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Small in Numbers, Big in Heart

Have you ever wondered about the U.S. team behind The Joseph School? While our teachers and staff in Haiti are an integral part of the school’s success, the four members of our U.S. based team work tirelessly to join forces with our Haitian staff to coordinate funding, create curriculum, and collaborate on operations. We’d like to introduce you to our U.S. team.  

Annita D’Amico, Ed.D.

Annita has been the Executive Director of The Joseph School (TJS) since August 2019. She is dedicated to the promotion and development of the skills and talents of the staff here in the U.S. and in Haiti. Annita spends her days strategizing, brainstorming, and problem solving with our team both here and in Haiti; and works with TJS partners, sharing student stories, updating the board, and making sure our budget stays balanced. Annita is a lifelong educator. Her role with The Joseph School is to ensure the mission and vision are carried out. She is married with 4 children and 4 grandchildren.

Katie Martin

As the Director of Education, Katie creates the curriculum plan for each grade level at The Joseph School. Katie works hand in hand with TJS principal Rose to provide a culturally committed curriculum in Creole, French, and English. Katie also works as an advocate for our teachers, insuring they receive professional development opportunities.  Recently, Katie partnered with the Department of Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University to create a learning unit for Nashville teachers to share with their students about Haitian culture. Read more about her work in last month’s blog here. Katie also is a gymnastics coach in her spare time. 

Jean Bildad Micheal “ Bildad”

Bildad has been the Director of Operations for the Joseph School since its inception. He is the primary liaison between the U.S. staff and the Haitian staff.  He was thirty-three when he began working with The Joseph School. He communicates daily with the operations staff in Haiti to ensure things run smoothly across campus.  Born and raised in Haiti, Bildad is the second child of a family of eight, that include five brothers and one sister.  He is married and is an active member of White House First Baptist Church in Tennessee.  

Susan Liberatore, Director of Development

Susan joined The Joseph School team in January 2021 to focus on fundraising and development efforts as the school continues to grow.  She works closely with the executive director and board of directors to evaluate financial needs and implements strategic plans for funding.  She oversees donor engagement and events throughout the year. Susan is married with 2 daughters, Sophia 20, and Alexandra 17.  

Patricia Bates, Administrative Specialist

Patricia recently began working with The Joseph School in an administrative role.  She works with both the director of development and the executive director regularly.  She handles donor acknowledgements, database maintenance, and budget tracking.  She is an integral part of our team.  


Bringing Haiti to Vanderbilt

While The Joseph School primarily serves our Haitian community, our Director of Education, Katie, is working with Nashville universities to help educate US audiences on the wonderful and deep-rooted culture of Haiti.

 

Vanderbilt University’s Latin American Studies Department focuses on discussing different cultures with new audiences to bring people together. Each year the department hosts a Haiti week, dedicated to exploring Haitian history, music, culture, literature, language, and more. Based on our experience in Haiti and 

the fundamentals of our structure and curriculum, VU considered The Joseph School a perfect fit and reached out to our Director of Education, Katie.

Vanderbilt was interested in creating a unit study (multiple lessons with different learning experiences) centered around the book “Freedom Soup,” which would introduce Haiti and its culture to young US readers. “Freedom Soup” is a children’s book that tells the story of a young girl learning how to make a traditional Haitian soup from her Ti Gran on new year’s eve. 

Katie has been developing a unit study that will help to create a fuller perspective of Haitian culture, for children in the Nashville area; and in turn bring new experiences to our TJS students. Her goal is to adapt the lessons into Creole and provide a copy of “Freedom Soup” for each of our TJS classrooms. With this approach, our students in Haiti and students in the US can share the experience together.

We are so grateful for the opportunity to share more about Haiti and its vibrant culture with new audiences. We are also looking forward to continuing outreach with Vanderbilt, and opening the door for partnering with other universities in the Nashville area and beyond!

