Getting It All Ready

Only four weeks remain before we open our Becky DeWine school on September 12th, and we are furiously working to prepare our campuses and staff teams for opening day. Thankfully, we completed most of the post-earthquake repairs and rebuilding, but we are a long way off from being ready to receive students on September12th.

“There is just so much that needs to be done, and we have only a small, reliable team that we can turn to,” says Fr.  Tom. “One of the things we now realize is that the earthquake wiped out many of the college students who were training to become teachers and nurses etc. It is so hard to recruit qualified high school teachers now – especially when we tell them that our school is in Cite Soleil. “

Here’s a summary of our efforts to get ready for the 2011-2012 school year:

  • During July we implemented week long professional development sessions for all our teachers – addressing  problems like classroom discipline, lesson planning and teaching techniques, basic subject knowledge;
  • With help from Lisa Deters, (an international development expert who worked with UNICEF’s preschool teaching program for many months) we provided a week-long seminar to teach our preschool staff how to use the “classroom in a suitcase” Unicef kits that we received in March.
  • Hosted seminars for our school administrators – covering conflict resolution, scheduling, pedagogy, planning, financial and school management;
  • Evaluated and refined our school population. Sadly, we learned that some students (and many of these caused discipline problems) entered into our HS after the quake using false names. We are currently verifying all student records.
  • Ongoing new teacher recruiting– especially for our high school – we need to hire 18 new teachers.
  • Textbooks – find and purchase minimum text books and manuals for both students and teachers.
  • Classroom prep – outfit classrooms with desks and/or tables and benches, white boards and black boards, basic supplies,
  • Install a loudspeaker system for the high school to coordinate announcements and daily classroom changes.

“This is the first year when we really focused on strengthening our staff teams and purifying the student population. Cite Soleil is different today – there are more groups opening schools and more programs for people. A few years ago, we were really the only major school system operating in Cite Soleil and the goal was to take in as many children as possible, as much for a meal as for education,” says Doug Campbell. “Now our goal is to give our students a high quality, Catholic education that rivals any other school in Port-au-Prince. It may take a few years, but we can do it. And we will do it with the Haitian people running the entire thing, that is the real challenge but it is the only way to do it right.”

New Headquarters and Offices - Starting Volunteer Program

Our new headquarters is complete and we added second floors to our administration building. Next door, we are finishing up the residence for Fr. Tom and our volunteers and storage depot, chapel and vehicle parking/repair areas.

"It's really the central nervous system for HT," says Doug Campbell. "Sometimes I can forget just how many projects and people we run. We need a conference room for meetings and training, and office for Fr. Tom, for our plant operations manager, one for our Director of schools and one shared one for our school administrator. We employ 250 people and need an office for records and personnel. We need an office for our food and supplies coordinator and one for our bookkeeper. There are two offices for U.S. volunteers as well. We completed a large, 2 story depot on our residence grounds that will decrease our need to pay high monthly storage fees at the warehouse we currently have most of our supplies and equipment. We have 3 jeeps, a large bus,  a dump truck, water truck, two  transport trucks and a huge mobile clinic - all this needs to be maintained."

The Hands Together St. Francis de Sales Volunteer Community begins - volunteer rooms at our new residence

Hands Together begins for the first time in 15 years, a formal volunteer program for people from the U.S. The St. Francis de Sales Volunteers (SFSV) live together in community and assist as mentors/trainers to the Haitain staff that run our operations. "All our paid positions are for Haitians. It is their home and there is a tremendous need for work," says Doug Campbell. "After the quake we saw the need need for a group of dedicated people, with a strong faith who wish to grow closer to God and work alongside the poor. The community is a blend of Americans and Haitians, there are 6 young Haitian men serving as volunteers now and who are contemplating religious life. Volunteers really provide supervision, accountability, but most importantly they can teach and train. All of our Haitian staff are eager for professional development. There is very little of that in Haiti."

The SFSV's will also help us with short term delegations (visits from parishes or universities) and provide hospitality to "Hands Together Helpers" - short term volunteers who come to help on a project, or fulfill a specific task, e.g - a mechanic who comes for one week to work on our Mobile clinic."

To learn more about HT volunteer programs or to apply online, visit our Service section on the web at: Hands Together Service Opportunities

Mobile Clinic - Agriculture - Feeding Outreach

During July and August we experimented with a 4 day schedule that brought our Mobile clinic to the poorest areas of Cite Soleil. Fr. Tom describes the goal: "With post earthquake influx of NGO and groups, there are more clinics in and around Port-au-Prince, so we began doing what the clinic is really designed to do -- be mobile. There are still places in Cite Soleil where the elderly and very sick have difficulty getting help. So we created a mobile clinic team - again all Haitain staff  with a doctor, nurse, record and triage, and a driver - to circulate among 4 different sites. We determined that we can see approximately 70 people in a six hour visit. We use $700 of medicine and $180 in diesel each week."

Clarke Farm - Gonaives

Two Earth University teachers ran a 15 day program to graft and plant 8,000 mango trees on our land in Bassen and the Clarke Farm. We are developing crops that have a high cash value and with help from EARTH, are slowly looking at ways to create some markets for these crops.