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Accompanying Students on Their Educational Journeys

Lodi couple, Bull Outdoor Products hold fundraiser to help Haiti students

Check out the excerpt below on our recent Grill For Good event published by Lodi News-Sentinel:

“The first time I went down there, I was absolutely sick to my stomach when I saw that these women were cooking for children out in the dirt,” she said.

The schools no longer had enclosed kitchen spaces. Instead, the women were cooking for the elementary students on charcoal fires, with insects buzzing around trying to get a mouthful of the food, Nureddine said.

It was even harder to see knowing that for some of the students, lunch might be their only meal of the day, she said.

So she called her husband Mark, who owns Bull Outdoor Products, a company that makes grills and outdoor kitchens. She hoped the company could help provide the school with a kitchen shelter and grills to cook for the students.

Bull Outdoor Products decided to take it a step farther.

“Whenever someone purchases a Bull grill, we should be able to give something back,” Barbara Nureddine remembers her husband telling her.

So together FAR and Bull Outdoor Products founded the Grill for Good campaign.

The campaign helps fund kitchen shelters designed by architects in Haiti to be earthquake-resistant. They also get input from teachers and other community leaders, because the group wants to make sure they’re actually helping to meet the needs of the communities they’re helping.

It’s an approach that has worked out well for FAR, which sponsors students in Haiti. The nonprofit didn’t want to simply give charity. Instead, it wanted to help raise up Haitian students who could then turn their knowledge toward helping their country.

In Haiti, Nureddine said, students take school very seriously because it’s not a right. Their families have to pay for them to attend.

She spoke of one student FAR sponsored, whose home was leveled in the 2010 earthquake. He no longer had an alarm clock, because it was destroyed with the rest of his home.

He slept on the stoop of the school each night so he wouldn’t miss classes, she said.

“Their school uniforms are something they hold dear … because sometimes it’s the only piece of clothing they have,” she said.

FAR has helped the students they sponsor with furniture, school fees and uniforms, and purchased laptops for them to use when they graduate so they have a chance at a better job, she said.

The group visits Haiti several times a year — all out of their own pockets — to find out how their students are doing, see how they can help, and teach classes.

Nureddine has brought her son and daughter on recent trips. Her daughter wants to bring the students home, she said.

“My son plays soccer with the kids, and they already have it all figured out. They don’t even need to speak the same language,” she said.

However, five years after the earthquake, many families have been unable to rebuild and are still living in tents, Nureddine said.

That’s where Lodi comes in.

“Lodi is such a giving community,” Nureddine said.

FAR and Bull Outdoor Products will host a fundraiser at the Bull warehouse in Lodi on Saturday. The event will feature a grilling demonstration by Bull chef Jeff Parker, a barbecue dinner and drinks. Tickets are $35 per person.

Nureddine hopes that other Lodi residents will take an interest in helping Haiti.

“I believe every child should be able to go to school, and every child should have food that’s not surrounded by flies and in the dirt, and somewhere safe to go in an earthquake,” she said.

Changing the Lives of Our Starfish

editor’s note: At the second annual Tea For a Reason event in April of 2015, FAR student ambassador Brooke spoke eloquently of her first visit to Haiti.  Brooke — now an 8th grader — became one of the very first student ambassadors for FAR when she was in 4th grade.  We are grateful to Brooke for letting us share her moving speech.

“I made a difference to that one.”

On the ceiling of the agriculture center in Corporan, Haiti, each piece of wood was arranged in the shape of a starfish. Gillaine Warne, an Australian woman who started the center, explained the story behind the architecture. There was a man, walking along the beachside, throwing starfish back into the ocean. The tide was low, and thousands of starfish were littered across the sand, and the man was hardly making a dent. Another person came up, baffled by the man’s actions. “You are making no difference; there are still thousands of starfish.” The man responded by picking up a starfish and throwing it back into the ocean and saying, “I made a difference to that one.”

I was in the fourth grade when I fully understood our partnership with Haiti. It started out with learning to knit on colored pencils and frayed yarn, but eventually grew to starting a small project named Haitian Creations. Knitting became my small contribution to helping St. Andre’s. Raising thirty dollars did not seem like much, but to my class of fourth graders, we felt proud and accomplished. As time went on, my desire to visit Haiti grew stronger and stronger. Pestering my parents must have paid off, because in September of 2014, it became official. My mom and I were going to Haiti.

