Since it’s inception in 2008, October 15th has been Global Handwashing Day, created to promote the health benefits of hand washing in schools throughout the world.
Hand washing is the most simple and cost effective way of preventing the spread of diseases. Diseases transmitted through touch are a crucial problem to battle among young children in developing countries. Routine and thorough hand washing helps avoid everything from the common cold to more dangerous problems like diarrheal diseases and pneumonia.
According to The World Health Organization (WHO) diarrheal diseases and pneumonia claim the lives of 3.5 million children under five years old. In Haiti, we also have to worry about the resurgence of our Cholera epidemic during our long rainy seasons.
Simply put, Hand washing saves lives.
The health staff at FWAL including Dr. Solange St. Fleur, Nurse Delice and Nurse Chantale, recognized that fact and created a fun program to help educate our children on the importance of careful hand washing.
The children learned about the various diseases that can travel via ones hands and how quickly and easily those germs and bacteria can spread. They were taught the importance of washing your hands after using the bathroom, before eating and while in heavily trafficked areas. After a demonstration on proper technique including washing up the arms and cleaning between fingers and under fingernails, two of our children demonstrated for the group what they learned. Afterward, all the children practiced themselves under the watchful eye of our healthcare staff.
As with most things, the kids had a great time. One of the girl’s houses, even preformed a fun song about hand washing.
Hand washing is important for children all over the globe, but awareness is on the rise thanks to Global Handwashing Day. The children have learned about a crucial but simple way to promote healthy hand hygiene habits.
Big Thanks to our health care staff for ensuring all our little hands stay clean and we stay healthy!!
Sometimes it’s fun to get out the house and see something new. It’s even more fun when you have a day at the park filled with activities, games and snacks!
The children of St. Anne recently went on an exciting field trip to Place Boyer in Pètionville. Place Boyer is a lovely park, named in honor of Haiti’s second President Jean-Pierre Boyer who founded the city of Pètionville in honor of his predecessor and Haiti’s first President, Alexandre Sabès Pètion.
Although it takes a lot to prepare everything you’ll need to travel with forty kids ages three months to seven years, our staff worked hard to organize lots of snacks, lunch, water, first aid kits, toys and lots of changes of clothing!!
The kids were ready bright and early, everyone sporting a fun pair of sunglasses as they piled into our NPH bus for the big day.
At the park, they sang songs and played lots of games, including soccer, a version of hot potato and a call and response game called “Consa” that seemed to be the highlight based on all the gleeful faces.
The girls held a dance party that turned into a dance off and while we have many talented tiny dancers, it was the tiniest, 2 year old Cassandra* who stole the show with her stellar dance moves.
The older kids also had some coloring and drawing time while the smaller ones scooted around on their trikes and little cars before our picnic lunch.
After lunch, we took a walk around the park, hand in hand, singing songs for all the visitors enjoying the park that day. Everyone’s favorite part came at the end of the end when the ice cream arrived! Nothing says happy kids like ice cream.
It was a long day, full of new adventures, excited squeals and joy. The true sign of the day’s success, were the quiet, sleepy faces in the bus on the way back.
Contributed by Shana Van Valkenburg
The first day of the new school year is such an exciting time. It’s a time for new beginnings, a time for new friends and new teachers, a time to start fresh, and a time to recommit to education.
It is with great pride that we at FWAL are able to continue providing a free education for our students. This year we have almost 900 students attending our Ecole Mixte Ange de Luniere in kinder, primary and secondary classes. We have 764 external students, with 222 in kinder and 542 in primary and secondary, as well as our own FWAL students 14 in kinder, 115 in primary and secondary. The students all showed up bright and early on Monday September 15th to start the day off right, looking fresh faced, eager and smart in their school uniforms.
Throughout the summer and most recently since the end of our camp program, FWAL and Ecole Mixe Angels of light staff have been gearing up for the new school year. Classrooms were cleaned out and updated. Uniforms were cleaned and new ones were made. Backpacks, school supplies, school shoes and new undergarments were distributed to all the children living with FWAL. Lunch menus planned carefully to make sure the children’s meals are extra nutritious, as for many our external students will only eat this free lunch each day.
