matters and we want to help the students of St. Paul’s put it in its place!

Creating a Recycled Garden
Creating a Recycled Garden
Planting Moringa in the School Garden
Planting Moringa in the School Garden

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Collecting for the Harvest Festival
Collecting for the Harvest Festival

While watching the students at St. Paul's School in Petit Trou de Nippes, Haiti prepare their garden stands, gather the chickens and plant trees, I was struck by the similarities of gardening and farming worldwide.  I could have been at a county fair but in fact I was at the 1st annual Harvest Festival at St. Paul's. This area of Haiti was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew last October, and recovery is still underway.  The school garden has been an incredible asset to the community during these difficult months. Since January, the gardens have fed almost 5000 community members!

The agricultural education program as part of St. Paul's curriculum began two years ago, and the festival was the culmination of this pilot program. The program provides the students with in-depth, hands-on farming and horticultural training designed specifically for the southern peninsula where Petit Trou sits. It is an extremely popular program, due in part to its interactive nature, wherin students plant, weed, water, everthing from caring for the animals to creating compost!  The other key reason for its popularity with the children is that is creates a powerful opportunity for reinforcement of the family structure.  Petit Trou is a rural community where farming is the main ingredient of a secure food supply.  By supporting agricultural education, we are supporting the families of the community, as the students take home innovative agricultural lessons and best practices for home gardens and small farms.

As the new school year begins, our initial startup grant for agricultural education at St. Paul's is finished.  Help us continue this life-altering program for rural Haitian children and their families. Having a Haitian agronomist/agricultural educator brings the learning of best practices and a deeper understanding of growing the crops that are the staples of the Haitian diet. And to support the worldwide effort of reforestation and sustainable agriculture requires a trained agronomist.  Please stand with us on the frontline of conservation and education in supporting St. Paul's School in Petit Trou de Nippes, Haiti.

Preparing for the Harvest Festival
Preparing for the Harvest Festival
A bountiful harvest for the festival
A bountiful harvest for the festival
A satisfied customer!
A satisfied customer!

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Shelove giving an inspirational speech
Shelove giving an inspirational speech

After five months of weekly GEM (Girl’s Empowerment and Mentoring) club meetings, all the girls along with their mentors and a few lucky guests held a large fet (party) to showcase and celebrate what they had learned and how they had grown.

What is a GEM club? It is a group of similarly aged girls that come together weekly at St. Paul’s School and the national high school in Petit Trou to learn and support each other. Research shows that girls tend to receive the maximum benefit when the programs they participate in are girl-only. The girls feel able to open up, express themselves, ask any questions and take on leadership roles that they might not otherwise. Due to girls’ social isolation, simply creating a space where a group of girls, around the same age and from the same community, can meet regularly, build relationships and begin to trust and share with each other, is critical. These social networks are crucial because girls with stronger social networks are less likely to be victims of sexual harassment and violence.

The GEM club also serves as an opportunity to practice key leadership skills they have been developing with the mentors. It is a place where the girls first learn, openly ask questions and then apply what they have been learning in a safe space with other girls. The main curriculum utilized in these clubs is the Asset Building Framework. It teaches all the different assets, such as social, human, physical and financial, that a girl needs in order to make a healthy transition into adulthood. Activities to build these various assets could range from life skills training to basic financial planning lessons or workshops about girls and women’s rights.

Celebrating these vibrant souls was a local necessity. The party was done in a traditional Haitian style which means everyone of importance at the event spoke and shared their feelings about the program. The speeches by the mentors were words of encouragement and reinforcement of what the girls had learned through the program. However, what was unexpected was after the formal speeches the girls took over the program. The event became all about them, demonstrating the girls’ blossoming leadership.

The most memorable part of the party was the presentations by the girls. One of the young women, Shelov, spoke with incredible confidence; you could feel the power of her convictions. She did not just give a speech though; she reached out to the girls sitting in the audience and engaged with them about the year’s lessons. The conversation that ensued between Shelov and her classmates spoke of finding their “capital”, their resources in health, in social situations and financial security.  Shelov talked of how they should not lower their expectations and should grow their opportunities.  It was a discussion of true empowerment and it was amazing to see the young girls on the brink of womanhood delighting in this.

The festival ended with a brilliant play put on by 5th to 9th grade girls. Plays are one of the most impactful tools for teaching in Haiti. It began because of the lack of formal written native language and a lack of literacy in the rural communities. Today, theater on any scale is a beloved art form and one of the best ways to reinforce learning.

This play while filled with hilarity was about the serious subject of Restovek. A restovek is a young child, often a girl, who is given into slavery. The reasons behind each case is different but the root cause is a family and a community who can not take care of this child.

The girls depicted the antagonist as an evil godmother who promised a better life for her goddaughter and then made her a virtual slave. The protagonist was a young girl whose father had died and whose mother was overwhelmed with children. Each act was an overblown scene of the young girl’s journey with her evil godmother. There were many funny moments and the girls in the audience obviously loved seeing their classmates act out the story.  But the message of restrovek was clear and well delivered.

After the Fet Tifi, we had a chance to interview one of the mentors, Nadaj, and the supervisor Darline.

Nadaj spoke of how the girls had been learning in the GEM clubs how to “catch their power and autonomy.” She explained further how she is teaching the young women to focus on their self-respect and how thinking for themselves is important in their society. Both Darline and Nadaj mentioned the importance of having a space for the mentors to talk to the girls about what is important to the girls and help them grow. They discuss pressing social issues like like HIV, not getting pregnant too early, and defending themselves against sexual violence. They also described how they talked about family life with the girls and why what their moms do is so important. Darline recounted how she educates the girls on the various roles the girls can have in their families like helping out with the family’s small businesses. Most rural Haitians are diverse entrepreneurs with several little business to help cover all their expenses like health care costs and education fees. Resale businesses of local products is common.

They all expressed enthusiasm to continue the program which we are thrilled to hear. These adolescent girls have brought this program to life in unexpected and vibrant ways, the Fet Tifi a small example of that. Their dedication to improving their lives, and the lives of those around them, is what inspires this work!

Proud mentors after the event
Proud mentors after the event
Girls of the GEM Program
Girls of the GEM Program
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Hurricane Matthew brought heavy winds and waters to the community of Petit Trou. However, that did not prevent St. Paul's School from continuing to educate young minds! With the help of our amazing community of supporters, the school was back in session only a few weeks after the storm. That being said, many of the the school's students are crammed into homes with extended family or living in damaged structures. Some are without the typically required uniforms but are continuing to attend school because of how much they and their families value their education. 

In 2017, the middle school agriculture program continues to grow and thrive. While the school garden was wiped out by the hurricane, our resident agricultural educator and his students got busy, not long after the disaster, replanting their plot of land with greens that participants will be able to eventually take home to share with their families. Carrots have already been produced and tomatoes and cabbage are almost ready for harvest. This program not only teaches students better practices on how to grow produce in their vital family gardens. It also allows students to transform in to active learners and to grow their critical thinking skills. Both of these skills will serve the community well as they trek the road to recovery from Hurricane Matthew. 

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Organization Information

Colorado Haiti Project

Location: Louisville, CO - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Teresa Henry
Director of Donor Relations
Louisville, CO United States

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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