In the beginning, I was full of eagerness and anticipation. November couldn’t come any sooner. I started to get nervous when Mrs. Beeks sent emails about our upcoming trip. I didn’t know what to expect. I had been to Canada for a grand total of an hour when I was ten, but other than that brief experience, I had never been outside this country. When I finally boarded the plane to Port-au-Prince, I was so anxious, my hands were starting to shake. Some of it was the anticipation and excitement; some of it was just fear of the unknown. My mom’s mosquito worries weren’t helping me keep calm either.

Half of our group was already in Haiti when our plane finally arrived, and by that point, I just wanted to absorb every detail and aspect of Haiti. All of my nerves pretty much faded when I saw two little kids, a boy and a girl, walking along the busy sidewalk, dodging older women with water and baskets on their heads, and sidestepping small fruit stands set up along the street. One of them spotted me inside the car, and both waved their hands frantically, waving at me, someone they had never met before. That was why I came to Haiti. This is why I need to come back.

The first two days were spent at an agriculture center and Pere Jeannot’s church. Mirebalais, Haiti, was rural compared to Port-au-Prince, and it was my favorite part of the trip. After all, St. Andre’s was located only a half-hour away. We ate most of our meals at Pere Jeannot’s house, and while his wife cooked outside, Abby and I played an intense game of jump rope with Pere Jeannot’s daughters.

I’d seen the pictures, I’d heard the stories, but I still had no idea what to expect.

St. Andre’s: I’d seen the pictures, I’d heard the stories, but I still had no idea what to expect. There were three main buildings, with a fourth in construction, and the entire school sat on a secluded hill. Mr. Fleuristal, the head of school, led us into each classroom. The younger students, dressed in red and white, lost total focus inside the classroom and stared at us in awe. Who cares what the teacher is saying, why are these people in their classroom? The older kids were shy, and they blushed if you smiled and waved, but their curiosity got the better of them.  As they scooted even closer together to make room for me, I sat beside them on the rickety wooden bench and watched some of the children stand in the middle of their classroom and perform for us. A little boy started break dancing, and the entire building burst into applause after a sixth grade girl sang a hymn.

We left the classrooms fairly quickly, and waited inside the church until the children were given a break.  They were still learning, and everyone was told to wait before they could talk to us. It didn’t matter to any of the older girls, because five minutes later, they came running up to Abby and me.

brooke fakhoury st andres

Once the entire school was released into break, the students flooded around our group of thirteen. The girls touched my skin, confused that it was a strange color, much lighter than their own. They all had black hair, tied up in ten different bows and hair ties, and a few were speaking to me slowly, as if the pace of their words would affect the way I interpreted their language, one I did not know. They flipped my braid with one of their hands, and examined my fingernails. One was in awe of my eyes, another confused by the freckle on my left arm, and some had not let go of my hand since I had met them earlier that morning. I had asked for all of their names, but soon forgot any after twenty other girls told me theirs, plus the French roots were too complicated for me to fully understand. Each little girl gave me a wide smile and continued to tug me through their school, pointing out the classroom that they worked in, showing me the kitchen that was only half-built, and the “soccer field,” which was nothing more than uneven concrete and dirt. The girls were proud of their uniforms, white and blue, devoid of any wrinkles, even though some had walked miles to get there that day.

I took out my phone, and after all of them got over the general confusion over what I was doing, the students took interest in the many pictures I had of Saint Mark’s. They pointed to the screen, laughing at pictures of my school campus, and all of the students and teachers.

It was hard to leave St. Andre’s. The kids ran down the hills and broke up into small groups, spreading in every direction on their way home. All of them waved as they walked down the hill, and some said goodbye and gave me hugs around my waist. More than anything, I wanted to come back the next day and visit with them again. More than anything, I wanted to give those children a meal everyday and give them the best life possible. Trianon, Haiti, is only one place, and I had more country to see, and more people to meet, and more help to give.

I came to help them. But, they also helped me.

Going to Haiti was a two-way street. I came to help the Haitian people, and meet the students at St. Andre’s. I came to help them. But, they also helped me. Each child was full of enthusiasm and kindness. They welcomed me into their school, their home, their country, and they touched my heart.

