The Gleaner

Fondation HSL Haiti: From the Valley to Haiti with love

Sarah Rennie
From the time the founders of the Fondation HSL Haiti decided to bring a student from Haiti to study here in the Haut-Saint-Laurent, it took an entire year before Herline stepped off the plane last month to experience her first Canadian winter.
The steps in between were long and frustrating, from taking a handwritten birth certificate to officials in Port-au-Prince to request an official record of Herline’s birth, to passport applications and twice refused visa applications, but the time spent was worth every second, says Teresa Groenewegen-Caza.
The Fondation HSL Haiti works with two Haitian communities to improve access to education while providing such resources as French language books, pedagogical materials and professional development seminars. The foundation even started a small library in St. Paul’s school, which has been exceptionally well received. A registered Canadian charity, the foundation was started by Groenewegen-Caza after she travelled to Haiti in 2017. It works to improve the educational services at St. Paul’s Private Catholic School in the parish of St. Jude and St. Simon. It also works with the KC Mother’s Love Children’s Village in Port-au-Prince, supporting the education of 22 students, which included Herline. The hope is that the foundation will soon be able to expand the professional development work being done in the parish of St. Jude and St. Simon to another school, with the goal of adding a small library there also.

Teresa Groenewegen-Caza of the Fondation HSL Haiti and participants at a Days for Girls session held in Haiti last month. PHOTOS Courtesy of Fondation HSL Haiti

Determined to bring a student to study at CVR, where she had worked as a math teacher, Groenewegen-Caza was simply not willing to set the project aside after the second failed attempt to secure a visa for the student. She turned to then Salaberry-Suroît MP Anne Quach and her office, who suggested that letters of support from the local community, the Haitian diaspora in Montreal, and from Haiti would improve her application’s chances. The office of Huntingdon MNA Claire IsaBelle also became interested in the file and the project received her support as well. All this was happening as the federal election loomed, which added an extra layer of urgency to the project. “It worked in the end, and I learned from it,” says Groenewegen-Caza. Her new houseguest Herline, who is one of the original girls whose education in Haiti was sponsored by the foundation, “would never have arrived here without the support of the school, the board and the community because it is not something anyone can do alone,” she says.
Herline speaks Creole and French, and has been adapting to her new school (a palace, it seems to her), her classmates, and the weather (mercifully mild for the first week of her introduction to winter). “It is just so incredibly different [for her],” Groenewegen-Caza says of Herline’s culture shock. “Just the quality of the blackboard here is much more superior,” she says, while describing the dismal conditions some of the students contend with in the local Haitian schools.
Days for Girls
Groenewegen-Caza’s work to help with the education of the young women also brought her into contact with the not-for-profit organization Days for Girls, which empowers women and girls around the word through sustainable menstrual care and health education.
She became associated with a group of local women who began gathering in 2018 to create Days for Girls kits containing reusable menstrual care products for young women and girls in developing countries. The group has since become the Haut-Saint-Laurent sewing team and is now officially affiliated with Days for Girls Canada. At present, they meet both in Huntingdon and in Ormstown. The Huntingdon work sessions happen five to six times a year on Saturday mornings in the basement of the Huntingdon United Church, and in Ormstown they’re on the first Tuesday of every month at the Recreation Centre. Participants assemble the kits, which are then taken by Groenewegen-Caza back to Haiti where menstrual health education sessions are held and the kits are distributed.
“It is an amazing group of women in the Haut-Saint-Laurent – from Howick to Elgin – who have embraced this,” she says. One of the members of the group, Barbara Whyte, even accompanied Groenewegen-Caza on her last trip to Haiti in January to help with the Days for Girls distribution and education presentation. Whyte also sponsors a girl’s education, as does her church. In fact, 12 girls are fully sponsored by organizations, individuals or families in the region. A total of 45 kits were distributed on this last trip.
Groenewegen-Caza is now also able to count on more people in Haiti who have joined the foundation, which allows for better coordination, and more timely input into the future direction of the foundation. For example, she will now be looking into starting a “Men Who Know” program, initiated by the Days for Girls organization, which exposes young men and boys to much of the same education the women receive while helping to sensitize men and boys to women’s needs and the positive things men can do to support women in their communities.

Latest stories

Boy is saved from drowning in Huntingdon

Sarah Rennie - LJI Reporter

CPTAQ may nix Covey Hill asphalt factory after all

Sarah Rennie - LJI Reporter

SAQ embarks on local wine and cider tour

The Gleaner

Leave a comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.

Follow by Email