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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

 


Carlo’s Big Adventure

Do you remember your first job? Most teachers can tell you exactly where they were the moment they learned they had been hired to stand in front of a classroom for the first time. Carlo Nau is no different. Albeit, Carlo’s journey to the front of our fifth-grade TJS classroom is a bit unusual . . .

Carlo Nau is one of the brightest men you could meet. He received his teaching degree from Ecole Normale, the best school in Port-au-Prince, has a Masters degree in teaching, and is a certified coach. Carlo was prepared to teach. He was going places, he just didn’t know where.

Living in Port-au-Prince, Mr. Nau had never heard of The Joseph School (TJS is located in Cabaret roughly 25 km, or a 40-minute drive from PAP). However, after talking with a previous classmate who had scheduled an interview at TJS, he wanted to check out the school too. Carlo asked if he could tag along with his fellow classmate, but not surprising, his friend said, “No.” You see, jobs are hard to come by in Haiti, so it was no surprise his classmate did not want any competition.

Determined to Teach

Mr. Nau decided to follow his classmate to the TJS interview. He carefully followed through the crowded streets of downtown Port-au-Prince. Carlo lagged a block behind so he would not be detected by his friend. When his classmate took a tap-tap (the Haitian means of public transportation), Carlo took the one immediately following. Like a private investigator, Mr. Nau tailed his friend some forty miles. After arriving at TJS, Carlo continued to hide, checking out the school located in the heart of Cabaret. He was intrigued, the school did not look like the public schools in Port-au-Prince.

Since he did not have an interview appointment, he watched and waited for his chance. After noticing a decline in interviews, Carlo walked up to the staff and introduced himself. Showing his true grit, Carlo provided his list of credentials. He answered the questions and even laughed at his own unusual journey to the TJS interview table. Mr. Nau impressed the TJS staff with his determination and was hired on the spot. That was four years ago. Today Carlo still stands proud in front of his fifth-grade class. He constantly goes the extra mile, just as on that eventful interview day, as he teaches his students.

Outside of teaching in the classroom, he also coaches the students in exercise science, (what other school may term physical education). Last year, he started a newspaper for the school which covers outside sports, activities, and various special topics covered in the other classes. The paper even acknowledges the student’s birthdays.

Carlo is a godly, Christian man — a visionary. He often goes the extra mile, for himself and for The Joseph School students. His determination and leadership is respected throughout the campus and you may even catch him sharing the story of his hiring to anyone who will listen.

His success makes the Joseph School a success. He is one of the rocks of the TJS Foundation.

 


Teaching with Technology

Technology has transformed the world. “Smart” devices, like computers and tablets have molded the way we live, work, play and most importantly learn. Our Education Team has been seeking the right platforms and partnerships to establish a tech lab at The Joseph School; and we’re excited to share our newest teaching tool.

METL (Mobile Educational Technology Lab)

Earlier this month, we received 20 tablets from CTRL ALT DLT Poverty, an organization dedicated to providing learning tools through technology all over the world. Our tablets arrived in rainproof, mobile cases, allowing our teachers and students to use them in any classroom and transport them as needed.

Combatting Haiti’s Challenges

The METL kits are designed to have complete off-grid connectivity. This means our students will have numerous online learning materials without needing wi-fi!

Each kit has its own internet server with solar charging and USB power supply for each tablet. They also have the ability to run for 36 hours, with a battery backup, so our students can use them even without electricity.

CADP has collected numerous learning applications like Khan Academy (videos and quizzes for math and science), Bouquineux (over 2000 reading books), and many more. These learning applications have been programmed for our curriculum in French, Haiti’s primary educational language, and also in English. Another key learning application specifically programmed for us is PhET Physics. This application provides workshops from MIT on technology and learning methods in Haitian Creole provided by Michel DeGraff.

Not only does the METL take out concerns for internet and electricity in Haiti, it will also provide our students with technology so they can truly be globally competitive. The tablets also feature bluetooth keyboards and programmed typing applications so our students can learn how to type before we build our permanent computer lab.

Last but not least, the newest application on the tablet, Kolibiri, provides our teachers with the ability to monitor and track the progress of each student. They can create different learning groups, assign lessons, administer quizzes and view reports. This will be the first time we have had a classroom management application easily accessible for our teachers.

Our METL lab was made possible through financial contributions from the Marketing Research Education Foundation and Ipsos. There are so many exciting things about the METL and we can’t wait to see our teachers and students using them!


Madame Mazilia’s Mud House

Madame Mazilia and her family have lived on the original Joseph School land for years. Donated by the Haitian government for the school, the 77 acres sits in the heart of Cabaret. Mazilia has six children, four boys and two girls. After the beautiful land was donated for our leadership academy, it was only common sense that The Joseph School would need to help relocate any families that would be displaced by the school. Like the United States, squatters’ rights can be developed over time in Haiti. Mazilia and her family were covered under those rights.  They had lived in a simple mud house for years and that house was beginning to deteriorate.

Inspiring One Another

After the property became the new home for TJS, Jean Bildad Michel, Director of Operations, visited all the locals living on the land. He even introduced the locals to the mission teams that came to visit TJS. The visitors danced to music and shared gifts they had brought to Haiti. A relationship was born with these four families living. School staff and the families developed a relationship of respect for each other as part of their community, instead of an adversarial or litigious position.