I understand that not everyone can visit Haiti, and not everyone can get a firsthand experience and understand what a partnership means. I also understand that we have a starfish. We cannot move mountains on our own, we cannot change Haiti on our own, but what we are doing is changing the lives of those children. Every penny we give, and every fundraiser we hold, changes the lives of our starfish.

Every penny we give, and every fundraiser we hold, changes the lives of our starfish.

Dine For a Reason!

FAR is pleased to be working with the National Honor Society at St. Lucy’s Priory High School to support their “Project Haiti.”  These high school students will be writing, translating, illustrating, and publishing their own children’s book to give to children in Haiti.  The children in Haiti will receive a Luci Light with the book, so that they can read it to their families at night.  These solar-powered inflatable lanterns will allow the students to read and study after the sun sets, which is not possible in most of rural Haiti due to the lack of electricity.

Please join us at Casa Moreno Mexican Grill in Claremont, CA, any time on Thursday, January 29, to help raise money for this project.  Present this CasaMoreno flyer and the restaurant will donate 17% of your purchase to the National Honor Society project.

We hope to see you there on Thursday!

Pere Jeannot’s Visit

editor’s note: Thank you to FAR student ambassador Anne for writing both of these articles to help us learn more about Pere Jeannot Joseph.

Pere Jeannot had quite the day last Wednesday. His day started with taking part in the Eucharist at Saint Mark’s Episcopal School. He blessed the people going to Haiti during November break, by saying prayers in English and singing songs in Haitian Creole. The students at Saint Mark’s presented him with checks that would go toward a new truck for his travels to all the churches he is in charge of and toward improving the lives of the students at Saint Mark’s partner school, St. Andre’s in Trianon, Haiti. Pere Jeannot then reciprocated by giving Saint Mark’s a beautiful metal art piece of a tree with birds in it. After church, Pere Jeannot and Mrs. Gideon, the 4th grade teacher at Saint Mark’s, went to some of the classrooms at the school. Middle schoolers asked him curious questions, which he often answered with a smile. The 4th grade said a prayer to him in Haitian Creole, a tradition that started with my class at Saint Mark’s four years ago. After question after question after question, Pere Jeannot and Mrs. Gideon went to St. Lucy’s Priory High School in Glendora. The students gave up their lunch to hear Pere Jeannot speak about his experiences. [ed. note: A group of students at St. Lucy’s, led by senior Chloe Mancuso, will be creating picture books that will be translated into Haitian Creole and given to students in Haiti. The St. Lucy’s students will fundraise for this project by selling Luci Lights, which are solar-powered inflatable lanterns.]

Afterward, Pere Jeannot finally had a break until dinner time. That is when I asked him questions to help me write these blog entries. After dinner and his third interview of the day, he went to Mrs. Gideon’s church, Genesis. Genesis had raised money to help build a cafeteria for the students going to Saint Andre’s in Haiti. The church presented even more money ($10,000 to be exact) to finish their project. To thank them, Pere Jeannot gave a wonderful speech about how their contributions have helped the school. Pastor Sam, his wife Corinne, and Ms. Vinnedge, the middle school science teacher at Saint Mark’s, were given beautiful art pieces that they could hang on the walls of their houses. It was during this part of the day when Pere Jeannot said a quote I will never forget. “We are all God’s children.” Many people have said something like this, but when Pere Jeannot said it, it seemed that no one else could say it the way he did. He truly believed every word he said.

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Meet Pere Jeannot

editor’s note: We asked FAR student ambassador Anne to document Pere Jeannot’s visit to southern California last week.  This is the first of two articles written by Anne, to give our friends greater insight into the life and ministry of FAR’s coordinator in Haiti.

