Living Our Faith In Haiti

It was heartwarming to observe the progress of our Haiti efforts since last fall.  The schools are enjoying the introduction of computers.  The solar and clean water systems are used daily.  The enthusiasm of the teachers, kids and related communities is amazing.  As Jean Claude, the principal of one school said, “It shows them that someone cares and it gives them hope.”

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The January 2014 mission trip included a variety of objectives. One goal was to assess the progress of two recent deployments before we expand the new school cart program further.  We also surveyed five additional schools as potential future sites.  Each school would love to be selected.  We delivered several hundred new handmade articles of children’s clothing, kitchen supplies, teaching aids, computer lab supplies and program operations equipment. We built one additional solar school cart and left a complete tool set for building the next few carts.

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Much of our attention focused on Ecole de L’espoir, the school run by Jean Claude Degazon.  This school provides free education to the kids of LaPaix, a very impoverished, rural village on a barren hillside above Thomas, Haiti.  Jean Claude funds this school out of his own money and whatever he can raise.  This school is delighted with the new computers, solar and access to clean water.

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We sponsored installation of a solar powered streetlight at Ecole de Lespoir.  Installation of this streetlight immediately established a new community gathering place.  Picture, if you will, a still, dark hilltop now lite with a “beacon of hope.” It even became an informal outside classroom for a couple of evenings.  Students organized review sessions for upcoming exams.  We planned and arranged for additional work on finishing two new classroom buildings started by other mission teams.  These simple concrete block structures are a vast improvement over the tiny thatched rooms used previously.

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At the school in Arcahaie, Institution Mixte Foyerdivin, they are overjoyed with the cart we deployed there.  “A dream come true,” the principal exclaimed.  “It is truly a blessing from God.”  Given the success so far, we hope to provide additional laptops to both schools.  Even then, it will still be two or three students per computer.  Gleeful cheers of “oui” (yes in Creole) echoed across the church sanctuary at the school assembly called in our honor.  It is clear the computers foster a new excitement for learning.  In addition, we hope to raise the money to buy tables and chairs to equip a better computer workplace at this school.  It needs one.

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At our anchor school, the Thomas Methodist School, the computer lab installed a year ago has become a part of the daily routine.  Each class has access once per week.  As with the other schools, the focus is on math and science.  We watched a fifth grade class doing an anatomy lesson and a first grade class in math exercises.  The lab is also used to teach art, French, English and geography.  We look forward to providing more software options in the future.

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The Thomas School now hosts periodic community education classes and the teacher training for all of our sponsored schools.  We are particularly pleased with how this school shares its water purification capability with the nearby community.  This is something we encourage each school to do.  Clean water is difficult to come by in Haiti unless you can afford to buy it.  The new Thomas school restrooms funded by our program are almost done.  More hygienic, western style toilets will replace the nasty hole in the ground.

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We wrapped up this mission with planning for additional facility improvements at all schools, preparations for launch of a school lunch program at Ecole de Lespoir (like we have at the Thomas School), scoping the next school cart deployment in April, estimating our next computer purchases and visioning more teacher training and community outreach.  We have a strong core staff in Thomas and a couple of excellent in country teaming partners.  We need to do some fundraising, recruit more mission teams and churches to sponsor schools and continue sustained incremental improvements at our program schools.

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“Dear Lord, I hear your call.  Send me.”  It is a blessing to live our faith in this way.

Sincerely,

Steve Elliott and Phil Bryson, Asbury UMC

Warren McGuffin and Brad Stribling, San Ramon Valley UMC

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