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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!


An Innovative Investment: The Solo Bag

We are thrilled to announce that The Joseph School will be providing Solo Bags to our students and staff! The Solo Bag is an innovative backpack designed for students without reliable access to electricity. The bag charges a reading light using solar power, so students can safely and easily study at night.

The Solo Bag was created by Haitian Entrepreneurs Mike Bellot and Torcel (Wendy) Wendianne. Bellot became determined to address Haiti’s energy crisis after the loss of his cousin in a tragic accident. Bellott’s cousin had been studying late at night when the candle he was using to study caught his house on fire, and he could not make it out in time. After this loss, Bellot became determined to make safe energy more accessible to Haitians.

In Haiti, only about 37% of the country has access to regular electricity. Electricity, when available, also represents a huge costs to families. Our student’s families, many of which live on less than two dollars per day, would have to spend 30% of their income just to charge their cell phone. Buying kerosene for lightning at night is also costly and comes with negative health affects, and using candle light can quickly become dangerous. To solve this problem and to make safe, clean energy accessible to low income Haitians, Bellot and Wendianne created the Solo Bag.

 

The Solo Bag is a school bag embedded with a solar panel which absorbs sunlight during daytime, The energy is stored in a battery bank that emits eco-friendly and sustainable light at night.  A student could then use the light to study or do their homework at night. Solo Bags can safely illuminate a room for up to six hours.  There are USB ports in the battery, which allow the user to charge their cell phone. The bags are also equipped with a GPS tracker in case they are lost. Bellot hopes that his invention will not only benefit the 63% of Haitians without electricity, but also the 1.2 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to electric power.

The Jospeh School is investing in the Solo Bag for all our students and staff starting this fall. Since we know most of our students do not have access to regular electricity, we truly believe this will help our students be safer and more successful. We are also proud to be supporting Haitian entrepreneurs as they build a better future for their country! Stay tuned to see our students receiving their very own Solo Bag this fall!


Oh How We’ve Grown: Time for New Uniforms

It’s time for us to start making uniforms again!

During the summer, we start to prepare for the next school year, and that includes making more uniforms! Our uniforms have changed a lot since The Joseph School started. We went from a simple white polo and khakis to a more functional, full khaki uniform for all our students. We provide shirts, skirts, shorts, and new shoes and socks to all of our students.

Our 2015 Uniforms / Our Current Uniforms

As some of you may know, we transitioned last year to having our uniforms entirely made in Haiti! Not only does that reduce costs of overseas shipping, but it also creates well-paying jobs in our community for Haitians. Most Haitians live on less than two dollars a day, so providing uniforms not only makes education much more accessible for families, but hiring Haitians to make uniforms is an opportunity to give back to the community.

We want to thank our generous sponsors who have quite literally put the clothes on our students’s backs, and who have made it possible for us to provide uniforms! However, we are approaching the end of the school year, and are preparing to welcome a new class of 33 students (who do not have sponsors). Having new students and students who are growing means we are in need of more uniforms!

If you would like to support our uniform campaign, click here. Any gift helps! 


End of the School Year

The school year is ending, and we at TJS would like to take a minute to reflect on all we have accomplished.

This year, we have had many struggles and difficulties relating to the political unrest in Haiti. Despite the challenges we face, we know that conditions like these are the reason The Jospeh School exists. We truly believe that leadership changes everything, and that by teaching these children today, we can change a country tomorrow. Here, we are building leaders who love without discrimination, who know the importance of fraternity and justice, and who are reflections of Jesus’s love wherever they go. We are here to help build the future, and the events of the year have only proved the need for programs like The Jospeh School.

Regardless of the circumstances, we are so proud of our students as they finish out the school year. We have had the privilege to watch as they have grown in mind, body, and spirit. Our students have worked incredibly hard to learn more about the world around them, and as they learn and grow, they get ready to enter the world and inspire change.  We do not prepare students just for exams, but for the life they are called to lead as Christians and as Haitian citizens.

Although it is difficult to see today, there is a bright future waiting in Haiti. Our job is to support students while they create the future waiting for them. As our students succeed more and more, we are so excited to see the world they are going to build.

Check out their end of the year class photos below —

The Joseph School 2018-2019 Fourth Graders
The Joseph School 2018-2019 Third Graders
The Joseph School 2018-2019 Third Graders
The Joseph School 2018-2019 Second Graders
The Joseph School 2018-2019 Second Graders
The Joseph School 2018-2019 First Graders