Pere Jeannot Joseph may be a small man, but his words spread a huge message. Pere Jeannot is a Haitian priest not just to one church, but sixteen. He is a busy man, but still makes time for his wife and their three children. Pere Jeannot met his wife, Aline, at church. “She was very young, but very responsible, and I followed her,” said Pere Jeannot, causing everyone around him to laugh. “And finally we fell in love.” Pere Jeannot’s children Christelle (10), Olivier (7), and Alijah (5) all attend St. Pierre’s School in Mirebalais, Haiti. Christelle is in 5th grade, Olivier is in 2nd grade, and Alijah is in 1st grade. Pere Jeannot’s favorite thing to do with his family is to go to the beach. But with work, this happens on only special occasions. Pere Jeannot’s career became clear when he was a acolyte for his church. His friends would call him Pere Jeannot (Pere in French means father) in 9th grade because he was always at church. After classic schooling, he went to a seminary to study to become a priest. It was required that he would learn English. His first visit to America was part of his seminary training. He visited Knoxville, Tennessee for a Clinical Pastoral Education in 1990. It was hard for him to understand what the locals were saying, but he overcame it. It is a lot of responsibility to be a priest of sixteen churches and fifteen schools. According to Pere Jeannot, the police in Haiti do not always do their job well, so people come talk to their local priest if they have any problems that need fixing.  People from his many parishes go to Pere Jeannot for advice. He not only helps out his local community, but the world around him. He has traveled to the Dominican Republic, United States, and islands near Haiti to see people or complete projects. One place he would like to visit is Canada. Pere Jeannot would visit just to be a tourist. Pere Jeannot may be just one man, but his teachings spread to the hearts and souls of others around the world.

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Knit For A Reason

Knit For a Reason is FAR’s signature event.

  knit2FAR was created to support children in their educations dreams while, at the same time, encouraging all of us to live with intention.  Whatever you do, do it for a reason.  Because FAR founder Denise Gideon has a passion for knitting, she created the Knit For a Reason event as a way for people who enjoy knitting to share their passion while also creating something to help those in need.  Knitters purchase a Knit For a Reason kit from FAR, which contains all of the materials necessary for one project.  The proceeds from the kits benefit FAR’s mission to support children on their educational journeys.  The finished products are then donated to a variety of causes.  Knit For a Reason events have created scarves for the homeless, skull caps for members of the U.S. military, and baby booties for expectant mothers in low-income communities.

knit1Since the first Knit For a Reason event in 2012, knitters of all ages and skill levels have participated in Knit For A Reason events across the west coast.  The most recent event was held at Los Osos High School in southern California, where high school students learned how to knit scarves.  The knitted creations will be donated via The Giving Spirit to women living at the L.A. Downtown Women’s Center.

 

“I am curious if their first day of school is just like mine.”

Monday, September 8, was the first day of a new school year in Haiti.  FAR recently asked one of its student ambassadors to tell us what the first day of school is like for her in the United States.  She shared her thoughts about beginning a new school year, as well as what she would like to know about the first day of school in Haiti.  As we continue to partner with schools in Haiti, FAR hopes to help schoolchildren in the United States learn more about life for the children in Haiti.

My first day of school goes a little like this: First I arrive on campus and hang out with my friends until school starts. We always ask each other “How was your summer?” or “Is that a new haircut?” Then we go to church. Father Keith says all the page numbers and explains each part of morning prayer  to help the newcomers. After the service, we go to our first class. Throughout the day, for almost every single class, we go through the class syllabus and review classroom policies. Lunch and nutrition break are the only rest period we are given, besides five minutes between classes. I usually spend the time eating or just hanging out with friends. During nutrition break, you can get snacks from the ROARstore, which actually donates all its proceeds to St. Andre’s in Haiti. After lunch, we have a five minute break, down on the playground. My friends and I usually play four square or just talk. After all the afternoon classes, it’s time to go home. I hear about Haiti or St. Andre’s in church every day, and I am curious if their first day of school is just like mine. Is it more fun? Do they start working the first day? Do they have recess?

-Anne, 8th grade FAR student ambassador

The Story of Bull Outdoor and For A Reason

The Grill For Good™ Campaign is Investing in Haiti’s Future

Nothing could prepare me for my firsbullbbq-fart trip to Haiti.

It began when our group visited an elementary school in rural Haiti, an area of subsistence farming and families that earn less than $2.00 a day. And yet, these are the same families that will sacrifice just about everything to keep their children in school. FAR (For a Reason) is just one of several organizations that help to support these schools and the children that attend them.

On this particular visit to St. Andre’s School in Trianon, the teachers traveling with our group led a lesson about seed germination. Already experts at a young age in the challenges of raising the food necessary to feed their families, these students were excited to decorate their pots and observe the germination process. Shovels, pots, markers and seeds combined to make the day an exciting experience for the students. For me, it was so much more.

