The Power of Parent Involvement: Mitsie and Monique

Monique Guillaume
Bildad, Dir of Operations and Monique

Not long after her daughter, Mitsie, was enrolled at The Joseph School, staff became used to seeing young mom Monique volunteering at TJS each and every day, sometimes for the entire day. Monique cheerfully took on any task given to her, and came back eager for the next in order to help the school run as smoothly as possible. In partnership with the TJS foundation, tuition is free for all students, with two meals provided each day. As part of their commitment to the students and the school, parents are required to volunteer a total of five hours every month. Maybe Monique misunderstood, we thought, perhaps she thought we said five hours per day? When we approached Monique about it, she told us there was no misunderstanding. Monique was there every day to help give back to the school and make sure her child stayed on the path to success.

 

Mitsie and Monique had been with TJS for a year and a half when a custodial position opened up. It was only natural we offered the job to hardworking Monique. In Monique’s words: “It is unbelievable that my child is getting an education for free. I have been volunteering for 1 ½ years because the Joseph School does so much. It’s a  way I can repay the school. By offering me the job, I feel so blessed. How do Americans say it? It is like the icing on the cake. I am part of a great mission for Christ.” 

That was in 2017, and Monique’s been with us ever since. Asked recently by Director of Operations, Jean Bildad Michel, “What makes The Joseph School so special to you?” Monique  responded, “Most schools who help students in Haiti for free, they do not treat the children the same way the Joseph School treats their students. Even my oldest daughter who goes to a different school for pay is treated with less respect than the manner in which TJS treats my Mitsie and the other students. I am not saying that because my daughter attends. I am saying that because it is true.”

Mitsie
Mitsie

During the political unrest, with barricades and burning tires everywhere, the workers and the teachers went to check on the students of TJS. With the corona virus following close behind, the school’s commitment to community outreach was even more critical. A WhatsApp page was created for each class grade (which included all teachers and their respective parents) in order to continue the work of the students. Parents are able to access the teachers to get assistance in helping their own child. Monique declared, “What a great program that Madam Katie, Madam Rose, and Mister Edrice created! The students are still in school, even though they are safer at home.” 

TJS also sent food for their students to make sure the children did not go hungry during the quarantine. Even though the school building is closed and people are apart, students, teachers, and parents still feel connected.  Monique concluded, “I pray for the Joseph School every day and for all who help.” Monique is a true Haitian leader,  a prized volunteer, praying for  the school. Concerned about her own child, she is like many other global moms.

 

 

 


A Helping Hand: Wilson Dorisca’s Story

A young man just wanted to be a part of what he saw happening at The Joseph School. He ended up becoming part of the school community, receiving a job, and an education.

At only 15 years old, Wilson Dorisca was the caretaker for his family for years. His mother had passed away a few years ago and his father, at 80, was unable to help the family. Wilson had no formal education because his family couldn’t afford it.

One day in 2015, Wilson was playing soccer with his friends at the community soccer field (right next to our campus). One of our administrators asked Wilson for a hand taking out trash, and gave Wilson 125 Haitian gourdes (about $1.25 USD) as a thank you to get something to eat. After that first day, Wilson made sure to stop by The Joseph School to see if they needed any help, without asking for or expecting pay. If he saw staff cleaning, he would jump in. When he saw a dirty TJS vehicle, he would wash it. Consistently and reliably, Wilson became part of TJS.

It was our repairman, Wilkens, who really inspired Wilson. Whenever Wilkens was fixing something, Wilson was there to learn and offer a hand. Since Wilson was too old to attend TJS, we hired Wilson on as Wilkens’ assistant, with part of his paycheck going directly to his tuition at a nearby institution. Wilson has now learned vital repair skills in electricity, plumbing and carpentry in his role at TJS. This work inspired Wilson to transfer to a trade school to become a licensed plumber. He currently works part-time, arriving early to campus to clean and check every classroom. He then travels to his secondary school for education, and after his classes, he returns to clean our classrooms at the end of the day.

Part-time Employee, Full-time Leader

As part of our agreement with Wilson, he must pass all his classes or risk losing hours at TJS. We expect academic excellence as part of our fundamental values and know that a strong education is what will set Wilson up for success in his life. Wilson is already a leader at TJS and we can’t wait to watch how he is continuing to grow.

Wilkens and SonSon
Mackinson and Wilson, Wilkens not pictured

Director of Operations Jean Bildad Michel asked Wilson, “What makes you most proud to be a part of TJS?”

 

He responded: “First, it teaches me how to give to others by being a part of something great for this nation. Second, it helps me get closer to God. With the amount I receive, I can pay my trade school as well as assist with my aging father. I help my sister and brother, too.”

