Fifteen of our students participated in the Lil’ Sparks Lego construction competition and celebration in Cap Haitien again this year. The program is sponsored by an American foundation to encourage impoverished children to experience cooperation and science. Despite the dour expressions (these kids don’t mug for the camera much, folks), things went very well indeed!
As you know from our last 20 or so newsletters (we know you’ve saved every one), we really don’t ask directly for more funds than what folks have already given. However: “Avan ou monte yon bwa, gade si ou ka desann li” (“Before you climb a tree, look to see if you can climb down”). That Kreyol proverb certainly hints at a bit of the challenge we face in the coming year.
Projects like ours are able to satisfy basic needs such as medical care and nutritional support, but EDUCATION requires a constant commitment to the future. There is no room for complacency in the effort to ensure that a rising generation of young people have the skills to find a good job, avoid illness and unwanted pregnancy, and — among other critical skills — learn to identify and combat corruption.
It is difficult to look into the faces of these hundreds of young adults knowing that, for many, education will cease unless funding is found for them to go on to further their vocational or university studies. Our vocational school offers continuing training for 60 to 70 students, but only 20 to 30 new students can enter each year, since the training for tailoring and carpentry lasts 3 years.
Not a cent has been wasted, as is our promise, but we have found so much more that should be done, such as:
It is impossible not to try to do too much in a place like Grison-Garde.The community has proven repeatedly that, given the funds, they can work small miracles. We indeed have a mouthful of projects and dreams that have been bitten off!
We have made great strides over the past year thanks to your continued support: Our vocational school has turned out more than 50 two-student desks for the new school for just $60 a desk, saving us over $120/desk were they made at a commercial carpentry shop (that’s $6,000 we can use elsewhere). Over 300 uniforms have been produced, saving $15/uniform (another $4,500).
The incredible marching band, suitable now for half-time at the Super Bowl, can use any number of brass instruments and clarinets. Shipping is not expensive — just send instruments to our donation address. Tax deductible, of course.
Not unexpectedly, the new secondary (high school) classrooms are utilized in the morning by a hundred or more primary kids. Talk about wear and tear!
More than 80 midwives (pictured) attended a training session held in the new secondary school (Institute Maranatha has many uses in the community!). The training for this critically important program was provided by the Health Minister of the North and is being funded by our foundation.
As always, we offer our most heartfelt thanks on behalf of the community and their project: Institute Maranantha la Victoire de Grison-Garde. They pray for your continued support! Mesi anpil!!
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Welcome back! If you are one of our many longtime donors, you may have noticed that the name of the project you have supported so faithfully occasionally changes. We believe that has come about due to the realization that a first-class secondary school has been created requiring a more “formal” designation. The president of one of the most respected colleges in Cap Haitien has said that our students are the best prepared of any that apply … standing ovation, please, for the Institution Maranatha!
Providing Jobs and Opportunities to an Entire Community
An important “spin-off” from the original goals of the community’s effort in creating this project has been significant employment. It is encouraging to learn that 99 adults are now employed as educators, house moms, caretakers, cooks and so on — 79 are full time and 20 are part time. Secondary school teachers commuting from Cap Haitien (45 minutes) to teach specialty subjects like advanced mathematics, English, economics, French, etc. are the “part-timers”. Salaries are determined by the Grison-Garde citizens who run the project.
Thanks to you, we have never missed meeting a payroll for over 13 years! Our Haitian friends tell us that it is a near miracle, given their life experiences in general.
Just imagine: 750 children in free primary and secondary schools; 100 employees; as many as 400 meals served each day; 40 to 50 orphans housed and raised per year; dozens of wells drilled; a first-class vocational school with more than 40 enrolled in carpentry and tailoring; homes offering peace for the homeless elderly; students in college; a community education center ... on and on.
All of that, and more, from largely personal gifts given by our 400 donors (more are welcome, by the way). Don’t worry for a moment about your dollars being wasted, folks! That is our promise. We will make every penny work hard for you.
