HHH currently supports two parish schools: a new grade school at the chapel of Our Lady of Deliverance in Noyau, and new high school, Monsignor Remy Augustin College in Mirebalais. HHH has provided support with desks, books, school supplies, teacher salaries, and lunch programs. As a means of having parents pay tuition in the future, a goat project has been started as a means of producing the needed income.
The Grade School
When HHH was formed as a partnership between American parishes and St. Louis Parish in Haiti, a priority for the organization was to build an elementary school. Until adequate funds could be raised, land secured, and a building design completed, Fr. Leveque began classes in the temporary chapel of Our Lady of Deliverance in Noyau. The school started in 2013 with 36 kindergarten and first grade children. As the original classes advanced a level, another class began at the K-1st grade level. Teachers in Noyau are now working with 6 classes totaling 180 children! “School” used to be located in the one-room church. Can you imagine trying to teach 180 children ages 5-10… six different classes at the same time in one room?
The generosity of Denice Healey from Mission of Hope in Green Bay and the generosity of her many friends kicked off our fund drive for a new combination school and church with a donation of $20,000. Then, with the hopes and dreams of the Haitian students, their parents, and their devoted teachers as our source of inspiration, and through the efforts of many, we reached our financial goal of $325,000 in the fall of 2017 and broke ground for the construction of the new 6-classroom school. The school was built by Haitians under the direction of Food for the Poor. A bonus item from FFP: the children will automatically be enrolled in the FFP food program, guaranteeing each student a nutritious daily meal.
With Food for the Poor handling contractor duties, we were able to accept a revised building plan that includes two 3-classroom blocks, a 6500 gallon water cistern, sanitation block, cafeteria, administrative block, playground, and three small buildings to provide overnight accommodations for some of our teachers who are otherwise traveling a long round-distance to work each day. The delight that this dedicated campus will bring also provides an overall sense of permanency to this faith filled community!
The new Our Lady of Deliverance School / Ecole de La Notre Dame opened in the fall of 2018 with 189 children. The enrollment was made up of an unexpectedly large population of preschoolers, which shows just how much the families in Haiti value education!
Visit to the School: January 2019
A few of the HHH members from Wisconsin met with Fr. Romel and Golds Mithe Joseph to learn more about the educational needs for Noyau to ensure growth and stability, and to bring educational materials (e.g., puzzles, Mega Bloks, manipulatives) geared toward the preschoolers. The educational materials, bubbles, soccer games, and friendship bracelets allowed for multiple shared interactions with the students and the teachers in and outside of the classrooms. Over the course of the visit the team realized additional unmet needs: ongoing training for the teachers, additional educational materials for all grade levels, emergency kits for the school, and an improved playground surface.
In collaboration with Fr. Romel, the HHH members also toured two Normal Schools (three-year teacher training programs) with the hope of establishing scholarships to send high school graduates to train to become teachers and return to Noyau and Mirebalais to teach upon completion. Their efforts bore fruit in the form of four scholarships, three funded by HHH and one from Fr. Romel, to send students to Papaye Normal School. The scholarships cover tuition, room, and board in the amount of $750 per student per year for all three years of the program. Three of the awardees are from Mirebalais and one is from Noyau; upon graduation, they will return and teach for three years with pay at one of their local parish schools.
Dedication of the School: August 2018
The ribbon cutting celebration took place on August 28th and included members of Hands and Hearts with Haiti and Food for the Poor, Frs. Romel and Leveque, and students and families in Noyau. It was a hot day and theHaitians welcomed us with gifts of sugar cane, fruits and vegetables.
Ribbon cutting ceremony Principal Fr. Pognon, Golds Mithe Joseph, Richemond Raphael, Andrevil Louis, and Mrs. Richemond
Richemond Raphael, a local sugar cane farmer, and Andrevil Louis, a businessman who owned property alongside Richemond’s, offered the land that now houses the new school complex. A plaque with their names on display in the school honors their generous offering; their example of generosity to their community will be remembered and bear fruit for years to come.
Monsignor Remy Augustin College (High School)
Pere Leveque has long seen the need for qualified schools as a major step to improve lives and the future of his beloved Haiti. In addition to starting elementary classes in the Chapel of Noyau, one year after his arrival at St. Louis, King of France Parish, Pere also welcomed the first class of students to Monsignor Remy Augustin College (High School) in the city of Mirebalais.
During that first year, students attended class in a vacant room in the parish grade school. By 2014, the high school had 3 grades, levels 7-9, located in temporary space in a former orphanage in Mirebalais. Land was secured for a permanent campus site and Pere Leveque approached the Kellogg Foundation for support with the project. HHH, in full support of Father Leveque’s efforts, worked with the University of Notre Dame as they took on the lead in writing and submitting the grant application.
Unfortunately, Pere Leveque anticipated faster action with the grant process. In the fall of 2016, Father ran out of room for incoming students. HHH offered a temporary fix to address the over-crowding issue and sent over a huge “tent classroom.” We quickly discovered that the heat in Haiti made learning within the walls of the tent nearly unbearable. In 2017, rather than turn kids away to catch their last few years of high-school grade levels at other less-qualified programs in the area, Pere Leveque and Father Pognon (school principal of Noyau and the rapidly growing college/high school) did what Haitians do to make do: with no place to go but up, they had two additional rooms built on the roof of the old orphanage to accommodate the students and grade levels on-site!
Hands and Hearts with Haiti ended up sending over the $25,000 construction expense (after the fact) from monies that it had budgeted for other areas of education needs. Otherwise, the good fathers had borrowed from their “rob Peter to pay Paul funds” and paying teachers’ salaries became a major issue; this is such a common practice all over the world where lack of money is always an issue. As we all await final action on the grant, the dream that a high school/college “campus” will be built on the waiting parcel of land remains viable.