If you would like progress update on the Creole Freedom Soup development or would like to provide a special gift for printing and publication in Haiti, please contact Katie Martin, Director of Education at katiem@thejosephschool.org


Our Teachers, Our Leaders

The Joseph School is dedicated to cultivating the next generation of leaders for Haiti, but we wouldn’t be able to do it without our incredible teachers. During this Teacher Appreciation Month, we want to highlight some of the incredible people who help make TJS a special place.

Some of our teachers travel long distances to be a part of the TJS family. Our principal, Rose, commutes from Port-au-Prince, almost an hour away each day. The guest house on campus is always open for some of our teachers to stay in during the week to avoid long commutes, such as Frantz who travels almost three hours from Cap-Haitian.

Not only are our teachers dedicated to TJS, but we are blessed to have some of the best teachers in the country! Carlos has been an integral part of the TJS team for several years and is up for P4H’s National Teacher Award! In addition, Gracia was also nominated for the national teacher award. [should we add more details on P4H here or in the footer of the blog]

Garcia – top; Carlo- bottom right; Both cheering, bottom left

Our teachers are always looking for ways to help their students and be the best they can be. Edrice is the leader of several online groups with teachers across Haiti and the U.S. In these groups he facilitates discussions on best practices and shares articles that benefit teachers far and wide.

The summer is a busy time for our teachers; the entire team attends conferences and seminars to brush up on old skills and learn new ones. Also during the summer, Estagonia volunteers to tutor students who need extra help moving into the next grade level.

We are so blessed to have every one of our 23 teachers. From visiting student homes for check-ins, to working in teams of two for each grade level, we truly have the best group of teachers there is! Our donors are a key part of helping us keep quality teachers and a strong educational team.  If you would like to sponsor a teacher or donate to TJS please click here.


Volunteer Spotlight: Hannah

Hannah Rossow is one of the amazing volunteers we have at The Joseph School, and at just 17 years old she has already made a huge impact in the lives of many others.

Her dad, Carl, became aware of TJS through our founder, Jim Bryson. After Carl’s first mission trip to Haiti, he told everyone about his experience. He and his wife, Cindy, were so inspired by the experience, they decided to gift their children a yearly sponsorship for a TJS student. “It wasn’t just about a child, but about philanthropy and understanding how that can play a role in their life. One of the greatest gifts you can give your kid is the gift of philanthropy.”

Carl, Jake, Hannah and Cindy Rossow

Years later, the Rossow family still sponsors students at The Joseph School. “We sponsor as a family. Each of us sponsor a student as a gift over the holidays.” One of Hannah’s favorite parts of this tradition is the joy and importance of being able to support someone, during the holidays especially, receiving the gift of a sponsorship and being able to change a child’s life.

Hannah was inspired by seeing how the donations were directly affecting the students and improving their lives. It wasn’t just a plan, the change they wanted to make was actually happening.

Hannah began working with education director Katie in November 2020. Hannah said “She had a huge file of all the kids and the crafts they’ve collected over the years. She sent [me] a huge box of all the photos and crafts.”

Hannah was key in helping develop a communication program for sponsors. This includes letters containing updates about the school, sending arts and crafts from the students, and assisting in the creation of a “sponsor welcome packet” which will be going out to all sponsors over the next couple of months. Her goal is finding ways for the sponsors to be more connected to the students.

Hannah wishes more people knew about The Joseph School, the amazing things it does and the difference it’s making. “If we had more sponsors, we would really be able to help more kids in Haiti.” 

Her suggestion to anyone thinking about getting involved is to “visit The Joseph School’s website and really look into the mission and explore the importance of the nonprofit. Anything you can do to help makes a difference no matter how big or small.”

About Hannah: Hannah is a junior in High School. She lives in Denver Colorado with her parents and younger brother. While Hannah is interested in pre-med, she believes that “a big part of patient care and being in the health world is having great communication skills and having a great plan for everyone.”