A Celebration for Mothers
Our Haitian directors came up with yet another first: a celebration day for mothers of students, simply to honor them because they are our mothers. “Yo paske yo te manman nou” (or something like that). The celebration included singing groups, prayers of welcome and thanks, refreshments and, of course, the magnificent Institute Maranatha brass band! We are told that rural Haiti had not seen a celebration like this -- only for mothers — ever.
The Secondary School Is Finished!
Please see the photo of our beautiful new secondary school building created through the work of Building Goodness Foundation using workers from the community. The school now has nine secondary classrooms, an additional computer lab and adequate office space. We are working to find funds for desks, educational supplies, etc. (offers gratefully accepted :>)
New Midwife Project
Robert Ford Foundation has created a midwife education project with the support of the Health Minister of the North and Dr. Eugene, whom you have heard mentioned several times. There remains a desperate need for improving the terrible neonatal/maternal morbidity in rural Haiti, Grison-Garde included. Through this program, women who wish to be midwives will receive education, clinical instruction and certification, as well as supplies such as sterile gloves, soap, pads, umbilical ties and more. Funding for the midwife project, like the well drilling effort, is separate from your gifts. Please consider spreading the word and contributing to this cause. Yours are the blessings that have allowed projects like these to continue on a day to day basis through the years.
Lost Schools Need Your Help
Our friends in two nearby communities are in great need of primary school buildings and long-term faculty support. Their schools have deteriorated beyond redemption. What a great way to honor or remember a loved one … build a school in their name! You may be amazed at the low cost and great reward. Contact us to learn more. We know how to do it, seeing that all funds are fully protected and IRS approved.
As always, thank you for your interest and continued support!
The latest news from Grison-Garde is good, all things considered. According to volunteers, the new secondary school looks great and should be finished on schedule in July. The bulk of the work is being done by local Haitians under supervision of a representative from the Building Goodness Foundation. We look forward to an epic inaugural celebration when the doors open in September!
Meanwhile, the primary school is still “jammed,” in the words of an observer, with over 400 local children in attendance each day to receive essential knowledge and skills plus a hearty lunch (which for many is the main meal of the day). The new Internet/computer room is always full, not only with older secondary students but also young people from all over the community, just as we hoped. Also noteworthy, the school is planning a major Mother’s Day celebration, for which the Foundation will provide $700 to cover expenses. This is not a traditional Haitian holiday, but maybe it will catch on!
Doctor Ray had the pleasure of visiting with a few former residents of the orphanage during his recent visit. A young woman named Lovely is thriving in nursing school at College of Notre Dame, a beautiful campus nestled in a patch of old-growth forest not far from Grison-Garde. Two young men, Pecknel and Pedro, are enrolled in Cap Haitien’s best college. We have watched them grow from young children into bright, productive, capable adults and we could not be more proud of them. If ever one needs proof of the significance of the Grison-Garde Orphanage & School, there it is.
Some additional news:
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Students Travel to Cap
Ten of our 4th graders recently journeyed to the big city, Cap Haitien, to participate in the Lil’ Sparks Lego construction competition and celebration. The program is sponsored by an American foundation to encourage impoverished children to experience cooperation and science. Things went very well indeed; witness the photo at left of the kids in their “Institution Maranatha” T-shirts. Note that 9 of the 10 are girls.
Clean Water Saves Lives
Robert Ford Foundation, working through Institution Maranatha has funded 10 mountain spring containment projects. Springs are encased with concrete and then piped down to needy communities. This prevents most water contamination, the source of illness. “Ayiti” (Haiti) means “mountains” which greatly limits well drilling access. See the attached photo of an incredibly important way to spend just $250—drilled wells cost us $2,500 by comparison.