As the school began to take shape, Madame Mazilia saw business opportunities. She watched as the building of the school brought multiple construction workers to the land and she noticed they spent long days on the job. Mazilia borrowed money and started her own food business; selling food which she herself prepared. After all, there is no one hungrier than a construction worker in the hot Haitian sun. At the entrance in front of the large TJS gate, Mazilia set up her food tent, selling to the TJS workers and the local population. She was overjoyed at her personal accomplishment.

Helping One Another

 

In Haiti, there are rainy seasons. In the middle of one such torrential downpour, the side of Mazilia’s mud house collapsed. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but Mazilia now needed a place to live.

The Joseph School got busy, contracting, and completing a brand-new concrete home just for her. She moved into the new home with her family right away. Mazilia was and is thankful that the Joseph School did not merely pay her money to move her and her family from the land. Rather, they embraced her and her family. TJS created an opportunity for her to support herself and her family.

She said, “I am 53 years old. I never imagined I would be able to have a place like this for my family. I am not worthy to have this beautiful gift from God!”

Donors, by God’s grace, you have blessed another family with a pretty cream and chocolate-colored home in the heart of the TJS area. Mazilia and her family are grateful, and so are we. Thank you!


Only Uphill From Here: Smith’s Story

If you take a moment to chat with our teaching or operational staff about their educational journey, you may find some similarities: things like overcrowded classrooms, various ages and a small library of learning materials. At TJS, we’re combating many of these challenges, among others, but  . . .  what about how they got there? How did they get to school each and every day?

When chatting with our Director of Operations, Jean Bildad Michel, he shared how he walked to school, sometimes all the way to Bon Repos, ten miles from his village of Minotrie. Yes, he walked up hill both ways! His parents simply could not afford transportation.

A Gentlemen Willing to Help

Enter Smith Guerrier. Mr. Guerrier drove a tap tap as his business venture, the Haitian mode of public transportation. Most days, Mr. Guerrier would pass a young Bildad trekking to class. Knowing Bildad did not have the financial ability to pay, Smith would stop his vehicle and allow him to ride for free. Each time, Bildad would thank him with promises to repay him one day.

Haitians often refer to their nation as a “relational country.” Such an allegiance is exactly what they mean. When the Joseph School was blessed with a school, Bildad went looking for Smith. He discovered that Smith was still driving in Haiti, with a wealth of experience and a great safety record. Due to his past Samaritan spirit, he was favored for the position, but was also the most qualified for the job. The Board of TJS did not hesitate. In 2015, Smith was the fifth person hired to the team.

When TJS first began, Smith would make multiple trips back and forth with his Tap Tap. Thankfully, TJS was blessed with its first school bus in 2018. Smith is our full time bus driver for our students as well as the guests who frequent on mission or vision trips.

More than a Driver

Smith and his wife have four children together, and one of his children also attends the Joseph School. He’s highly respected in the community, always on time, takes pride in his work, and is willing to help. When our security guard, Fritznel, was diagnosed, and later died, of lymph node cancer, Smith volunteered to drive him wherever he needed to go at no cost.

He’s very intelligent, yet humble. On one recent trip with a team of guests from Tennessee, the bus broke down one hour from Cabaret. Smith tended to the bus while reassuring the team everything was going to be okay. After hours of maintenance, they were back on the road. With a shiny disposition, Smith laughed and joked the whole way home. In total, it took seven hours to return safely to Cabaret, but Smith drove the team without complaint. He loves what he does, and we love him.

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A Stronger Team: Our Second Professional Development Training

Last week, our teachers participated in a three day hands-on training with P4H Global; our second training with the organization committed to equipping Haitian educators through professional development. 

To kickoff the training, the P4H team reviewed our current professional development strategies. Then they transitioned into the importance of educational assessments, specifically the use and role of proper evaluations in the classroom. The P4H trainers spent considerable time discussing critical thinking and how to write quality test questions in order to accurately measure student comprehension. Critical thinking is an educational element many Haitian schools lack, and therefore our teachers really enjoyed these sessions.

For the second day, the P4H trainers explored the components of a lesson plans, learning objectives, and student engagement strategies in order to help our teachers tailor their methods to meet each student’s individual needs.

On day three, the main focus was reflection. According to our teaching staff, these sessions were the most beneficial because reflection, as a learning tool, is not usually taught in Haiti. The reflective sessions enabled our team to connect meaning with the knowledge they learned, and create professional growth goals. The P4H trainers also discussed how much stronger a team can be by working together to grow professionally and that this is the key to transforming education in Haiti.

At the end of the training, the teachers completed a post test to properly measure their knowledge gain. The Joseph School teachers did the best in regards to growth out of any school that P4H has trained up to this point. They scored an average of 38.41% on the pretest and a 99.68% on the post test. This is also the highest post test score they have ever seen!

After the training, Madame Rose (TJS principal), sent a message to P4H that said, “I wanted to personally thank you and the entire P4H staff, in the name of TJS, for the beautiful training. We spent great time together, we reunited and we learned abundantly more than what we knew before the training. In the five years I’ve attended P4H trainings, I’ve never regretted one day that I’ve crossed your path. Your trainings have made me STRONGER and more INTELLIGENT. P4H, you have created change in TJS. I am so happy for your presence. I send kisses to your brain!”

Our principal said it best! We are so blessed to have a partnership with an organization that is dedicated to equipping our teachers, who can better equip our students. 

You can learn more about P4H Global here. 


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.”