The start of this school year is extra exciting, because we just received news over the summer that every single one of our 6th year students passed the state exam they need to continue on to secondary education. This is no small feat anywhere, but in country where the overwhelming daily obstacles prevent many children from attending school and completing their education, this is a wonderful accomplishment. According to Unicef, the adult literacy rate in Haiti is at 49%, with only 22% of male and 29% of female continuing education to secondary school. We are very proud of our students for their dedication and perseverance, the parents who encourage them and the teachers who always work so hard for the children.
We believe that educating the children of Haiti is the best way to improve the situations they come from and the country as a whole. As Father Wasson said, “An education will take my children out of the poverty into which they were born.” At FWAL, we work to honor Father Wasson’s principals and are so happy to see our children have taken it to heart as well.
Based on the extraordinary results of last year’s students, we are moving forward with the 2014-2015 school full of excitement for what is to come.
Contributed by Shana Van Valkenburg
Since the completion of St. Louis homes for children ages 8-16 in April, our onsite construction has not slowed down. There are many exciting plans for new buildings at FWAL. Most recently, we are in the process of constructing a new and improved Kitchen to service the FWAL children and caregivers living in St. Louis homes, FWAL Staff, and the students and teachers of the kinder and primary school.
During the school year and camp session, our kitchen staff cooks lunch every day for about 750 children – 100 internal children from our home in FWAL plus 650 external students who come to our school from the surrounding areas. Lunch is also provided for our teachers, staff and caregivers making the lunch total closer to 850. Additionally, the kitchen prepares the breakfast, dinner and snacks for our live-in children and their caregivers.
The new kitchen is exciting and important because proper nourishment is the foundation of success. The children work and study very hard to educate themselves and prepare for the future. The food our cooking staff provides helps the children stay healthy, strong and focused. However, our staff has been working in temporary conditions and we’re hoping to improve their work environment and improve the resources they have for food storage and preparation. They will be able to expand the types of food they can prepare with the addition of a refrigerator and two large freezers.
The building has two floors; downstairs will be dedicated to food storage, preparation and a cafeteria for staff. Upstairs we will have a conference room, as well as two residence rooms one for the chef and one for the responsible for St. Louis. The building will house three depots, a pantry for food storage, a maintenance depot and a one to hold clothes, bedding and other dry goods for the children.
We plan to have the kitchen finished and furnished in the next two months and then we’ll focus our energy on raising money for the next project: our administration offices. The FWAL staff is currently working out of the school’s cafeteria. It will be great when the children will be able to eat together and hold assemblies in that space again. After construction is complete on the administration offices, we hope to build a clinic building to service the children of St. Louis and students of the primary school.
It’s wonderful to look around the sites of St. Anne and St. Louis and see everything we’ve been able to accomplish here with the help of the fundraising offices and donors all across the globe. It is with those accomplishments in mind that we move forward, excited to expand, improve and grow.
Contributed by Shana Van Valkenburg
The Creole term restavek translates to mean “stay with”, but the reality of the term in Haiti is much bleaker than that. Children aged 5-17 are sent to stay with families in urban areas to trade room, board and an education for assistance with household chores. Rarely is that what happens, these young children become solely responsible for the cooking, cleaning, shopping and child care for a family that is not theirs. They often are not fed, do not have a place to sleep and are routinely beaten. In short, a restavek is a child slave.
Restaveks typically come from rural families with many children who struggle to care for, feed, or educate their children. The child could be sent to an unknown family through a broker, or to another family member, or could even become a restavek in his own home. For example, if the child’s parent remarries and has new children, it is not uncommon for the original child to be treated as a restavek. Whichever family situation it is, these children live a life most people aren’t aware still exists in the 21st Century.
According to a report issued by Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) in 2009, there is an estimated 225,000 children living as restaveks in Haiti, working 10 to 14 hours a day. 30% of the 1500 households surveyed had a restavek child living with them and 22% of all children surveyed were treated as servants. Although the 2009 report for PADF was thorough, the undisclosed nature of this practice means there were significantly more restaveks than the study indicated. This study was also done prior to the earthquake of January 12th, 2010. The economy in Haiti since the earthquake has been very difficult for families in every region. It can be surmised that in the post earthquake economy, more families have been unable to care for their children and often sending the child for servitude is the only option.
