New Trier Haiti Project
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Three years ago New Trier’s established a partnership with St. Joseph Elementary School in Petit-Goave, Haiti. This partnership was based on relationships with several Haitian staff members who grew up in Petit-Goave. Our initial goal was to do renovations to the existing school: repair the roof, fix cracks in the plaster, and repaint the building. Then in January of 2010 an earthquake devastated Haiti and destroyed the entire school. This event altered our goal, and we decided to raise money to completely rebuild the school. I am proud to share that the school is almost completed, and we hope to finish the building this summer so the students can return to school in a proper structure.
It has been a pleasure to learn about Haiti and its people during the past three years. The Haitian people are resilient, courageous and friendly. We have integrated curriculum about Haiti where appropriate in many courses. The children of Haiti may live under different circumstances than our students, but they have similar goals and aspirations. Much like our students, they want access to a quality education that will allow them to achieve their goals.
Many adviser rooms, clubs, and other groups will be working on fundraising during the 4th quarter so we can finish building the school. You can purchase a brick ($50), a desk ($70) or a blackboard ($100), or designate any amount you would like toward the overall project. Please click on the link above to donate, or contact Carolyn Muir, the Service Learning Coordinator at Northfield, if you have any questions or would like to participate. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Our staff, students and community are certainly living the New Trier motto, “to commit minds to inquiry, hearts to compassion, and lives to the service of humanity” as we work together on this important service learning project.
Paul Waechtler Tim Dohrer
Northfield – Principal Winnetka – Principal
Northfield Campus is in full swing with this year’s Haiti Project ! We have taken great steps towards rebuilding Ecole St. Joseph and are in the home stretch. Last year the New Trier Community donated $100,000.00 ! This year we are working to raise another $25,000.00 towards the construction, slated to begin this summer. View the chosen design for the school at Architecture for Humanity Chicago. Also, students are collecting school supplies and clothing to send to the children of Petit- Goave, with a walk and festival scheduled for May 19th. Together we can make it happen !
August 20, 2010
Between July 26 and August 1, a team of fourteen experienced first-hand the wreckage left behind from the earthquake that devastated Haiti this past January. After gathering 30 pieces of luggage with over 1300 pounds of relief supplies, our team anxiously loaded onto an airconditioned bus. The sweat slowly evaporated from our bodies as we settled into the journey from Port au Prince to the town of Petit Goave, Haiti. Excitedly we chattered about the flight, our plans, successfully navigating our way through customs and the airport and finding our trusted colleague, Maurice Bonhomme waiting for us just outside the airport. Over the piles of our duffles and roller bags, we peered out into the eery new landscape that the city has become.
Mile after mile of tents neatly pitched in rows like a blue and white overgrown crop have sprung up where homes and businesses once stood. Children gazed out of tent doors so close to the busy road we could have reached out and touched their dusty faces. Women with plastic jugs and buckets surrounded make-shift Red Cross water tanks waiting for their turn so they could wash clothes, bathe or cook with clean water. Young men selling homemade beverages approached vehicles hoping for a quick sale to provide some way to purchase food for their families. The crumbled remains of the shattered buildings looked like they had been turned inside out with the goods and the vendors now set-up on the sidewalks and street corners. Empty plastic water bags and bottles formed artifical rivers which clogged the drainage ditches and dry riverbeds cutting through Port au Prince. Pigs snouted through the discarded piles of garbage that formed litter mountain ranges at the edges of markets and tent neighborhoods. Dogs, goats and chickens roamed freely between the women selling plantains from baskets along the road to gutters filled with waste and debris. Motorcyles and tap taps (local colorfully painted taxis) overloaded with people and cargo navigated the cracked and damaged roads leading out of the overcrowded city. On and on and on we observed the same scenes of people going about their business amidst the rubble. While the sun set and we left the pocked and scarred city we were silent. For many on our team, this was the first experience of witnessing life in a developing country first hand.
