Update from Haiti Oct 27, 2020

Lilavois School where we help support an afternoon teacher.Haiti oct 27Churches were first to open in Haiti, about 2 weeks before the schools.  Most church buildings are reminiscent of the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs and many people wear masks to attend services. Schools then reopened in August. Political instability in the fall and then pandemic closings in the spring caused a delay in the administration of the national exams.  The required classes just sat for the the 2019-2020 national exams in mid-October and schools are on break until the new academic year begins November 9th.  Lack of widespread electricity and technology did not allow for online learning during the shutdowns.  Even learning by television was impossible.
The school in Lilavois opened in August as well.  Sr. Cadet, the principal, reports that the children were so excited to return to school and see friends and resume studies that the students lined up in perfect rows to sing the national anthem without any direction from the teachers.  It is wonderful to see the activity return to the campus! All schools were allowed to open in August and as parents became more confident of their children’s safety, the enrollment in Lilavois slowly returned to pre-pandemic levels.  The children wear masks when they are in class.  Most of the classrooms are well-ventilated and/or three-sided due to the heat and the lack of electricity for fans or air conditioning.
The classes that take the national exam have been focused on studying and reviewing material from the previous academic year since August, trying to catch up from months of closures due to political demonstrations shutting down the country in the fall, followed by pandemic closings from March until August.  As the schools were allowed to open, but the new year had not officially begun, the Lilavois students dd not need to wear their uniforms to attend class.  PeaceQuilts donated masks they made so that any student without a mask could be supplied with one. Those classes not taking the national exam finished the prior school year before beginning their new classes in September.
Officially, the new academic year will begin in November and the state was not paying teachers for August, so the students attending schools with no instructors began to demonstrate and even ransacked one of Lilavois’ sister schools in Lalue in September, damaging desks and chairs, in order to draw attention to the inequality in their education.  They did not feel they could be as prepared for the national exams as students attending private schools where the teachers were being paid and children had been learning since August.
Sr. Cadet initially combined the afternoon school students with the regular school classes for those who were able to attend since the class sizes were smaller when everyone was not back to school.  The afternoon school will begin again in November with the start of the new school year with the help of the teacher sponsorship given by the Chilmark Community Church.  Sr. Cadet sends her thanks on behalf of the school for your support.
Haiti Oct 27 3Haiti oct 27

Haiti School Community Update 6/2020

IMG-20200601-WA0092.jpgIn Haiti, Mother’s Day is the last Sunday of May, so this year, it was last weekend on May 31st. Usually there is a big production at the Filles de Marie Reine Immaculèe school that the Chilmark Community Church sponsors in Lilavois, Haiti.  All the parents come to watch the kids put on performances that they have been practicing for weeks.

This year has been a very different year for everyone in the world, but it has been an especially challenging year for kids in Haiti.  Due to political unrest and threats of violence, schools were closed the first semester (Fall 2019) and though most opened by  the end of January, schools were again closed in March due to corona virus. By now, kids everywhere know how frustrating it is not to get to go to school and see friends and learn new things. The children in Haiti do not have free education.  Their families pay for them to go to school if they can afford the tuition, but if it is closed, there is no school online.  There is not reliable electricity, much less internet, and there are few families that can afford a phone or computer for the children to use for school. In addition to being home-bound by threats of a virus, people continue to be confined in their movements due to violence, gang activity, and political unrest.
The solar project installation was completed in October so the school campus has electricity when most of the country does not. The principal of the school, Sr. Cadet, has been able to keep the businesses open that sell clean drinking water and charge people’s electronics, using the solar energy, even as the school remains closed for classes due to Covid-19 for the rest of the year.

Mother’s Day was not the only event last weekend.  One of the children sponsored by the Chilmark Community Church was in her mother’s wedding on May 30th, along with two other girls that live on campus and attend the school when it is in session. (pictures attached)  Naverlie is in the green dress. Her mother, Charlene, was recently employed by the new water selling business on campus and they live near the campus in Lilavois.  The wedding reception was held in the auditorium where the Mother’s Day performance is usually presented, so the space got to host a celebration, even if it wasn’t the usual gathering..
April and May are usually rainy months in Haiti, but this year saw only a few days of rain during these months.  This isn’t good for the gardens and the farmers of the country. Hurricane season began on June 1st.  Haiti is one of the countries in the Caribbean that is very vulnerable to hurricanes. Hurricane Matthew devastated Haiti in October 2016. Recovery from natural disasters is a rough road, and has always been particularly difficult in Haiti.  The poor country was shaken in a massive earthquake in January 2010. Systemic corruption and poverty compound the problems of recovery from natural disasters and weathering the climate challenges in the region.
Covid-19 has not passed over Haiti.  Due to a lack of virus testing supplies and capabilities, misinformation, and distrust, it is hard to know how widespread the virus is in Haiti. In the past 2 months, the official cases rose from around 50 to over 2,500 and at least 50 people have died. Hospitals are not always open, affordable, or trusted. Face masks are hard to come by, but the artisan groups that I know in Haiti have all made masks for their communities and are chipping in to help whenever they can.
We are so lucky to live on Martha’s Vineyard and have the ability to go outside and to shop with other people in the community respecting the new social distancing norms. There is little choice about whether to go out of the house in Haiti. In a country as poor as Haiti, you take a risk if you go out to work or shop that you will contract the virus and you take a risk that you could die from the virus if you get it; but if you stay home without money, food, or water, you will surely die.




Peace Quilts “Pop Up ” at coffee hour.

Sunday, Sept 16 saw coffee hour  cheered up with beautiful quilts and hand made products from Haiti. 20180916_10071420180916_100719During the “Mission Moment” in the service, Carolyn Stoeber had described her work with Peace Quilts which offers women jobs and future economic stability as part of this co-operative. The work was received enthusiastically. DSCF0171DSCF0172DSCF0173

Carolyn is also our contact for the Lilivois School project near Port au Prince to fund afternoon instruction for children and adults  who cannot afford to go to school during regular tuition class hours.