Back from Ile a Vache and Morne Tapion for 3 weeks now and letting the dust settle – though today I bought my tickets for my end of September trip!
Today is also the day that TI POUL WOUJ becomes available online, as well as directly through me in St Croix – the first children’s book in creole (and so far the lone piece of fiction in Creole in our school libraries) – if you’d like to donate more copies, fund more books or have a copy for a little Haitian friend to read, get in touch – many of the paintings used are also available (from Mandy).
The June -July trip was amazing, the best teacher training course I could have imagined with Michel Altema, Emmanuel Fils-Aimé and Roselande and Tamar from our IMECT school all on Ile a Vache for 3 weeks. Then we had a great 10 day bee-keeping course with Toni Downs from St Croix, managing to obtain bees from an amazing traditional bee-keeper on the mainland of Haiti, and get them all set up and running on the island with smokers, bee-suits, manuals and all – NOBODY got stung at all! Our first baby rabbit was born, and our first use of the chick incubator was underway.
Our rabbit-house is being built now, and a dividing wall put up for 1st and 2nd grades in La Hatte school, because the ‘rentrée’ (back to school) is just around the corner! We expect to have up to 290 students this year including afternoon session for grades 7 and 8 on Ile a Vache and 270 including grade 7 at IMECT!
Coming up in October – Robin Bolton of NJ is travelling to Haiti with me to conduct an ’emergency swimming’ program for as many children and adults as possible on Ile a Vache – we hope to see substantially more of our children, and especially girls and women, able to stay afloat and alive in the event of boat accidents etc. – a constant hazard as there is NO other way to reach the mainland! Robin’s boundless enthusiasm has resulted in collecting almost 2000 swim-suits of all types, and the airlines are allowing him to transport a good portion of them free of charge!
I must be the worst blogger ever – over 14 months late but better than never – this last year has seen GSF really enlarge and it’s been very busy both in Haiti, St Croix and Virgin Gorda! I’ve been to Haiti on 4 trips and Michael has been there too in that time, plus in 2 days I’m heading off for a whole month on Ile a Vache. We’ll be holding our first real teacher training course at La Hatte School, assisted by the professional team from IMECT school as trainers, and with help from myself and Jan Magras with English lessons, development of the curriculum and several new building projects. There will be a much needed dividing wall to creat 2 classrooms out of one in the old refectory (now grades one and two), a rabbit-rearing shed, accomodation for agriculture staff there, and a number of our improved model latrines.
Jan will be there for 2 weeks and as he leaves, Toni Downs will arrive, also from St Croix. Toni is going to hold our first bee-keeping course and will help us build hives, bee-suits, and other equipment so that bees can be brought in from the mainland, the first in around 45 years!
We’re also beginning work on the new Head Quarters house, home of Phelix and Immacula and their boys plus any-minute-now new baby!
We’ve had a number of wonderful visits by volunteers this year – the ever generous Wayne and Emily Keese, Iain Grey film-maker extraordinaire (film about to be added to the front page!), Dave and Lou, Shelly Scripps, two families of cruising sailors, so much appreciated by all –
Wish us luck and please follow along on Facebook – Good Samaritan of Haiti page – where well be able to post current pictures all through the trip!
A very active six weeks came and went since the last post and things are speeding up for the next month too – I’ve been back from Haiti for ten days and in another ten I set sail for Ile a Vache again! But not alone this time – the catamaran Manna and her hearty crew, Wayne and Emily Keese, volunteered at the the eleventh hour! They are arriving in St Croix in a few days to load and provision for the trip, with my partner Jan and I as second and third mates, and a fourth arriving next Monday – John Peltier from Arizona, (a sailor/mountainclimber/helicopter pilot/photographer who sailed his own boat to Ile a Vache before in 2012). So we’ll be quite a fine set of ship-mates, methinks. It’s a shame that the real ol’pirate can’t accompany us this trip – but Michael Beans himself is doing fine and has raised a few dubloons for the kitty, not to mention a pile of sails, toys and more, being brought down to join the vessel by our friends the Sheltons.
The aims of the voyage are:
- to deliver the goods collected in the Virgin Islands (and sent down from the States over the last year) to Ile a Vache, some will go on to Imect school as well. These include more sewing machines, a rototiller, sails and marine items, many hand and power tools, equipment for the schools and agronomy program recently started, more laptops and cameras, books, and all the things we can possibly cram in that can’t go by air these days.
