Haitian Educational Initiatives

Summer Camp: Service Style! Dedicated to Susan Ei

A bookmark printed by the St. Francis Indian Mission in St. Francis, South Dakota has the following Indian prayer: “Great Spirit — Grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.” Hearsay attributes the prayer to Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians.

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Before departing this earth, our children’s librarian, Susan Ei, encouraged us to create a Summer Service Day Camp where we could share our knowledge of the world with local kids, and create a fun learning environment that would spark both compassion and enthusiasm for others through literature and service.

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We decided to tackle this task by geographic region, and by thinking about the people to whom we most commonly donate. We wanted to be sure to include literature, crafts, games, education and a service project in each day’s meeting.

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Africa We began with Africa because we have donated so many books to multiple countries in Africa: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda. We read Patience Mariza Goes for Water by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, a native of Uganda, who has built a school for AIDS orphans in Uganda.

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This story, although a picture book for children, is very revealing. Patience is faced with unimaginable hardships that a storybook American child would never encounter. She is beaten by her aunt, and accosted by a strange man, worried she may have AIDS, and exhausted by her daily trek in search of clean water. Eventually, she is adopted by a kind grandmother.

 

Many children in Africa walk to school, sometimes several miles, barefoot. Shoes can be made from found objects. We helped our campers understand this by helping them create their own shoes from found objects and then experimented to see how far they could walk….(not far!)

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They also decorated donation boxes that they brought from home and filled with their own shoes so that they could share these with others.

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Haiti To begin our lesson on Haiti we read Tap-Tap by Karen Lynn Williams.

IMG_1215This warm, funny story is about a girl who goes to the market with her mother and after making a little extra money she and her mother are able to ride the taxi-bus home (tap-tap) instead of walking.

We know from our relationship with our friends at Haitian Education Initiatives, that a major part of Haitian children’s education is learning to make things they can sell in the market.

In particular, children learn to sew and to make painted paper-maché bowls. After the Tap-Tap story, our campers sewed beanbags and made painted bowls. They were very beautiful, but perhaps not yet ready to be sold at the market,

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Native Americans Having just returned from South Dakota, we had many stories and adventures to share. We also read Crazy Horse’s Vision by Joseph Bruchac and Black Elk’s Vision: A Lakota Story by S.D. Nelson.  These stories told of the bravery and beauty of the American Indians as well as some of their beliefs and dreams.

The Native Americans believe that Dream Catchers can catch bad dreams and spirits while you sleep and keep you safe.

Our campers made Dream Catchers from found objects, feathers and beads.

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Food Lottery Each day, like every wholesome American Day Camp we had Snack Time. Who doesn’t? Well, many of the children we help don’t have snack time. We discussed this each day, and one day we decided it was time to emphasize what that might mean. Each child drew a piece of paper from a basket. Those with an X were given a snack. No X, No Snack. This was a pretty shocking moment, and after a while some pretty human responses occurred. Some kids “stole” some snacks. Some kids secretly “shared” their snacks with others. Some were publicly outraged, while they gobbled their own snacks. Politics as usual.

Read to Feed We wanted to emphasize that reading is for everyone. We brought in a basket of books, the ones we usually donate, and had the campers choose their own books.

Then we made posters and made a Read to Feed program for our local library. Children can be sponsored to read and by reading they can help purchase farm animals that can bring food to a family or village in another community. (Heifer Project)

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Appalachia We have been donating books and building children’s libraries through Project Appalachia since 2012 so we are pretty committed to helping children in this region.

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We read Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds by Cynthia Rylant and Barry Moser. We also discussed other American communities that are in need of books and supplies. There are kids that need books and supplies that live in our own communities and we need to reach out and help them as well as helping kids that live far away.

Our campers decorated boxes and brought them home to be filled with books that they could donate to children who would love to own their own books.

Around the World and Banana Ball We also played many fun games, like an African version of soccer played with a ball made from banana leaves (although of course we didn’t have any real banana leaves) and “around the world” frisbee.

Hospitalized children We always remember kids who are sick in hospitals. So we talked about illness and had the campers put together care packages of painted bags filled with our Knot-Yet-a-Blanket kits and poetry books.

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Lemonade for Literacy Our final project was to involve our campers, and our community, in our annual lemonade stand.

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Our Summer Service Camp jointly donated and boxed hundreds of shoes, books and school supplies, and created many Blanket Gift Bags. They had walked in handmade shoes, made dream catchers, fought over food, read stories from around the world, and committed to continue reading on their own.

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It’s time to create global literacy with lemons!

Meeting with Susan Whitcomb to Discuss the Hurricane and Haiti

Last Friday, we met with our long-time community partner, Susy Whitcomb, the Founder and President of Haitian Educational Initiatives. Haitian Educational Initiatives was established as a response to the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. Hurricane Matthew has razed Haiti, and we have been supporting Haitian Educational Initiative’s recovery efforts following the natural disaster.