At TJS, we not only reach out to our students but to those around us. TJS provides Wilson and those like him an opportunity to give back, all the while growing new leaders for the nation.

 


Biancey and Her Mother, Nadia: Girl Gumption

When she grows up, Biancey wants to be the best dancer in Haiti and a famous lawyer (“avokat” in Haitian Creole). Bright, inquisitive, and articulate, fifth grader Biancey believes that a girl can be anything she wants. Trusting in God and herself, she dreams of being a voice for those without a voice, an avokat for orphaned and homeless children. Biancey is a Joseph School future leader.

Biancey Fleurimond

Biancey has learned to be her own advocate early in life. Her father, a truck driver, died when Biancey was only three years old. Her mother, Nadia, suddenly found herself a single mother of two at age 20. However, Nadia was determined, to build a better life for herself and her children. Biancey was accepted into The Joseph School in our first year, 2015. Biancey immediately began to thrive with the tutelage and support at TJS. There was a problem though, Biancey and her mother lived over 45 minutes away by bus, in the small rural town of Arcahaie. Nadia rode with Biancey every day to ensure her safe arrival. However, the time to and from TJS didn’t allow Nadia time to work to financially support her family, and they began to fall behind in rent.

On discovery of the family’s sacrifices to be part of TJS, one of our American advocates generously supported Biancey and her family’s relocation to a house closer to school. TJS also assisted Nadia in creating a small roadside business selling rice and beans. As Biancey grew through her studies, our student body grew also, enabling us to hire Nadia as a cook and staff member. Very independent and self-motivated, Nadia began taking night classes to earn her cosmetology license. After a full year of classes, Nadia earned her license and is now self-employed, doing hair and nails in house for her clients.

Nadia explains in her own words, “If my dream can come true, I pray daily for my son and daughter to obtain their dreams as well, along with every student at The Joseph School. While my life is not perfect, I am learning. I rely on God, and as a single mom, I am trying to give my children a better future than the one I had. I don’t know where I would be without The Joseph School.  I did not have the money to pay for a school like The Joseph School. I know God provided for my talented daughter. Thank you for your help and your prayers. You did not give me a hand out, you gave me a hand up. God bless you all.”


Alleviating Stress During This Time: Dealing with Covid-19

“Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there.'” – Eckhart Tolle

As partners with TJS, you have faithfully been there for us and we want to be here for you during these turbulent times.

Living through a global, historic event like COVID-19 is especially difficult since we have no experience for how best to respond. Even our international and national leadership teams are struggling with how to help. It makes sense that we feel uneasy and concerned about what is going to happen next.

What do we do with all the stress, fear, and worry?

We all have a lot on our minds and the concerns are real. But fear, stress, and anxiety take up a lot of our time and energy, and provide very little assistance in solutions. As a leadership school, many families and businesses in our community look to us for guidance. If we begin to worry, they may too. Instead, we’ve implemented some tools for alleviating stress during this time, and we want to share:

Here is a list of ways information may be impacting us, and some options to replace the stress with a healthier response:

Filtering
We are hearing a lot of negative stories through the news. The messages consistently tell us a worst case scenario, but there are plenty of better case scenarios, too. What do those happy moments look like for you?

Truthfully, our funding has began to slow, but our students are safe and healthy. And our staff is working together better than ever. We choose to focus on these things.

Polarized Thinking
Feeling our situations are only good or they are only bad (with no middl ground).  This is not true!  Our world has been through events like this before and can come back stronger, with potentially more wisdom about what in life is most important.

Haiti has experienced earthquakes, hurricanes, and severe impoverishment. TJS has experienced many set backs, but through it all, we’ve continued to grow.

Catastrophizing and magnifying the message, as in statements like “this is a disaster we may not survive.” Again, this is not true. Most individuals are strong enough to get the virus, and heal.


Stay Positive and Thankful

Yes there have been so many tragic deaths. So much grief. But for those of us held in this holding pattern, our primary task is to breathe deeply, be kind to your family, and speak peace into your own head.

Those of you with children at home – yes a houseful of little developing personalities can be chaotic. We understand — before the country shutdowns, our teachers spent eight to nine hours with 15+ young, energetic children. Learn to play again, talk to your children, tell stories, and rediscover nature.

We don’t know the details of each of your personal stories right now, but know we love you, appreciate you, and are praying for you through it all.  We at The Joseph School would love for you to write to the children at the school in Haiti. Send your notes to info@thejosephschool.org, and we will see that the notes are delivered.

And remember . . .