- to erect the frame and roof structure of the new poultry house – the foundation was started today! and by end of April we hope to be raising chicks in it under the expert guidance of Anousse, our new agronomist! By fall when the new school year starts they’ll be laying, and the eggs will go a long way towards improving the nutrition level in the village (currently not good at all) and support the agriculture program itself.
- to teach power-tool use (and safety) to the staff and several carpenters so that we can do future projects.
- to assess the 150 school children’s height /weight/age for grade/health etc. for future clinics.
- we also hope to make a start on a jungle-gym for the school, and re-equip the kindergarten, plus supply sports equipment for the grade school.
- make a short video of GSF’s projects and progress using John’s expertise
Wish us luck and thank you to all who have or still are donating useful items, donations towards fuel and equipment, time and energy!
We have one more coffee-morning this coming Sunday 15 March, at 2 Little Lagrange on Mahogany Road St Croix, 10am -12 noon – $10 donation for coffee and giant cinnamon roll from the wood-fired bake oven! There will be Haitian crafts, ceramic work, fresh sourdough bread, preserves and garden produce for sale too!
2015 has zoomed up so fast, even with putting back the sailing trip to Ile a Vache until late March! Many events are underway in Haiti, changes of government (a new prime minister was installed last week, Evans Paul), changes on Ile a Vache (the island was a personal interest of the outgoing PM so we’re waiting to see what impact that will have…). Our students are almost half-way through the academic year, and enjoying an especially cool winter season. Haiti’s Carnaval will be held in Port au Prince this year around 14th February, probably during Mandy’s next visit.
The sailing trip is becoming more and more essential at our end, as goods that have been donated and stockpiled mount up in St Croix and Virgin Gorda. We’ve been fortunate to acquire a lot of power tools and generators, sails, hand tools, dive equipment for fishermen and other heavy items that cannot be flown in. Sadly we’ve lost some of the crew arranged for January now that the trip is in March, and are busy arranging for more – more boats, crews, donations and equipment! Please get in touch if you can help – see our Facebook Event, Cruise for a Cause – https://www.facebook.com/events/730649347010066/
Our microcredit system is now in its first year of being fully funded as a separate entity, which earns enough to be self-sufficient and indeed grow of itself, thus offering new loans all the time! It is ably managed by the committee, who are about to have a real office for the first time, in La Hatte village. The same building will provide living space and an office for our agronomist, due back from his studies in Africa in February! Anousse Paul will visit his family in the north of Haiti for a week (he’s been away 4 years as a student in Benin), then inaugurate our program to assist local farmers, advise and improve growing techniques. We hope to set up chicken and egg production very soon, and later diversify into rearing meat rabbits.
More news soon – and photos of the whole school and all classes within the month!
My apologies – October just didn’t happen – or rather so much happened a post was not written, and suddenly it’s November! We’ve only six more weeks of planning and preparations for our sailing voyage to Ile a Vache by catamaran (starting around 29th December), and that’s after dealing with the holidays!
For now excellent news, our main budget was approved by our biggest donors and we are able to continue all our programs and start some new ones the next few months. The children are all back in school, at La Hatte and at Morne Tapion, and we have our 4 middle-schoolers on bursary, plus our 3 university students from last year, joined by a fourth, Pouchon, who is studying engineering.
We still need funding or sponsors for a number of other technical students – some of whom have only one year of studies to go before their degree – please click the tab above this post for scholarship information if you may be able to help – the school costs are not high and go to the most able and deserving of the young people from the community, so that they can return and help address local needs.
In St Croix, we’ve started having occasional coffee-mornings for GSF, with cinnamon buns from our brick bake oven, fired with our tree prunings. Mandy’s daughter Merryn makes sourdough bread to order, and we have produce, Haitian crafts, including the charming embroidery from our own classes, real Haitian coffee brought down from the mountains not far from Cayes, and artwork for sale. The next one is next Saturday, 8 Nov, from 10 to 12, on Mahogany Road.
