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Today was a little different

Today, a lot of street vendors hawking a variety of goods set up their stalls in front of our guesthouse. They were selling anything from hand embroidered table cloths and clothing, various hand made goods such as carvings from wood and stone, paintings, metal art, jewelry, and even machetes. Here is a collection of some of the wares that found new homes. I felt really sorry for them because they spent so long setting up and some of them didn’t sell anything. Others did and so I guess this is capitalism at work.

A yellow school bus arrived to take us to a local school and we all piled on. Some of the volunteers are either active teachers or retired and so they were very excited about this trip.  Gerald, our local sponsor is the assistant principal, teaches Math and Economics, and was part of the first graduation class.

Even though this is a private school that operates within the guidelines set by the Haitien government; they do strive to be exceptional. They partner with the other schools in the area and do not believe in competeting with the other schools because they are focused on their educational goals. There are also more than enough kids to go around and the enemy is poverty and ignorance. Last year, they had a 100% of their graduation class pass the final exams that need to be taken in Port-au-Prince. They are very proud of this metric.

The school has 1100 kids and 75 teachers, 40 of which are full-time; the rest work on an hourly basis and are shared with other schools. The majority of the high school classes work this way. The school will be celebrating its 25th anniversary next year and as graduates have returned home from their studies, they wanted a better environment for their children and hence the people-school.

The school system is controlled by the state and was adopted from the French system. The kids graduate when they complete the 13th grade which enables them to easily further their education at higher learning institutions. They are able to communicate in four languages when they graduate from the school – Creole, French, English and Spanish.

The kids are all wearing school uniforms and the dress code is strictly enforced. If a kid shows up at school ungroomed or with dirty, damaged or incorrect uniforms, they will be sent home. We did notice that some of the children were wearing sneakers and the staff shared that it was because that was all their parents could not afford multiple pairs of shoes.  Classes are from 6AM to noon and the kids we spoke with were very proud that they have the opportunity to attend school.

We Encountered a 22-year old boy that was in 7th grade. He was being sponsored which enabled him to finally attend school. The school administrator shared with us that some of the adults who had jobs in town, such as town, had come back to school in order to complete their high schooling. They understand how key education is to ending poverty and th most notable returnees were two town mayors.

The classrooms were basic with a green chalk board in the front. The two classes we visited had 36 and 47 squeezed in but some of the classses can be as large as a 100 students. The school teachers in the group were all commenting on the neatness of the children’s writing. The kids attending pre-school and elementary school also get lunch that mostly consists of rice and beans. They also benefit from a bus that collects them in the town center and returns them back after school.

The school was started by a Caleb Lucien and his wife.  Caleb is from the region and so he knows what the people need and after he completed his Masters of Education, he returned back to the region to start a high school because the closest one was an hour away by car, Most of the people couldn’t afford this and so they just didn’t attend high school.  Or the kids would be sent away to complete their schooling. When they started, they bought motorbikes and hired drivers which would then fetch the teachers from neighboring schools, have them teach for the day before returning them home afterwards.

Approximately 50% of of the kids are ‘sponsored’ via a organization called Hosean International Ministries which was started by Caleb too. They are a 501c3 in the USA and a recognized NGO in Haiti. The organization uses volunteers in the US and so all of the money come straight to Haiti. The biggest cost is the teacher salaries and the annual sponsorship of a child enables the school to make a commitment to  child and the teachers.

After the school visit, we poured the concrete floors for the house. The well practiced human conveyer belt stepped up the task with the last person in line pouring the concrete where the mason could then smooth it up with the float. The last person was also the one that got splattered but I must admit, it was better than yesterday when I had to lift the buckets of concrete up to the mason who was balanced on top of a 45 gallon drum with six concrete block in order to give him the height needed to pour the buckets of concrete for the vertical columns. My good old hat took the majority of the splatter except for the one time that I looked up to collect a dollop in the face. Much the amusement of the human conveyer belt. After we completed the floor pouring, some of the team headed out to tour the new market while the rest of us got down to manufacturing the rebar structures needed for the concrete support beams above the doorways and window openings.

Jill, one of my fellow volunteers is also blogging. If you are interested in her perspective as a third grade teacher with a sick sense of humor please visit:  http://takach108.blogspot.com

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