Then came lunch time. For most of these students, it was the only meal they would consume that day. As I ventured to the food preparation area, I was shocked by what I saw. There was just a handful of Haitian women were preparing lunch for the 180 students in large kettles over open fires, in the dirt area nearby the classroom buildings.

I knew immediately that Bull Outdoor Products could help provide these students and their schools with nutritious meals prepared in a sheltered kitchen facility.

I am so blessed to be a part of the Bull Outdoor Products family and able to help design and build food preparation facilities at schools like Saint Andre’s. By partnering with FAR, For a Reason, we hope to provide students throughout the region with well prepared, nutritional lunches and encourage those students to continue working toward a promising future for themselves and their country.

I invite you to join me in making the promise of a brighter future a reality for these children.

Barbara Nureddine

– See more at: http://www.bullbbq.com/story-bull-outdoor-reason#sthash.f0ekeDzh.dpuf 

Lights, faith, transformation: Schools in L.A. and Haiti team up to change lives

From a recent article published in The Episcopal News (Read the full article here):

The fundraiser required running dozens of laps in the heat of the day, but the exertion was well worth the effort for St. Mark’s School students hoping to make life a little brighter and lighter for children at their partner school, St. Andre’s in Trianon, Haiti.

chris_soccer_md_webEighth grader Christopher Johnshoy-Currie, 14, said he organized the June 2 run-a-thon at the Upland school track after a February visit to Haiti changed his young life.

He marveled to see Haitians — facing the challenges of extreme poverty and scarce resources, and still recovering from the devastating 2010 earthquake — fill a church for a three-hour worship service.

“The people I saw in that church were happy and rejoicing in the Lord,” Chris recalled. “They were excited to learn about God. They were appreciating God for what they have.

“Some Americans are way more fortunate than any Haitian and they don’t praise God for what they have. Haiti was a life-changing example of what we should do because we are better off than most of them,” he said.

Something else stood out during the trip for the Upland student: “I saw they didn’t have electricity, and I thought, why not raise money to buy Luci lights, because they’re inexpensive and they need no electricity, just the sun, to work,” Currie told The Episcopal News recently.

st_andres_run_3_md_webAided by teachers and school staff, he organized the June 2 run-a-thon, which he hopes to make an annual event. All of St. Mark’s students participated, he said, raising about $5,000.

The lightweight solar-powered lights cost about $15 each; they incorporate the functions of a flashlight and diffused lantern, using a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Each St. Andre’s student and staff member’s child will receive a light and a book, according to Chris.

“They don’t have electricity in their homes so they can’t really do anything after dark; this gives them an opportunity to either read or talk with their family at nighttime.”

In addition to St. Mark’s and St. Andre’s, there are at least ten other such Los Angeles-Haiti partnerships, says Canon Serena Beeks, executive director of the diocesan commission on schools.

For the past 15 years Beeks has served as a matchmaker for the partnerships, collaborating with the Rev. Roger Bowen, U.S. liaison for the National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES) Partnership Program. They, in turn, work with the Rev. Kesner Ajax, Haiti’s partnership program coordinator, who calls Beeks’ and Bowen’s efforts “incomparable … in Haiti, we pray for them minute after minute.”

St._Andres_children_md_webMore than anything, Ajax said, U.S. partners “bring hope. It’s important for us in Haiti because we feel we are not alone. And our U.S. partners learn a lot from Haiti; when they get back, their life changes.”

‘Less mission trip, more pilgrimage’

The Episcopal Diocese of Haiti oversees about 250 preschool through college-level schools with a total of about 200,000 students. Roughly one-third of the schools have U.S. partners, Ajax said.

Partnerships run the gamut from helping to build new schools — especially since the earthquake — to offering meals, pupil exchanges, health care, agriculture, educational opportunities, prayers and presence.

Beeks said that about 60 schools, churches and institutions in the United States have Haitian partnerships. “Some have visited a lot of times. Some have sent money and never visited and then there’s everything in between.”

She encourages visits; then the experience becomes, she says, “less of a ‘mission trip’ and more a pilgrimage after witnessing the places we go and the people we visit in our own sister Episcopal Church who live with deep faith because they don’t have much else to live with. It’s inspiring and humbling.”