Our plan for the week was to hold a day camp for the children who had previously attended St. Joseph School. The crumbled walls provided the backdrop and formed a rough perimeter for our “camp”. Tarps shielded the sun on the lot where St. Joseph School once stood. Bags filled with arts and crafts supplies, medical packs, care packages, shoes, shirts and peanut butter were unloaded to begin our sessions with the kids. We were expecting 150-200 students, so our supplies were counted out and organized into stations: puppets, jewelry, sports, murals and coloring books. Within minutes of our starting time of 11 :00 am on the first morning we had over 200 children clamoring for supplies and attention. As the sweat soaked through our clothes, we passed out balls and jump ropes, tied plastic bead necklaces, guided novice puppeteers and organized relay races. By the time we passed out Kool Aid and peanut butter sandwiches, the crowd had swelled to 250. The next day our count surpassed 300, with children standing in the hot sun for over an hour for a plate of chicken and rice. The third day, as temperatures soared over 100 degrees, we entertained over 450 kids with a slideshow of themselves and facilitated more games and arts and crafts. Parents continually commented on how meaningful it was that we were there and hadn’t just sent our money . They basked in the glow of their children’s smiles, amazed to see their children so happy. We were in awe of their ability to keep moving forward with their lives amidst such incredibly difficult circumstances. Hunger did not stop the children from attending school. Lack of a shelter, money or other resources did not hinder the teachers from trying to provide a good education for their students, even though their school had completely collapsed. Life in Haiti goes on.
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As we watch the images of Haiti flash across our TV screens, we gasp at the scenes of collapsed buildings, of neighbors pulling neighbors from underneath piles of rubble, and of medical personnel scrambling to save lives. The damage is immeasurable and the tragedy incomprehensible. What, we ask ourselves, can we do to help our neighbors in Haiti and their children?
Haiti, only 200 miles south of the Florida border, is at our doorstep. But for New Trier, the connection is even closer. Several of New Trier’s staff members are from Haiti, and since last spring, a group of New Trier faculty and staff have been developing the Haiti Project in anticipation of launching a fundraising effort and service learning project this March to help rebuild a school in Petit-Goave, Haiti. The project began with two of our staff members, Maurice Bonhomme and Jean Cayemitte, who work as security guards on New Trier’s Northfield Campus.
This past summer, at the invitation of Maurice and Jean, a small group of New Trier High School staff had the honor and privilege to visit Petit-Goave and St. Joseph School. While we witnessed great need in this community, we also experienced its great heart. In spite of insufficient salaries, St. Joseph schoolteachers remained unwaveringly dedicated to their students. The children’s learning commitment was equally strong, despite empty stomachs and crumbling school facilities. Both The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Public Radio have covered New Trier’s involvement with Petit-Goave.
The mission of the Haiti Project is now being expanded to help with the relief effort in Petit-Goave, which is located just 5 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake. We now know the damage done to the town has been extensive and St. Joseph School is only one of many buildings that have collapsed. It is clear that this already impoverished area has been further ravaged by this tragic disaster.
New Trier’s Haiti Project is partnering with a locally based non-profit, Little by Little, a 501 (c) 3 organization that provides aid and support to communities in Haiti. All donations are tax-deductible and 100% of funds will be used to respond to relief efforts in Petit-Goave.
Maurice and Jean worked tirelessly at personal cost to keep the doors open at Petit-Goave’s St. Joseph school. Through personal finances and donations made by family and friends, they paid the $300 monthly salaries of St. Joseph’s committed teachers and the $250 tuition for children of the 160 families unable to afford this yearly expense. No child was turned away for financial reasons from this “private” school. It is our hope, that in time, the school will be rebuilt to proudly stand again.
We believe that supporting each other through these difficult times truly helps us live up to our motto, “To commit minds to inquiry, hearts to compassion and lives to the service of humanity.” We appreciate your interest and support at this critical time.
With hope for the future,
The Haiti Service Learning Committee
Haiti Project Purpose Statement:
- To raise funds to repair and refurbish St. Joseph’s school in Petit Goave, Haiti.
- Install electricity, plumbing, an indoor bathroom, and a kitchen (which would provide a hot meal per day for the students).
- To raise funds to build a school for 300 children on the outskirts of Petit Goave, Haiti, who currently do not have a school.
- Partner organization Little-by-Little will help facilitate health care services for the students at St. Joseph's school.
New Trier travel team with students and teachers from St. Joseph school in Haiti.
New Trier High School motto:Minds to inquiry, hearts to compassion and lives to the service of humanity.