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” – Leo F. Buscaglia

 


Our Curriculum Development

TJS School Books

Haiti is a country with limited resources to invest in their schools. The majority of educational materials are in French and teaching methods rely heavily on rote learning (a memorization technique based on repetition). At The Joseph School, our Education Director and Principal work together to find books and materials that help develop critical thinking and problem solving styled learning. 

Haitian School Books

Our Education Director, Katie, purchases books in Haiti and incorporates additional creative and innovative online resources (from France and the United States) to enrich the curriculum. The books and materials are updated, as needed, to be more culturally appropriate. Many of the French and English materials are also translated into Haitian Creole  — due to lack of learning materials in the student’s mother tongue. These books and resources make up The Joseph School curriculum. 

Each curriculum book is supplemented with pages that provide active learning activities, student-centered strategies, and questions in Haitian Creole, French, and English. 

Once materials are compiled, PDFs and cover templates are sent to Halo Publishing, a publishing company in Haiti, for printing. This company is operated by Haitians, who print the materials and deliver them to our school. Each year, our curriculum improves as TJS teachers provide feedback on what they need for their students to be successful. Last year, TJS produced a number of custom curriculum books, and we plan to complete additional materials for this coming Fall semester.

TJS School Books

What’s New?

This year, our teachers will be creating and submitting active learning/student centered lesson plans as supplemental documents to use in their classrooms. As the school continues to grow we strive to provide opportunities for our Haitian staff to show their expertise and give our students the highest quality of education possible. 

Your gift to The Joseph School, helps provide the necessary funds for textbooks, academic materials, multilingual reading books, bookshelves to store them, student desks, pencils and other supplies that help these young students become scholars. We have much more to share with you so watch for our next blog on TJS happenings!

 


What Can We Learn from Haitians during the Covid-19 Crisis?

Reflections from TJS Education Director, Katie Martin.

The first word that comes to my mind when I think of Haitians is resilience. The dictionary defines this as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness”.

The Joseph School

I (Katie) have refused to panic during this pandemic. I think a lot of that has to do with working in Haiti for nearly three years now. I am stronger because of them. Many Americans are panicking over not being able to work or stocking up on food because we don’t know when we will be able to get it. Students can’t go to school, restaurants and other businesses are closed, there are no events, and we can’t even gather for worship or to honor someone’s life. These things are hard for us to accept in a country that states freedom as one of the most important rights we have.

I wonder every single day how Haitians go through these types of situations daily. 

Haitians live day to day because they have to. Their unemployment rate is high so most of them make their own jobs by selling goods or initiating trades with their friends and family to get what they need. They find a way to turn their skills into a way to survive.

As a nonprofit, we tend to focus on what we can do for Haitians and can easily fail to see what we can learn from them.


Need help getting through these difficult times?

Here is some advice from our Educational Leadership at TJS.

Our principal (Rose Magdala Amede) shared four key pieces of advice:

-In all situations, dwell on the positive side

-Take all the details into consideration (even the most insignificant)

-Be strong

– Fight to survive, in all circumstances


Our lead teacher (Edrice Bastien) told me: 

“It is true as Haitians, we have an enormous capacity to face a whole set of difficulties. The worst that I knew was the cataclysm of January 12, 2010, but despite everything, we withstood with certainty that everything will be better. In the subconscious of our being, I suppose, there is something that makes us believe and understand that there is hope even when everything seems annihilated. There is hope that tomorrow will be better than yesterday and even today. And as the Haitian proverb said tout o tan tèt pa koupe, li espere mete chapo, meaning so as long as there is life, we can always hope for another world. And of the same idea, if I manage to give advice to an American it would be this one — love life and hope that everything can change over time. And as for you, Ms. Katie, we know the sad news that distresses and overwhelms Americans in the face of this pandemic (coronavirus). Faced with this situation, we urge you to remain firm and we beg you to remain safe because GOD WILL PROVIDE.

Haitians come together and stay strong no matter their circumstances. A lesson we can all learn.

 


Our Second School Bus

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!

TJS School Bus

 


Searching for the Class of 2019

Another year at The Joseph School means another class of incoming students!

The Joseph School vision is to have grades one through thirteen, therefore, each summer, we seek out our next class of first graders. With each incoming class of first graders, our current first graders graduate to second; our second graders graduate to third, and so forth.

The Selection Process

Each year, more and more families hear about us and the work we do in our community, and more and more students apply to attend The Joseph School. This year, we had over one hundred applicants! It’s exciting to have so many eager children, however, we can not accommodate 100 first graders, so each child participates in a two-day testing.

We give every potential student an entrance test to make sure that our new class is prepared for the rigorous school work and school culture here. We design our entrance tests around our core educational values: academics, leadership, service, language, discipleship, along with Haitian culture and history.