Several very handy volunteer farmers have kept us up to scratch this summer, and another arrives soon from Haiti! Douglas is British and was already working at a reforestation project on the border with the Dominican Republic when he got in touch with GSF. He hiked overland to visit our projects and give us useful information and new photos! Soon he’ll be here in the VI, learning to sail and preparing the boat with us to return to Haiti as his next adventure. We’ll also have the Sheltons, Karen and Sandy, along as crew, and they’ll be masterminding and building a jungle-gym for the children, and hopefully a chicken breeding house for our new agronomist and his program. We’ll be delivering a selection of heavy equipment, including a large generator for the school, a rototiller, power tools, and sails and line for the fishermen. Please contact Mandy for a list of needed items if you would like to donate – this is the best sort of help, and the most practical! Updates soon – keep in touch on Facebook!
Just back from another wonderful trip to Haiti, rounding up all the programs of GSF and 100% for Haiti over the last year, and preparing for the new start of school, and other expansions!
I’d delayed a month or more as many of our staff and teams were seriously ill with the chikungunja virus, including whole communities, some of whom went on to contract typhus and malaria, so recovery time was needed… That meant going in the worst of the summer heat but I felt that was a minor issue compared to the obstacles Haitians have overcome.
Luckily for me, Yolande, the head of our IMECT school near Peit Goave, was able to collect me at the airport by borrowing her father’s car, windshield still broken (for 4 years now) but with a replacement engine! So by nightfall of the day I’d left home on St Croix at 6am, I was at the school, greeting the family and meeting the giant tarantula who now lives in the shower…
IMECT did extremely well this year, with a 92% pass rate, the new classrooms bursting at the seams already – 230 children K to 6th grade! Badly needed new toilets, showers and a water cistern are just being finished, mainly thanks to Terre des Hommes Internationale.
I spent a thorough four days there meeting everyone, seeing the progress, discussing extra classes and improvements to the kitchen for the new year, and working out a budget we hope we can stick to!
The next Wedneday we drove to Miragoane, another port town with a bustling market, and I was met there by Pouchon, one of our translators from Ile a Vache, who escorted me by the most uncomfortable pick-up truck public bus (14 passengers on tiny seats in the back) or tap-tap, to Les Cayes – I was so cramped and miserable I insisted on a rest stop at La Cayenne restaurant before the boat trip, and a restorative hamburger!
Wonderful to get back to the island, the lovely little traditional wattle and daub cottage where I stay with founder Phelix Joseph and his wife and children, the mules and chickens and the pet pig, and where just like IMECT, I know everyone’s name – at least 200 people! and then where their house is, how many children, who has a goat and who has a boat…
The next 2 weeks are a blur, of meeting the teachers, the microcredit, the scholarship students, the children doing summer school, the applicants for bursaries, the sewing classes, the masonry classes, the literacy class, the boat builders, and many old friends – between rainy days and muddy days and relatively dry days… planning and budgeting and seeing how our efforts have helped the people of La Hatte, Trou Milieu, and nearby villages to get through the dry season, keep educating their children, and set something aside for hard times. Bon Samaritaine School also did very well with over 80% pass rate, up from 64%, and we’re now adding a 6th grade.
There has been much anxiety over government and foreign development, fears of the displacement of the locals, dispossession from the land, lack of information… but GSF is seen as helping guide the villagers into the modern world, and ensuring the children are in a position to get the training and jobs that we hope are coming.
It was a good trip, and we’ve come a long way in a year, I’m grateful to our donors, our hosts in Haiti, our staff, and for the vision of Michael and Phelix together, to feed and educate the children without regard to politics, race or religion. School is back in session!
I’m writing this second GSF blog post the day before leaving for our projects in Haiti. It’s a long-due trip I meant to make in June or July, but our staff and the communities we’re working in were all really sick with the chikungunja virus which became an epidemic across most of Haiti this summer. Most people were too ill to work on anything at all, and the effects can linger for months as severe joint pains – so project activities would just have been an impossible additional stress until now.
There is still some danger of contracting it and I’m going with a case of clothes soaked in a special spray, 3 kinds of repellant, a bed net… but apart from the August heat I’m really looking forward to the trip!
Both schools had really good results this July, amazingly in spite of all the problems, so congratulations are in order, and we paid teacher bonuses for the first time! IMECT school at Morne Tapion near Petit Gouave not only made it through the chikungunja, then a small typhoid fever outbreak and more malaria, plus the very difficult pregnancy of Yolande (founder of the school and head-mistress, now proud mother of a second baby girl, Christephania) – the results were still in the 90% success band! I’m going to see the new wing completed, design a kitchen, view the progress on the collaboration with Terre des Hommes International on new toilets and a water cistern, and plan for next year.