Green Thumbs and Growing Minds

In the spring of 2020 The Joseph School expanded the size of its garden, adding more types of vegetables, focusing on the orchard, and testing the soil. Now, almost a year later, our garden has provided many valuable experiences for our students and staff.

Education for Students

The garden began as an educational tool for our students. Gardening is a useful skill that teaches our students responsibility, decision making, team work, and how to use and care for their natural resources. Through their experience with the TJS garden, our students will know and understand the steps to create at-home gardens.

Education for Us

Furthermore, our garden is helping our team develop a seed library, for our specific terrain. The past year has allowed us to test various seeds and determine which can be harvested and replanted this year and for years to come. Our most successful crops have been coconuts, plantains and bananas, corn, watermelon, beans and sweet potatoes.

Healthy Minds

Beyond the educational benefits, gardening and producing our own food is financially advantageous. Our garden can provide hunger relief and necessary nutrients for our school of 180 students and staff of 50. Additionally, using the harvests from the garden promotes health and wellness by supplying our students with fresh, natural and unprocessed foods. The garden has already started to alleviate some of the costs associated with providing meals for the school; and we are excited by the prospect of growing our crop to not only provide for our school but the surrounding community as well.

Gardening is a great tool to teach our students hard-work, dedication and resourcefulness. We feel so blessed for the generosity of our donors who made this project possible. Be sure to check out our social media pages to catch updates and more photos from our garden.

If you would like to donate seeds or equipment for The Joseph School garden, please contact our Executive Director, Annita D’Amico at annitad@thejosephschool.org.


The Impact of Sponsors

Developing servant leaders inside and outside the classroom takes a daily commitment to creating an engaging, healthy and safe educational environment. We believe a well-rounded education is more than reading, writing, math equations and science experiments; which is why we developed the student sponsorship program. The Joseph School provides free tuition for each student, but we need community support to help ensure our students have everything they need to be successful. 

 

Why give monthly?

It’s Affordable

A seed may seem like a small thing, but we know that with continued care it can grow into something beautiful. Just like a seed, the small amount you set aside each month ultimately results in a large impact over time. Our student sponsors commit to give $38 or more per month to help our students grow.

It’s A Community

Becoming a monthly donor places you within a community of dedicated others, all committed to impacting Haitian education from the core. Our student sponsors are not just donors, but an integral part of The Joseph School family. As a student sponsor, you will receive special updates on your student and be the first to know about exciting new initiatives.

It’s Sustained Support

Our monthly givers make an even larger impact than immediately apparent — since we know we have their support, we are able to expand classroom initiatives and invest in our operations process. Recurring donations such as this help us to maintain the quality of The Joseph School experience year-round.

It’s Rewarding

As a sponsor you make an incredible impact in a child’s life, and we want to thank you for it! You’ll receive special updates as well as photos and special gifts from the students and communities you are impacting. 

What can you provide?

Safe Transportation

The Joseph School has been blessed with two school buses, which allows us to provide transportation to and from school for every one of our students. We are proud to provide this for our students, and your support helps make it possible. Your monthly donation goes toward covering gas prices and routine maintenance to ensure our students have a safe and dependable way to get to school and back home.

Daily Meals

We know that being hungry can be one of the biggest distractions a child can face in the classroom. Since food insecurity is prominent in Haiti, we provide breakfast and lunch for our students everyday. Your gift helps us buy groceries and supply our kitchen staff with everything they need to prepare delicious and nutritious meals for over 180 students daily!

School Supplies

There are many things a successful classroom needs. A student sponsor’s donations help us provide pencils, markers, workbooks, reading books and more!

Access to Education

Most of all, by sponsoring a student, you grant access to a world class education at The Joseph School. Our students receive quality education and are set up for a lifetime of success beyond the borders of our school.

 

 


Celebrating Haitian Leaders

“Empowered to dream. Compelled to Love. Called to lead.” Leadership is a key part of our vision for  The Joseph School, and a key part to a brighter future in Haiti. As we celebrate Black History Month, we want to highlight some important leaders who have helped shape Haiti, from its eventful history to today. 

