“People have really stepped up to the plate,” says Fondation HSL Haiti founder, Teresa Groenewegan-Caza, of the local response to recent fundraising efforts. Despite the pandemic, the organization continues to offer increased access to education and resources to students and teachers in Haiti, and the support form the Valley is heartening.
The Fondation HSL Haiti, a registered Canadian charity based in Howick, works to improve the educational services at St. Paul’s Private Catholic School in the parish of St. Jude and St. Simon, where it also runs a library. The foundation also sponsors the education of 21 girls at the KC Mother’s Love Children’s Village in Port-au-Prince.
In response to the limitations imposed by the pandemic last year, the foundation now has a member in Haiti who handles bank transfers securely. They have also found ways to ensure the librarian’s salary is paid.
During normal times, the foundation also works with the teachers at St. Paul’s to provide professional development workshops and seminars, and to distribute sustainable menstrual health kits to young women through the Days for Girls organization. These activities have been suspended, as travel to Haiti has not been possible due to COVID-19, but both will resume once travel restrictions are eased.
For now, the foundation has decided to focus on further developing the library, which is both funded and stocked largely through donations by Valley locals. “We were able to send four barrels of books that arrived in February,” says Groenewegan-Caza, who is considering sending another shipment of books soon.
Recently, some of the St. Paul’s teachers suggested that the library might be even more beneficial if it could stock textbooks as well. Groenewegan-Caza quickly requested the list of required textbooks while looking into which school years were most in need of them.
Students in Haiti must write ministry exams in Grade 9, and again in their final year or “Philo,” which is equivalent to a CEGEP degree. The current goal for the Foundation is to raise enough funds to purchase six sets of textbooks for each of those two grade levels.
Groenewegan-Caza says the foundation was especially receptive to the textbook request because it had come directly from the teachers. “These are the teachers we have done professional development with,” she explains. “Because the teachers themselves came up with the solution, it will work better.”
Thinking of Haiti
The small country of Haiti was hard hit by a major earthquake on August 14 that killed over 2,200 people, a disaster which was followed almost immediately by a tropical storm. Groenewegan-Caza says people want to do something to help, and this may have inspired the speedy Valley response to a Facebook post last week which asked for donations to cover the educational costs for three girls: within a matter of days, the girls were completely sponsored.
Groenewegan-Caza has been in contact with teachers in Haiti, including one from Chambellan which is one of the villages devastated by the earthquake. Another teacher she has spoken with told her about his hometown of Port-Salut, which was in the direct path of the storm. She says she would like to be able to do more to help. She has a plane ticket booked so she can return to Haiti in November, but “we’ll see,” she says. In the meantime, the foundation will continue its important work from a distance.
More information on the Fondation HSL Haiti can be found online at www.fondationhslhaiti.com