Eight members of our Central New York Alliance for Haiti returned April 8 from northern rural Haiti. Our six-day mission trip was centered around St. Yves Parish in Thibeau, about 30 miles south of Cape Haitian. My initial impression of the area around St. Yves was one of contrasts. For example, of necessity for communication, many people have cell phones, but are lacking in sanitary needs such as running water and toilets.
We were housed and wonderfully fed in the rectory of St. Yves parish. Sunday we adjusted to our new environment and worshiped with about 450 Haitians in a church built with help from people of Central NY. Lunch that day was shared with representatives of the "iF" foundation, a non-profit organization making loans for small local business start-ups. (Example: We ate turkey from an "iF" sponsored turkey farm.)
Monday our real work began. St. Joseph's Elementary is a school of 288 students supported 100 percent by the efforts of St. James Church in Cazenovia and our Cayuga/Syracuse Presbytery Haiti Educational Partnership and friends.
At the school, team member Harry Dross instructed the principal of St. Joseph's Elementary on how to use a flip camera and installed a new hard drive for his computer. Members Georgette Schmidt and Karen Dross made final preparations for in-service training in methods for teaching French and math for the local teachers while Marilyn Cornell visited the venue for workshops in art and reading-readiness for pre-school instructors. Georgette and I facilitated communications by interpreting for Marilyn and Karen from English to French and colleagues Wynetta Devore and Stefan Merchant distributed materials and modeled doing the projects in shapes, colors, bubbles and collages.
Marilyn arrived with suitcases full of supplies necessary to complete the lessons. Trip coordinator Bob Hood (from St. James Parish) spent the time inspecting progress in previously planned improvements in the school compound. One of his tasks was to deliver 117 pairs of used eyeglasses collected by students in Jamesville-DeWitt High School to the small medical clinic at St. Joseph's. These had been measured and marked compliments of Malara Eyecare and Eyewear Gallery in Liverpool prior to our departure.