Toussaint Louverture

Toussaint Louverture was born in 1743 in the French colony of Saint Dominque, now modern day Haiti. Louverture learned to read and write from his Godfather, priest Simon Baptiste and became trilingual and very well-read by his early adult years. When he was almost 50-years-old, Louverture was convinced to join the growing insurgency. He started as a soldier and eventually became a military secretary. By 1801, Louverture was ruling the now independent Saint Dominque as Governor. Toussaint Louverture is credited with leading the first successful slave revolt since Spartacus, and is an integral part in Haiti’s journey to freedom.
Source
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Jean-Jacques Dessalines

Jean-Jacques Dessalines served as second in command to Toussaint Louverture during the Haitian revolution. After the successful freeing of Saint Dominque, it was Dessalines who named the new country Haiti, after the island’s aboriginal inhabitants’ name for the country.
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Catherine Flon

After fighting for independence for many years, creating a flag for the new nation of Haiti was an important task. Catherine Flon always had a passion for sewing and founded a workshop in her hometown of Arcahaie to teach other young girls how to sew. In 1803, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the new ruler of Haiti, tore up the French flag, removing the white stripe which represented French Colony power. His Goddaughter, Catherine Flon, sewed the remaining blue and red stripes together. This became the basis for today’s Haitian flag.
Source

Henri Christophe

Henri Christophe was the first king of Haiti. He helped Toussaint Louverture during Haiti’s battle for independence and gained control of the young nation as president in 1806. By 1811, he had assumed the role of king. Despite some of his eccentricities in his later years, Christophe established many important systems in Haiti, such as the monetary system, education and hospitals systems.

Source

 

Edwidge Danticat 

Edwidge Danticat was born in Haiti in 1969. She found passion for writing while she was very young and has gone on to write several books, short stories and articles to critical acclaim. Her first book, “Breath, Eyes, Memory” was an Oprah’s book club selection. She has also been indicated by The New York Times as one of “30 Under 30 Creative People to Watch.”
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Michel DeGraff

Michel DeGraff is a Haitian-American, tenured linguistics professor at MIT University. In addition, he is the Director of the MIT-Haiti Initiative, a project funded by the National Science Foundation for the development and dissemination of active-learning resources and methods for science and mathematics in Haitian Creole. DeGraff’s research focuses on syntax and how language changes over time.
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Johny Placide

Johny Placide is best known for playing for Haiti national team at the 2008 Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Though the team did not make it to the Olympics, Placide is remembered for his heroic efforts and passionate performance. Placide has gone on to coach the Haitian national team.
Source

 


2020 Reflection

This year, Covid-19 changed the way people live, work and learn across the globe. The Joseph School implemented remote learning in the spring, but we were blessed with the opportunity to return to campus, in the fall. While many things changed this year, our students and teachers adapted to each new challenge.

As we look back on 2020, there is so much for us to be grateful for!

Seeing Double

In the fall of 2020 after many months of prayers and planning, our second school bus arrived in Haiti. This second bus was truly a blessing. It allowed us to create a second bus route, which cut down on travel time for our students. We feel truly blessed to provide safe transportation to and from campus for all of our students.

Education Beyond The Campus

When COVID-19 hit Haiti, we knew TJS had a responsibility to educate not only our students, but our entire community on how to stay safe. Education is, after all, what we do best. In March, we partnered with the mayor of Cabaret to develop COVID-19 prevention training for the surrounding communities.

Special Delivery

When campus closed in the spring and summer, our team knew there were TJS families who would need our support. Our staff prepared care packages and personally delivered them to families in our community.

Making a House a Home

When TJS was given the land our campus sits on, part of the contract indicated that we needed to help rebuild homes for several families who lived there. We were, of course, happy to help. In August, we finished another house for a family in need! Check out our blog for the full story.