Secondary School Coming Right Along
The new secondary school building is for real, at last. Funded entirely through Building Goodness Foundation, they are employing dozens of local workers — the orphan kids get to pitch in also (see photo). The kitchen is even busier than ever: hundreds of student meals, orphan meals and now hungry workers. Propane provides fuel for about half the meals, charcoal the rest…400 plus meals!
College Awaits ... With Your Help
We must find a way to get more of our secondary graduates to college. They will be the ones to bring new skills back to this community. It has happened too rarely in the past. $1,500 provides a full year of education: all expenses, tuition, room and board, etc. in Cap Haitien. We will connect you personally with a qualifying student if you would like to consider sponsoring. Our coordinators will continue to oversee all transactions and monitor the student’s progress carefully.
Giving to The Haiti Mission and The Ford Foundation
Although the Ford Foundation and the Haiti Mission are longtime partners in support of the Grison-Garde community, we are separate entities and have no financial ties. If you would like to make a donation to the Ford Orphanage and School, please do so via this website or by mail. Details are on our Donations page.
Trials of the Third World
It was an interesting year indeed. Chikungunya disease swept through northern Haiti, including the orphanage/school, but left little destruction in its path. With a great proportion of the population now immune, we hope that this mosquito-borne illness (also termed "dengue light") will become a minor problem in the future.
Currently, massive flooding is occurring in the north of Haiti where your project is located. Schools are closed throughout the area, shelters are open and deaths have occurred. The school, orphanage and elderly compound are all OK right now. We can only pray that a cholera epidemic does not rear its ugly head again as a result. What misery will be next?
Growth for the Greater Good
It has finally happened. The new, beautifully designed secondary school is about to become reality. Construction will begin in December. The Building Goodness Foundation has funded the entire project with special help from an anonymous philanthropist friend (say that 10 times fast) of our foundation and donors like you. They will provide an American project supervisor to oversee the work being done by our Haitian workforce. It is a wonderful employment opportunity for the community.
A new small duplex has been built in the compound to house the supervisor while work proceeds. This cottage will be available should American teachers or others choose to spend some time "interning" or teaching at the schools in the future.
Motivated College Students
Remember the three orphan young adults (Lovely, Fecknel & Pedro) who have enrolled in the colleges in the city of Cap Haitien? Lovely has entered the RN program, Fecknel will study science in order to qualify for medical school, and Pedro will study to be an engineer. Their motivation and determination is an inspiration — young people with no family but themselves, pledging to return to their community in Grison-Garde and to pay back what has been given to them. They are but one of the hopes that created the dream that began this project 12 years ago. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers, please.
Another Successful Fundraiser
Announcing the Mother of all yard sales! The "Friends of the Robert Ford Haitian Orphanage & School Foundation, a non-denominational group of Albemarle County, Va. residents" raised (trumpets please) over $14,000 in a two-day yard sale last month! We're guessing they have started working on next year's sale already. The hundreds of volunteer hours they contributed are amazing. It is just exactly what an American community will do for those in need.
Team Member Introductions
We now introduce our project coordination guys who make things happen at the orphanage/school by keeping us in constant contact with the committee of ownership at the project. They are:
Dr. Maklin Eugene, whom you already know from past newsletters, will continue to help guide us through the sometimes difficult terrain of their unique culture. He is also the main "energizer guy" of northern Haiti in battling cholera and malnutrition. His work to provide clean water for all has been successful, and is endless.
Marcelin Pierre has been an interpreter for The Haiti Mission for many years. He is a college graduate in economics and a respected leader of various projects in Cap Haitian and its surroundings. He has long been a devoted supporter of the orphanage/school.
Mesi Anpil Anpil!
Many, Many Thanks!
Imagine this: your home is a little hut like the one shown below, near the community of Grison-Garde, Haiti. You put on your school uniform (provided by the school) and walk an hour to enter your beautiful classroom, decorated with colored paper chains and other wondrous objects. The furniture and all those pretty things have been put there or created by your Haitian teachers and classmates. Then, after a big meal at school, you walk home.....can you imagine an enigma more profound for a young mind? Fortunately children seldom dwell upon such mysteries. Children, all children, are surrounded by conundrums they need not solve, but for us are profound. "Pa senp" is "not simple" - more like complex.