The partnerships can be flexible, creative, and mutually beneficial, she added. For example, All Saints by-the-Sea Church in Santa Barbara helped rebuild a school destroyed by the earthquake while St. Mark’s Church and School in Altadena provides hot meals for its partner school. Still another partnership, the nonprofit For A Reason (FAR), is financing a nursing education in Haiti for two young adults.

LaTournelle_classroom_md_webA strong partnership between Altadena and La Tournelle

St. Mark’s Church and School are heading into their fourth year as a Haiti partner to provide a daily hot meal to 160 students and staff at St. Marguerite’s School in La Tournelle “and every year the connection becomes stronger,” according to head of school Doreen Oleson.

This year, they added another partner, St. Mark’s in Southborough, Massachusetts.

Since the partnership began in 2012, visits have been exchanged, numerous fundraisers held and St. Marguerite’s is a palpable presence through artwork, music and song at the Altadena church and school, according to the Rev. Betsy Hooper-Rosebrook, associate rector and school chaplain.

“We are able, by virtue of being Americans, to contribute in some more tangible financial ways,” she said. “But what each group that visits discovers is how much we gain by understanding the faith and joy and perseverance and trust of the Haitian people and their strong commitment to community, and the vibrancy of their culture, too.”

Benefits of the partnership are immeasurable for all involved, she said. For example, the lunch program benefits those fed, and “also the people who get the food supplies up to the school, the women who come and cook the lunch, the students [who] take home some of their lunch to share with their families. So it really benefits the whole community, not just the students. Doing this can truly make a difference in the health of a community; that’s kind of exciting for us.”

And St. Mark’s students learn “there are children in other parts of the world,” she said. “When you’re young, your world is generally pretty small because you’re small. It’s hard to think globally but they can think of another community and they can see photos of school children in uniforms or our Sunday school children can see pictures of children at St. Marguerite and imagine being in that place.”

Also there is “the realization somebody’s praying for them as well as they are praying for someone else. So the notion of being a community of faith has extended over a great distance. I’ve certainly had a lot of questions from students when we’ve had chapel talks or conversations. It’s an opportunity to talk about what brings someone joy and that the external circumstances … can certainly make your life easier in many ways, but you can find joy and beauty even with very little in the way of tangible wealth.”

It has also strengthened relationships within the community, she said, among church members and school families who might not otherwise meet.

StCypriens_children_md_webDedicating St. Cyprien’s School

Call them unlikely friends with benefits — All Saints Church in Santa Barbara, with a $100,000 outreach budget, and earthquake-devastated St. Cyprien’s School in La Biche, a rural area roughly 100 miles southeast of Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince.

The Santa Barbara parish helped to rebuild St. Cyprien’s: a ten-room cinderblock and corrugated tin elementary school, to be dedicated July 12. It offers preschool through eighth grade education and a meal a day for about 250 students and their teachers.

“My participation in the Haiti school project has changed the person I am and how I see my place in the world,” Buchanan told The Episcopal News.

The shift in understanding from patron to partnership, from mission trip to pilgrimage, along with the progress she’s seen in the past four years “has been huge.” It’s understanding that Haitians know much better what they need on the other side.

StCypriens_construction_md_web“There are roads going in, children being educated, having enough clothing, fed at least one dependable meal. It’s really about rethinking the way business is done.”

The next goal is for St. Cyprien’s to build a kitchen “so they can teach people how to cook,” she added.

Meanwhile, Walker said All Saints is still working out “what the relationship to the school is going to be going forward” but hopes eventually to link one of its Santa Barbara area school partners with St. Cyprien’s. “It’s something I’ve struggled with, what our relationship will look like with the Haiti school going forward. Will it be prayerful only or active involvement? I’m just not sure at this point that anyone knows.”

Realizing ‘A Reason’ to be there

St. Mark’s, Upland, teacher Denise Gideon created the non-profit For A Reason to help fund educational opportunities for young women like Ydelie, a nursing student from La Tournelle.

Once she has completed her education, Ydelie will return to develop a small clinic-triage-first aid station, the first and only medical care in the rural area.

Reaching La Tournelle involves a three-hour hike from the nearest road, crossing a river and finally a very steep climb up a mountain, according to Gideon. “A small church and school are the only two public buildings, both under reconstruction following the devastating 2010 earthquake. Most residents are subsistence farmers living in humble homes without electricity or running water.”