Here We Grow Again

During the summer months, we saw our first big harvest from the new garden! Some of our students were able to visit campus and help collect the fruits and vegetables. What we pick from the garden goes directly to our campus kitchen, aiding in daily meals provided to our entire student body. We even decided to expand the garden, and are looking forward to future harvests!

Welcome to the Family

Three new teachers joined our TJS family for the fall semester. The new additions bring our teaching staff total to 23! We are so grateful for the skills and expertise every one of our teachers bring to The Joseph School. We know our students are learning from the best.

The More the Merrier

We welcomed 36 new students to The Joseph School this fall, one of the biggest we’ve had at TJS. Each of these students has made a wonderful addition to our TJS family. We feel truly blessed that we were able to accommodate so many new students, despite the challenges this year brought.

Plus, we can finally announce that our new set of desks and chairs arrived in Haiti this month. Preparing a shipment to Haiti takes lots of time and planning, so we are thrilled that our students will be able to use these desks in the spring semester.

Breaking Ground

Our expansion plans are in the works, which means we will soon be able to break ground for new construction projects. In the new year 2021 we will begin planning and building our chapel and dining hall! Having a dedicated place of worship at TJS has been our dream for a long time and it is finally coming to fruition!

Turning the Page

2020 may not have gone how we expected, but it was undoubtedly still filled with blessings. We are completely funded by the generosity of our wonderful supporters. This year our family grew by 230 new first-time donors, and we saw so many exciting milestones. We will return to campus on January 4 for the start of the spring semester. As 2020 comes to a close, we are looking forward to all the joy 2021 is sure to bring.

 

 


Like Sister, Like Brother

Neika Charles is a part of the Inaugural 2015 Joseph School class. She is 10 years old and now in the 6th grade. Her journey began at our original location, a residential house, with 29 other pupils, four teachers and a much smaller support team than we have now. Neika has grown with the school, both in the literal and physical sense. She is an excellent pupil, one of the top three in her class, and has never been in trouble. She’s quiet and shy, but very sharp. 

A few weeks before our new academic year was set to begin, our Director of Operations, Bildad Michel, received a Facebook message from Neika. 

She wrote, “Hey Mr. Bildad! I just want you to know that I miss you so much, but I am also very upset.” 

Neika continued to explain, “COVID-19 has been hard on everyone. During the shutdown, I have been trying to tutor my younger brother at home. I want my brother to be able to attend the Joseph School as well. He passed the entrance exam, the first one. However, on the second entrance exam, he only made a 72. Sadly, there was just one student who scored higher than my brother. Therefore, TJS did not accept my little brother. I thought that because of me, his sister, and my being a good TJS student, the school would take him. They did not! I am sad. I am worried about the kind of education my brother will receive in Haiti. Mr. Bildad, I really wish that my brother could be in the same school as me. I really love my school and I want the same for my little brother.”

Neika and her brother, Jicknel

The pain and concern in Neika’s response was evident, and many aspects of her message were true. The Joseph School conducts two pre-assessments for children living in the surrounding Cabaret area, but can only accept 30 students per class. To be fair, TJS accepts the top 30 scores, regardless of the child’s relationship to a staff member, community leader or a sibling already attending the school.

Bildad, saddened by her complaint but having very little authority on academic decisions, advised Neika to share her views with Madam Rose Amede, the principal of TJS. She followed his advice by drafting an equally touching letter and delivered it to Madam Rose on the first day of classes*

After receiving the letter, Madam Rose met with the lead education team, shared the letter and explained the situation. It was a bittersweet moment for the team. Although Neika is considered a star pupil and her parents have never missed a service opportunity for the school, Madam Rose knew she was unable to grant Neika’s request. The team wanted to accept her brother, but knew they had to do the right thing. Oftentimes, leaders have to make decisions with their heads and not their hearts. 