GSF School on Ile a Vache also did really well, with the marks coming up to over 80% (from 65% passing) due to changes of staff, Phelix’s good management, and determination on all parts. The new Kindergarten has been a big success, I can’t wait to see all the new furniture, and equipment in use, and give them some new books and supplies. We’ll also be renovating the toilets, and hope to outfit the school kitchen completely.
Ile a Vache is undergoing huge changes with the government’s new road, the start of an airport, municipal wells being dug for the whole population plus standpipes to come, and many more visitors. We are trying to keep ahead of the changes and make sure local people will not be side-lined or passed over in the race to create a safe, offshore tourist mecca. That means we must concentrate on education, health and sanitation engineering, and local people’s rights and livelihood including agriculture, fishing, and trading by boats.
Our microcredit program has been very successfully expanded this year, and now includes 4 groups from different villages with up to 60 in each group – women who have small market stalls and other vending businesses. Our loans also helped finish a guesthouse in time for the great medical clinics we held with Flying Doctors (California chapter) in March, we’re establishing a phone charging centre, and encourage safe handling of fish and lobster for sale to hotels. More expansion is planned!
The women’s literacy and sewing program is now underway, as is the young men’s masonry course – and these will feed into a latrine building program to improve the lives of everyone in the community, as the water cistern program already has!
There are lots of exciting things in the works for the coming season – just a sampling includes our own agronomy program, after-school arts and crafts lessons, a sailing flotilla visiting in January 2015, a motorbike for the project, a video of our progress… Please stay tuned for news and photos in September! There are so many ways you can contribute!
GSF Administrative Director
Welcome to Good Samaritan’s new blog newsletter which we hope will update you monthly on all aspects of our work in Haiti, our fundraising, our aims and how you can get involved.
Welcome to Good Samaritan’s new blog newsletter which we hope will update you monthly on all aspects of our work in Haiti, our fundraising, our aims and how you can get involved.
There’s a lot of exciting things happening this year, including this year’s exam results coming soon, expansion of all the projects, Mandy (our adminstrator, who lives in St Croix, US Virgin Islands) going back to Petit Goave and Ile a Vache for the third time this year in August. We’ll be holding our third summer session for the teachers at IMECT school, and our first at Good Samaritan school. We’ll also be planning for a big trip there in November – details soon!
Here is Founder Michael ‘Beans’ Gardner’s letter to start off the new website and blog –
First off, I would like to thank all of you beautiful people who have stood by the Good Samaritan Foundation and me
for all these years, and through your support, both financial and otherwise, have helped this idea of having a school in the south western islands of Haiti, where the children that could not afford a education, receive one. It has been a long process that has tested our staying power to the Nth degree and I am happy to report that for all our shared efforts we have over a hundred children, with numbers growing every year, receiving meals every day and an education.
I am happy to say that with the completion of the new school that doubles as a hurricane shelter we are so much closer to achieving our goal of improving the health, education and welfare of those willing to receive it. As you explore our new website you will find numerous opportunities to help if you are so inspired. We have a phone number so you can talk to us, and you will find friendly and efficient service.
Among my other duties as President, public relations is a key factor. In my travels I am asked one question more times than not. “We would like to donate to Haiti but we heard that nothing ever get to the intended place. What makes you different?”
I would like to shine some light on our organization and say the next time you hear someone shooting down any attempt to help in Haiti, ask them what they personally are doing as a give back program, you might be surprised!
As for GSF, I can honestly say all the money and donations that have been given to us have made their mark, we pride ourselves in being transparent in all our affairs , not only does the US Government’s requirement for our 501(c)3 status demand it, but we too are tired of hearing that same old broken record about NGOs, that we know for a fact are living up to their promises. It’s the same old story about one bad apple. I would also like to add that one of the joys of being a small ‘grass roots’ organization is that there is an intimacy between all involved that feels more like family and friends working together for a healthier future and a brighter change in human lives. I feel honored to be of service to such a beautiful race of people where success is measured by the love a man has in their heart and not the bulge in their purse, that I would like to share this hidden treasure with you or anyone who wishes to reach out ….all I can say is welcome.
Many Blessings, Michael
Michael “Beans” Gardner