The testing is primarily focused on academic potential, but we also quiz new students on leadership skills. We ask new students questions like “When was the last time you apologized?” as well as asking children to identify shapes and colors. We test for the ability to grow, since many of our students couldn’t afford kindergarten. We are committed to provide equal opportunity  for all potential students regardless of background. Once the tests are scored, the top 33 students will become the newest class at TJS!

We are still in the process of scoring the tests, but stay tuned to see who the next class of future leaders are!


Let’s Talk Curriculum!

Redesigning the curriculum for our students every year is a challenge! Part of our goal is to provide a world-class education, and in order to do so, we have been creating our own curriculum from scratch. Our curriculum is a huge step towards quality education in Haiti!

TJS Curriculum

In Haiti, around 60% of kids abandon school before the sixth grade. Almost all schools charge tuition, and added to the costs of uniforms and books, this keeps many families out of schools. Schools are also taught almost entirely in French, when most Haitians grow up speaking Creole. This makes education nearly impossible for those who don’t already know French. Our goal is to make a school where kids come to truly learn. While we had covered tuition and other costs for our students, there was still the issue of finding the right material in the right language to teach. TJS had previously been using the best of Haitian curriculum, but we found that it didn’t meet the standard of the world class education we wanted to provide. There was little to no material in Creole like we needed, and the curriculum is heavily memorization based. In 2017, we began the process of creating a whole new revolutionary curriculum for our students.

Lead by our education direction Katie Martin, we began designing our own curriculum for our students. We collaborated with our Haitian teachers to see where the best educational material in Haiti is coming from. After getting access to the limited material in Creole, we then starting slowly bringing material from around the world and combining it with our Haitian material. We took the best educational tools we could find from not only Haiti, but the US, Canada, and France. It is very important to us that we teach our students in the language they know best, so we carefully translate everything so that their education has a base in Creole. Once we have written the textbooks, we print copies in Haiti through local companies.

We assemble our curriculum based on our core educational themes: academics leadership, service, languages, Haitian culture & history, and discipleship. Our kids are engaged in classes like math, science, history and geography, but also in civics and biblical discipleship. We are also focused on teaching our students the languages they will need to be be be successful leaders. Our students learn Creole, French, and English, and will be fluent in all three before they graduate. We conduct regular testing every nine weeks, so that we know the students are keeping up with everything they should have learned.

We want our students to not only have the best Haitian education possible , but to compete on a global basis. Our students have already been testing, on average, much higher than other schools in the area. We will continue to update and change our curriculum as needed to guarantee that our students have the best education possible. Education changes everything, and by providing a world-class education to these children today, we are changing the future of Haiti’s tomorrow.


Summer Meals Program

School is out for the summer, and we’ve restarted our Summer Meals program!


This program is designed to make sure our kids are staying healthy ands getting enough to eat over the summer. As you may know, during the school year we feed all our students two nutritious meals a day! However, in our first year of operating, we noticed that many of our kids had lost weight over the summer from being underfed or not having enough key nutrients. In Haiti, one in five children are chronically malnourished. The Joseph School knows that a hungry child can not learn.

The Threat of Malnutrition:

Malnutrition at a young age can lead to serious problems later on in life. When three out of four Haitians live in poverty, this becomes a serious threat to the children of Haiti.

“Severe malnutrition suffered in the first two years of life in Haiti has resulted in irreversible physical and mental disabilities and depressed immune systems, making children more susceptible to contracting diseases and increasing the probability of childhood death. Malnutrition at an early age leads to reduced physical and mental development for a person’s entire life. ”
-Meds and Food for Kids

What We’re Doing:

To fight malnutrition, we started a summer program to ensure that our students would receive enough nutrition over the summer. We evaluate the students before school is out to see who is at risk for malnutrition. Then, we make bi-weekly visits to drop off Vita Mamba supplements to them and their families.

Vita Mamba is a ready-to-use supplementary food (RUSF) that is designed specifically for kids at risk of malnutrition. It has been declared the “gold standard” in combating malnutrition by the World Health Organization. Vita Mamba is a peanut, milk and soy based paste, fortified with vitamins and minerals, including zinc, iron, iodine and vitamins A and B12. It also provides a source of energy, protein and essential fatty acids. A regular supply of this keeps students from losing weight or becoming malnourished over the summer. This keeps our students healthy year-round!

Results:

This year, we have 53 students at risk (many from our youngest and first year class). This is the largest number of students we’ve ever had in need; however, we’ve already seen tremendous growth from the previous years of this program.

Our previous at-risk students did not lose weight, but actually grew at a normal rate over the summer. Therefore, we’re confident it will be the same for our current 53 children. After all, healthy bodies build healthy minds!

If you would like updates on how our students are doing, follow us on social media!