We may understand the paradox of that classroom when we realize that this entire project was conceived, created by, and is maintained entirely by members of that impoverished community. It was their dream, not ours. Perhaps that is how they wish their children's world would be. For that, we cannot help but love them.
"Kouman ou ye? Ak fanmi ou?"
That greeting is almost universal in Haiti. It means: "How are you? And your family?" Michael Bazile, one of the original children admitted to the ophanage (he is now 23 years old) has used those very words in describing his continued attachment as a student and his daily presence at the project. This is his "fanmi" - a feeling shared by dozens of young people who have lived there with their fanmi over the years. It has been your gift to them.
New School for Maroquee
How would you, or someone you love, like to help create another (albeit much smaller) primary school in a community living in deep poverty? Nearby Maroquee has asked for help. They have already formed a Comite' of ownership - an essential step indicating both their sincerity and determination. The only school in that community (shown left) is falling down and is without certified teachers.
They have seen 3 other nearby projects succeed under community-owned stewardship. Primary school children of that community have no other hope of education during this critical moment of their only childhood. This is an ideal major project for a church mission or foundation wishing to have a real impact. We will work with a prospective sponsor going through all the steps that lead to success. The rewards will be huge.
Contribute to Our New Secondary School Project
Speaking of school issues: the directors are still unable to decide how to solve the problem of advancing primary students to secondary level if their numbers are too great for the secondary school capacity. Building Goodness Foundation (in Charlottesville, Va.) has offered to build an additional desperately needed secondary school building, but that still leaves the project with lack of funding for additional teachers, furniture, educational supplies, etc. As that old character Micawber in Dickens said "something will turn up!" And with a bit of "mutual confidence" he might have added.
Help Prevent the Spread of Cholera
Cholera still rears its ugly head in northern Haiti. It can be defeated with education and access to safe water. Deep water wells and contained ("harnessed") springs are essential, but on a practical level, AQUATABS are at least as important. One aquatab added to a five-gallon bucket of water can provide a family safe drinking water for several days. The cost? Three cents a tablet! Our Dr. Eugene has distributed thousands of tablets using funds donated for that purpose by our Foundation and The Haiti Mission Foundation. Your gifts are not wasted.
The Name Marantha
The Haitians are now calling their project: Institution Maranatha de Grison-Garde. "Maranatha" has always been in the various names chosen for this project by its founders. According to Webster's (OK then, Wikipedia) it is interpreted something like "the Lord Cometh". Interesting to note that Joshue' Bastien, one of the founders and the Principal of the schools, told me it means "Bondye se isit la" - God is here! (exclamation point provided by Joshue). WOW!
Mesi ampil anpil, zamni nou yo!
Reporting yet another victory! This is what it’s all about ... three of our original orphans have been admitted to the national college in the nearby city of Cap Haitien. Admission is based on competitive examination and we are told that rural children of poverty seldom qualify. These young adults have received their entire education at the orphanage school, which proves the quality of their instruction. If financial support is found, we are told that four more orphans may qualify next year.
We were lucky to have been in Haiti with our medical team and were able to attend a wonderful graduation ceremony for young adults who had completed the tailoring school at the vocational school. Three more of the original orphans graduated and were given sewing machines (treadle-electric), which will provide a reliable income for them. They are able to produce a man’s suit from scratch after their three full years of training!
Sad to say that funding isn’t available for the majority of the future graduating students (more than 190 of them) from the community who attend the secondary school. Their education stops at the 12th grade level. Education is everything: the roads of rural Haiti are lined with idle uneducated young people, anything but lazy, yet trapped by their impoverishment.