Headlines about Haiti and Hurricane Matthew from BBC, Reuters, and The Weather Channel

During the 2015-2016 school year, we undertook the task of donating $1,099 worth of Haitian-Creole books to Haiti. Haitian-Creole has only been a written language since 1979, making Haitian-Creole books incredibly rare. First, we held a community event at the Barnum School in Bridgeport to raise awareness. Then, we partnered with the corporate healthcare business ZappRx. We met with the ZappRx PR team in Boston when we donated 2,000 books with ZappRx stickers to the Reach Out and Read program at Tufts Floating Hospital for Children. In exchange, Zoe Barry, the Founder and CEO of ZappRx donated us funds she won from the contest ONEin3, which is sponsored by the mayor of Boston. One of the initial reasons we decided to transform into a 501(c)3 was so that we could accept these funds and purchase Haitian-Creole books.

Children reading our donated Haitian-Creole books

We sat with Susy to discuss the conditions of the children, their families, their homes, and their schools. Haitian Educational Initiative’s schools in Jacmel and Cayes-Jacmel both sustained damage, and the school in rural Cayes-Jacmel was afflicted with severe flooding. Fortunately, our books were not harmed; proper precautions were exercised to ensure that our books and other school supplies were not damaged by the hurricane. For the most part, the children and their families were safe, but 80% of their crops and livestock were swept away.

Susy affirmed that since the children are equipped with education, during these dire times, the children are actually more apt and able to recover. Unlike their parents, the children can read, and have a breadth of academic knowledge. At school, the children have also learned crafting skills to create goods to sell at the market. These goods range from clothes, to sunglasses made from plastic bottles, to bracelets and jewelry, to pottery, and many other items.

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A Haitian bowl made from a special paper mâché technique

Susy showed us pictures of the school in Cayes-Jacmel. In the pictures, rapids of muddy brown water race over the concrete platform of the school. The school in Cayes-Jacmel is open air, and consists of a concrete foundation with posts from which a tarp is draped over to provide shade, or protection from rain. Susy explained that now the school is being excavated from the thick layers of mud and debris.

 

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Flooding in Haiti. Photo credit: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images

While most of the children and families Haitian Educational Initiatives serves were unharmed, a fourteen-year-old boy was injured during the hurricane. Susy explained how the boy, who attends the school in Cayes-Jacmel, was crushed by a tree, breaking both of his legs. He is receiving medical attention, but the medicine in Haiti is not very advanced, and this injury could have severe, lasting effects. We have asked Susy to put us in contact with the boy and his family, and we hope to assist him in any possible way. We are hoping to deliver him some books and other school supplies so he can continue studying while he recovers.

After meeting with Susy, we presented her with a check written by Reid to support the relief Haitian Educational Initiatives is providing. If you wish, you may donate to Haitian Educational Initiatives to provide food, clean water, and the basic living necessities here.

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Presenting Susy with relief funds

Additionally, at the end of our meeting, Susy presented us with gifts from the children in Haiti. When we donated the children in Haiti books and school supplies, we also sent poster pals, which are banners with notes of love, drawings, and pictures from us and school children in our area. In return, we received paper mâché figurines and pottery.

 

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We are very grateful for our wonderful friends in Haiti and we will continue to assist them and Haitian Educational Initiatives in every way possible.

Wonderland BookSavers’ Haitian-Creole Books Arrived in Haiti on May 17

By Madeline

Early last fall, we met with our community partner Susy Whitcomb, President of Haitian Educational Initiatives. Susy brought us pictures and videos of the kids at their school with our books. We had previously donated many French books to Haiti, but upon meeting with Susy, we discovered that the children in Haiti speak Haitian-Creole–not French–as their first language.

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A Haitian child with one of our donated French books

The French books were helpful, but before the Haitian children could learn to read, they would have to learn French, a foreign language. Team Wonderland BookSavers decided that we wanted to get the Haitian children Haitian-Creole books so they could finally have books written in their native language.

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Haitian-Creole books

After collaborating with our community partner Zoe Barry, the founder and CEO of ZappRx, we were able to obtain funds to purchase $1,099 worth of Haitian-Creole books. Since Zoe was so generous in giving us the funds to purchase the Haitian-Creole books, we along with the ZappRx team donated 2,000 books to the Reach Out and Read program at Tufts Floating Hospital for Children in Boston.

Throughout this project, we have united American children with Haitian children through our “poster pals” program. Poster pals are essentially pen pals, except we exchange and create banners with notes and drawings instead of just letters.

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Kids work on one of the poster pals we sent to Haiti

Wonderland BookSavers held a community event at the Barnum School where we helped the kids decorate a Sneetch machine after we read “The Sneetches” by Dr. Seuss. At that event, we read a Haitian-Creole book to the children at Barnum School, and let the kids create banners for the children in Haiti.

Soon, the children at Barnum School will get a poster pals banner from the children in Haiti. Our Haitian-Creole books and poster pals were scheduled to arrive in Haiti in February, but due to a political coup and violence in Haiti, our books and poster pals were delayed in being delivered until May. On May 17, the children in Haiti received the first books they have ever seen written in their native language, and posters and drawings from us and American children.

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children in Haiti holding our donated books

We are incredibly grateful to Susy Whitcomb and Zoe Barry for their assistance in this project. We are excited to see the children with their new books, and we are eagerly anticipating the poster pals which the Haitian children are sending back to America.