Ydelie_md_webGideon recalled how she and Serena Beeks met Ydelie last summer, “We fell in love with her immediately and her earnest desire to become a nurse,” she recalled. Ydelie scored very well on the entrance exam and has continued to earn very high marks for her work, Gideo said.  “Part of the nursing program requires that the graduates return and serve in their communities for one year before receiving their clear certification.”

According to Beeks, visiting is key. Lives are changed when churches and students visit “and see how open and receptive the Haitian people become almost immediately to people who are very different from themselves.”

Meet Schneider

Exhausted and struggling in life, a young boy and his family are given a life changing opportunity.

When the devastating earthquake of 2010 shook the country of Haiti an estimated 1.5 million lives were drastically changed. Much of the fragile infrastructure of the country was destroyed and thousands upon thousands of those who survived the earthquake were displaced. Without homes, most sought shelter in tents supplied by various international relief organizations; tents meant to be temporary until families could relocate or rebuild. Schneider’s family was one such family.

For a Reason founder, Denise Gideon was first introduced to Schneider in 2011 by board member Jean Jeannot Joseph, who volunteers as the program coordinator in Haiti. Schneider’s mother was struggling to keep her son in school even while still living in a tent one year after the earthquake. Schneider himself was so determined to take advantage of every opportunity to learn that he slept on the steps of his school during the week rather than returning home each evening. He wanted to be sure he was on time each day and life in a year old tent was not much of a reason to make the journey back and forth.

Of course FAR wanted to support this mother and son who were both so clearly determined to continue Schneider’s education. Schneider was shy and solemn when Gideon first met him but expressed relief that For a Reason would help his mother provide for his education. Even at a young age he realized the sacrifice his mother was making to keep him in school and was hopeful FAR support would lessen her burden. FAR assumed responsibility for Schneider’s tuition, school supplies and uniform and as Joseph monitored Schneiders progress, he proved to be not only an excellent student but one who took advantage of opportunities to serve others in his community.

The next year, Joseph shared with board members that Schneider was continuing to do well in school. His mother, however, was still living in a now, two year old tent. What was intended to be temporary shelter with minimal support and a dirt floor, had weathered hurricanes and tropical storms for those two years. Schneider’s mother was also dealing with an undiagnosed illness along with trying to provide for her son. As would be expected, mother and son wanted to be together. They belonged together. They needed each other. The question was asked, could FAR build the family a house? Should FAR build a family a house?

Building a home was an undertaking that had not been part of the original vision of For a Reason. And yet, it was acknowledged that a secure home life was as important as a school uniform and supplies for a child’s educational success. Wouldn’t Schneider be better able to study his math and French lessons at home without worrying about his mother and her health? Didn’t such a determined boy deserve to return to a home where he was loved and supported? Shouldn’t a mother and son be able to weather the storms of life and nature together? Yes, yes and yes.

The decision was made to begin building the home right away hoping for its completion before the upcoming rainy season. FAR insisted that its construction would withstand the storms that frequently visit Haiti and that it would provide security for the family, and particularly Schneider. Joseph agreed to oversee construction of the home and began negotiating for building supplies and employing Haitian workers in its construction.

During a recent trip to Haiti, Gideon and board member Serena Beeks were able to visit Schneider and his mother in their finished home. Although simple by American standards, the home boasts a door that locks, a cement floor, metal roof and wiring for electricity should it become available to the region in the future. They learned that Schneider’s mother was no longer struggling with illness, attributed to nearly three years of mold and mildew on the tent’s walls and that she was once again able to participate in community activities and enjoy her son’s accomplishments.

The real surprise came when, as Beeks and Gideon approached the home, not only Schneider came out to greet them but two younger brothers and an elderly grandmother appeared as well. Without enough space in the cramped, weathered tent and with a mother growing increasingly ill, they had been forced to live elsewhere with other family members in the region. It was a movingmomenttorealizethatFARhad been able to help reunite a family into a safe and secure home.

Thanks to the generous donations of FAR supporters like you, a family is together, stronger and healthier, and Schneider is not only able to continue his education with his mother and family supporting him but is laughing again and looking forward to a promising future.

It is for this reason that For a Reason exists!