Small Victories All Around
It is reported that one of the major causes of illness and premature death throughout the Third World (excuse me, the “developing countries”) is smoke from cooking. Most cooking in rural Haiti takes place using charcoal or firewood in enclosed huts and buildings. Our cooks have propane about half of each month. Needless to say they love propane, but funding allows for no more.
This year our invaluable super handyman and engineer (that would be Grover Reynolds) took notice of the situation in their kitchen. “This can’t be!” He immediately designed and built a cupola to ventilate the structure during charcoal cooking. It worked beautifully, now we’re hoping that success will inspire others in the area.
The roads in northern Haiti are greatly improved thanks to support from various countries including the U.S. Unfortunately, the employment situation is still grim overall. The newly finished Korean/Clinton garment factory near Cap Haitien is reportedly paying $5 or less/day. Transportation costs of $1/day from the city have brought the net pay to just $80 a month. Haitians endure.
Your gifts continue to allow us to drill a new well every 8 weeks (more or less). Safe wells and hygiene education have contributed to the great decline in childhood diarrhea and dehydration that has been experienced in the Grison-Garde area in the last 15 years.
The Haitian elders who have founded and run this project came to us a few weeks ago asking for help for a small (60-student) nearby private school that had lost its funding from the U.S. For a few hundred dollars a month for teacher salaries, those kids could go on with their education, too. Without that chance … nothing. It was a touching act of generosity and concern by our project directors whom you have met in the past. How can we say no?
(Originally published 11/2013)
We have just returned from a week in Haiti doing medical stuff and perhaps more importantly—checking out the orphanage, but focusing on what’s going on in the primary and secondary schools. Good news and not-so-good news:
If you’ve been following these little newsletters, you’ll note that the uniforms no longer have cute pink uppers (tough on guy teens) and are now a more subdued blue and navy blue. All uniforms are made in the Rita-Christine vocational school, saving about $5,000 this year alone.
We have been asked repeatedly how we manage to have our funds safely (and completely) arrive in Haiti, a place where many contributions go to die and never reach the hands for which they are intended. Simple: we bank wire your gifts directly to the rural Haitians who have created and run their amazing project. No funds are touched by “middle-men” or more importantly the Haitian government. You can love Haitians and not love their government.
However (fanfare), there is significant improvement in city and rural roads through foreign aid programs. Although the countryside is still without electricity, it is now available to those who can pay in the city. The orphanage/school has both a diesel generator and solar power.
The cholera situation is interesting, but sad. There are many less cases (we saw only two patients last week), but for that reason the rural treatment centers are closing, making the mortality rate higher per case even as the incidence declines.
Living in Haiti can be difficult. Talk about the importance of education … our school kids have learned a great deal about basic hygiene and its importance. Pray for more wells, right?
Why Haiti? Because that’s where the Haitians are!!
(Originally published 4/2013)
They said that it couldn’t be done. “They” being the experts on Haiti. Flat-out wrong! The community of Grison-Garde celebrated the 10th anniversary of their dream coming true this month and a grand celebration it was — brass marching band, troupes of dancers, speeches, songs and prayers of thanks for their success. Haitians consider most any gift a blessing from God and accept it with dignity.
Consider what they have accomplished thus far:
Remember that ownership is entirely theirs, owned by a committee (Comite`) of village elders (talk about unique).
After all your help over these years, are any of you curious enough to join us on a medical team (no skills needed) to immerse yourself for a week in this astounding culture? Let us know … you have our address!
Americans can give money…..always do. But what enables some Haitians (impoverished) to recreate progress from that money? Great question. Think about it.
It requires a huge amount of faith to offer your help to an effort like this in a culture so foreign and strange, doesn’t it? We are their sole support, and from that support will arise educated young adults still scrambling for a future but now with new hope.
Ten years and counting ... what wonders will the next decade bring?
(Originally published 7/2012)
"Dokte Ray" visits Grison-Garde five times each year. Upon his return, he'll share his thoughts on the school, the community and how you can help them thrive.