Neika was told the painful truth, and the class roster remained the same. However, on the fourth day of classes, the parents of one of the new students withdrew their child for reasons known only to them. Losing a student is hard, but it also opened a spot for the next highest scoring prospect — Neika’s little brother. Perhaps God was touched by Neika’s letter, too. 

Today, Neika’s brother, Jicknel, sits proudly in the first-grade class, studying hard to make his sister proud.

 

The Letter

*Nieka’s letter, translated from her native Haitian Creole, went like this:

Good morning Madam Rose and all of the Administration of TJS! How are you guys? I pray all of you are doing great by the grace of God. I am doing really well. I write to you this letter which is concerning my little brother who came to test. His score was not accepted. I would like for TJS to admit him. I want my little brother to attend the same school with me. I was admitted to the very first class at The Joseph School. I always have great grades and an excellent grade point average. I never get in trouble. I promise you that if you give my little brother a chance, I will work with him at home. I will encourage him so that he will be a great student like me. I will make sure, his grade point average is good. I really love my school. I would like for him to receive the same level of education like me. I am counting on you. I would like to hear your answer to my request in a time that is not too late. Receive my distinguished salutation, Neika Charles


Back to School and Back Together

Despite the challenges of this year, The Joseph School (TJS) has returned to full operations with a new class of 36 first graders! There’s no question that this year has looked very different from what we had expected. COVID-19 led to a lot of changes for the end of the last academic school year. For the safety of our students and staff, the last few months of the 2019 school year were taught remotely. In addition, the borders of the U.S and Haiti were closed to slow the spread of COVID-19. This led to an increased difficulty in shipping new chairs and desks to Haiti. In-county closures also halted the printing and delivery of our custom curriculum workbooks. However, we are so proud of our incredible team for adapting to these changes and ensuring that our students had tables and chairs (lent from a local business) and digital books.

Our team, and especially the children, are excited to be back in-person, on campus for this upcoming academic year. Our team has been working hard to make sure everyone can stay safe and healthy while being together. We’ve implemented many new safety precautions to our classrooms. To start, every room on campus was thoroughly cleaned and prepped to maintain safe distances for learning. We added several new water stations — some for hand washing and others with fresh drinking water to help our students stay hydrated throughout the school day.

While these might seem like big changes, TJS is always working to grow and improve to give our students the best education possible. We are thrilled to be celebrating our sixth year! We’ve reached many incredible milestones since The Joseph School first started. This year we have 180 students enrolled in grades 1 through 6 (Kindergarten through 5 in U.S standards).

The impact The Joseph School has had on our students and the community is strong and steadily growing. One of the pillars of The Joseph School is to empower students to become leaders in their community. Our teachers strive to teach the students how to be thoughtful, considerate, and passionate leaders. We know that effective leadership stems from a strong educational foundation, which is why our curriculum is the key to our success. We value the basics of education, with great emphasis on strong reading and writing skills.  TJS also provides two meals a day to the students. Our kitchen team works hard to provide nutritious and delicious meals from local ingredients every single day for all of our students. 

This school year may look different from years past, but we have big hopes for what it will bring. We are so proud of the work our students have put in during these challenging times and can’t wait to see what they will accomplish in the future. It seems like just yesterday that we started in a rented house with just one class of students. Every year we continue to grow and expand what TJS has to offer through generous donations and devoted supporters. This year has already had a wonderful beginning, stay tuned for the exciting things to come at The Joseph School.

Our 2020-2021 Students and Teacher (all teachers are not pictured).

1st Grade A | Teacher: Rachel
1st Grade B | Teachers: Yveline and Nadia
2nd Grade A | Teacher: Kacendre
2nd Grade B | Teachers: Judith and Estagonia
3rd Grade A | Teachers: Sherley and Nerlande
3rd Grade B | Teachers: Ermionne and Frantz
4th Grade A | Teacher: Magdala
4th Grade B
5th Grade | Teacher: Achanta
6th Grade | Teacher: Carlo