At the end of 2017, we asked the student’s what they wanted for The Joseph School. One student asked for a giraffe, another asked for more recess time, but a large majority asked for a school bus. Why? Without a bus, our student’s faced two options: pay for a ride or walk to school.
Depending on where they live (many live outside of Cabaret), it could cost 15 gourdes to send him or her to school on a tap-tap (the Haitian taxi) and 15 gourdes to get him home—the equivalent of 50 cents. For families living on less than $2 a day, that’s quite an expense. During our first three years, we offset the cost for many of the families by paying multiple tap-taps. However, they were at times, unreliable and could be completely full with people traveling from village to village.
For the students that had to walk, they would wake at 5 o’clock in the morning, spending hours in the sun walking on the side of the busy Haitian highways as cars and trucks zoomed by.
A bus for our students meant free and safe transportation to and from school. Having a bus meant a lot to them and so that’s what we did.
In 2018, generous supporters helped us raise the funds to ship a bus from Cleeves, Ohio (purchased from the Three Rivers School District) to Haiti. It arrived just in time for the beginning of our fourth year and the students were thrilled. Everyday we filled the bus with 120 children and nearly all our teaching staff.
Then, in early 2019 we were approached to receive a second bus from the same school district. Of course, we said yes. Within a year, our student body had grown from 120 children to 149 and four new teacher had joined our team. We were beginning to be packed to the max and a second bus could not only alleviate the space and weight but also allow us to start a second route.
In May 2019, we began a fundraiser for the second bus and in ONE day, we raised it all! We were blown away by the support. It took nearly four months for the bus to travel from Ohio, driven to Florida by two volunteers, be placed on a ship and travel the seas to Haiti. It arrived in time for this school year, BUT the country’s shutdown put a delay in our customs retrieval. After months of new paperwork and trips to retrieve the bus, we finally have it at The Joseph School.
It’s been a journey but just as starting a school was, it’s been more than worth it!