Linda Bates, member of World Committee and also member of the Canadian National Scout and Guide Fellowship and initiator of this project in Haiti collected money and school supplies for a school in the village Grison-Garde. This village is located in the northern rural part of the country.
She describes in her report how she and her team managed to gather material and how they were involved in this development project.
The team also got the support of our Central Branch group CASEGHA, a group of former Scouts and Guides from Haiti based in New York, USA. CASEGHA was already adopting the small village of Grison-Garde and were supporting the main school in which 400 children are fed and educated. This Central Branch group is also supporting doctors, nurse visits and is sending regular shipment of clothing, books and medicines. The team consisted of the following volunteers, Kevin Ryan Cub Leader 1st Bayridge, Kingston, Ontario and carpenter - Heather Ryan, Student, Limestone School Board, Grade 10 - Lise Woods, Educational Assistant, Ottawa French Catholic School, Kingston Site - Monique Haggar, French Professor, Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario - Linda Bates, co-ordinator for ISGF and the school project - Monique Blanchard, team co-ordinator for CASEGHA USA.
While attending the CASEGHA BBQ on July 5th, 2008 it was brought to ISFG World Committee Member Linda Bates attention that there were children in Haiti not eating as they had no plates and bowls. Plates and bowls were purchased ready for shipping to Haiti on behalf of ISGF. The discussion then lead to school supplies and Linda asked for an inventory. Working in the school system for the past 25 years it was shocking to learn that they have nothing. From our World Committee meeting in Vienna August 2008 it was decided that we work towards development in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti was to be our first project.
After working every night from September 4, 2008 until November 6, 2008 Linda collected, inventoried, and packed 5542 pounds of school supplies which where delivered to her husbands' garage. Many members throughout the community supported this project. Schools throughout the Limestone School Board delivered boxes of books and supplies. These where driven to New York City in a borrowed 5 ton truck with 3 volunteers travelling with Linda. These costs were covered through fundraising within our area.
Upon returning from New York, another 5000 hours of fundraising and visiting with different organizations we were able to raise half the cost for our trip.
Linda along with four other Canadians worked in Haiti to develop a full education program in a rural school in Northern Haiti. After five months of collecting over $100,000.00 Canadian in school supplies for four schools the team arrives in Haiti. We found the school in disrepair and lacking so much. It's hard to imagine a teacher's class supply for the year is one piece of chalk and one cloth.
After the initial shock we started to asses the immediate needs to accomplish our planned projects which were to build eight book cases, cabinets with locks for eight classrooms, one puppet theatre and one paint table as well as distributing the classroom supplies. Many plans were revamped and local residents were hired at 2.00 to 5.00 $US a day wages plus lunch.
Our projects now included securing the stairs, build and paint a kitchen, paint the class rooms, clean-up the playground, fix holes in cement floors, build stairs to the kitchen, fix the flag pole, fix students desks and secure items to the walls, create a sidewalk to the school from the rectory, recreate the woodworking class, fix the treadle sewing machines, build a safe entrance to the rectory, fix the generator and supply the gasoline to run our power tools, as well as complete our original planned projects. We also had the task of teaching the teachers. Imagine never seeing scissors, holding a pencil, using crayons, knowing what stickers are, writing on paper, seeing coloured paper or reading a story book. Everything we took was new to them. After spending $2700.00 US in supplies at a local construction store we start to work in earnest. By the end of Tuesday we have the kitchen painted, 2 class rooms painted, the puppet theatre ready for painting, the school yard cleaned and lumber cut ready for Wednesday's book shelves.
Wednesday was a general strike in Cape Haitian so we spent the day sorting through our files ready to distribute our class supplies on Thursday. As well as deciding on our new tasks. Team ISGF is going to build the path to the school so that we can carry the shipment safely up the hill.
When we arrived Thursday the mason had completed our first walkway that we had paid $80.00 US for and confirmed he would complete the extension by Friday for the $170.00 US that we agreed upon. With a team of five the mason's work began in earnest on the pathway. The woodworking team continued to build bookcases and the paint table. Our puppet theatre received its finishing touches and was carried to the primary class along with the puppets. Next the paint table, our primary room is taking shape. The teachers all went to French and Creole lesson today for two hours. (We had a Canadian French/Creole speaking University professor with us). They learned about animals from around the world as well as the Verbs, Nouns, Adjectives and sentencing. They also received the penpal letters to share with their students. Imagine your first letter coming from another child. This was an excellent day for all.
Friday brought forth more challenges as the shipment was not here and we need 6 more bags of cement. That's another $40.00 US for cement to finish the project. The pathway was raised over 4 feet with a retaining wall and a safe walkway to connect to our first path. Everyone can finally walk from the rectory to the school without falling or climbing over cactus plants. The shipment finally arrives at 12:00 today to the shouts of cheers and joy. Now we have a path to the school and many adults and children are ready to carry everything to the school. Many hands made light work and everything was at the school within the hour. Now begins the task of sorting out the boxes for the classrooms as well as the other three schools. Everyone was on hand and very excited to see so many supplies for their classes. By 4:00 pm we had to stop for the day but all the teachers promised to return on Saturday to work. (not a regular work day for them but they are all very excited and overwhelmed).
Saturday was a day of many crews working all over the school. The woodworking team received their chop saw yesterday along with all the framing hammers and saws. The stairs are being reinforced for safety, book cases are in the classes and they are ready to be filled. We set the classrooms up one by one. Everyone pitches in and the tasks are being checked off as we go. It is a very long day but so much is happening at once. It's hard to believe it is already 4:00 pm and we are not finished. We pay our team of carpenters to come back on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, of next week to complete the cupboards.
Our tasks were achieved despite several setbacks due to culture, language, time, and travel. In our 5 days of continued work we are able to accomplish many of our tasks. The kitchen is almost finished, the class rooms are full, the stairs are safe the pathway is safe, and the children have a new lease on life.
I also had the opportunity to meet and deliver French Cub and Scout handbooks to the North Haiti Chief Scout, Mr. S. Taylor. He was very impressed and looked forward to sharing this information with his leaders. It is important to note that we have to work throughout Haiti through the schools to get the Scouting and Guiding in the communities. We gave him the name of our lead carpenter to contact in the Village of Grison-Garde. With this contact there could be a group starting in that area. We did teach the children to sing Ging Gang Goolie. It was pleasing to hear them sing a song after 20 minutes of instruction. There were also taught to clean up and respect their school yard. This is a new learning process and one we hope will continue with our support.
We did our best, leaving the school and village better than we found them. We will return in 2 years to finish our Humanitarian Development Project. This was a labour of Love that will continue to grow as the children and teachers continue to learn.
Published with permission of Central Branch group "Fraternidad Nicaragua"