In his 1998 memoir, Restavec: From Haitian Slave Child to Middle-Class American, Jean-Robert Cadet tells his own story and explains, “In Haitian Society, [being a restavek is] the lowest possible status. It’s like being a dog. And no one wants to reveal that he once was a dog.” The secrecy and shame Mr. Cadet speaks of leaves the subject tragically hidden behind closed doors. The shame and the fear these children feel every day leave many unwilling to tell their story. They are scared they will be returned to their nightmarish conditions or that if returned to their families they will not be wanted.
At the Fr. Wasson Angels of Light home (FWAL) we have several children we suspect were restaveks prior to arriving into our care. Here is story of one particular child. Although she never used the term restavek, during her time at FWAL, she has been able to share glimpses of her life that have painted a clear picture of her past. Due to the extremely sensitive nature of her situation, her name and image cannot be shared. For this story we call her “Anna”.
FWAL was first notified about Anna because she was left unconscious at the St. Luke hospital after malnutrition caused her to have repeated fainting episodes and she often hit her head. After recovery, Anna came into FWAL’s care and as she grew more comfortable and trusting of her caregivers, she spoke a bit about her past and her responsibilities in her previous homes. She spoke of living with a few different families and always referred to the matron of the house as her aunt. Anna cooked and cleaned for these families and cared for their children but she was not cared for at all. She was not allowed to go to school. If she was fed that day or allowed to sleep inside, depended on the mood of her “aunt”. We believe Anna lived in these conditions with three different families over the course of three years.
Anna has been at FWAL for a few years and she is now in good health and has adapted to life. Because of the instability she endured and the mental and possible physical abuse she suffered over the years, it took her a long time to understand that FWAL would be a safe haven. Upon arrival she continued to seek her approval through chores. Accepting that the love, food, shelter and support would be unconditional, was a hard lesson to process. Anna challenged the caregivers to find the proof of what she thought she knew, that she would eventually be turned out to the street or to another hurtful family.
When Anna finally believed the unconditional aspect of the love given to her, the food and shelter provided and all the other aspects of belonging to the NPH family, she began to settle and soon flourished. She is still working through some of the psychological effects of her years as a child servant, but she has accepted FWAL as her home. She works hard at school and loves her after school dance classes. She is a mature young lady, has made new friends and enjoys caring for and mentoring the younger girls.
We have seen great progress from Anna and we are looking forward to seeing her continued growth.
Contributed by Shana Van Valkenburg
Helping your brother and sisters was part of Fr. Wasson’s philosophy. Here are some examples of how our children lend a hand.
The children attending our summer camp at both Angels of Light Kinder and Primary school have wrapped up their six week programs on August 21st. They spent the summer playing, singing and learning and it’s been a great time!
Campers include the children who stayed at FWAL over the summer and some students from the neighboring areas who attend the Angels of Light School during the school year. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn, experience, play and receive a meal each day, which is very important especially for the neighborhood children. Gesner Lamy, the Camp D’ete Coordinator notes, “It is important for the children to continue to learn in the vacation environment because they need to play and relax as well as learn.”
The older children at the primary school start their day with spirited songs – sometimes a competition between boys and girls to see which group has more energy that morning. It is an activity that lets the whole neighborhood know kids having fun here!! After morning songs and prayers, the kids attend classes by interest such as paper mâchè, English conversation, Spanish conversation, dance, drumming, sewing, crochet, craft making, wood working, painting, computer technology and plumbing.
Every day campers also spend time with their own age group to talk about questions posed based on principles established by Father Wasson in 1954 with the opening of the 1st NPH home; unconditional love, security, sharing, responsibility and work. The groups discuss mutual respect, cooperation, love, joy, tolerance and God. The children offer ideas and suggestions about how these principles are a part of their lives, why they are important and what can done to nurture that aspect of life.
At the kinder school, the children are split into classes by age and often draw, sing songs, dance, and have lots of arts and crafts projects! As a school there will often be big dance competitions, musical chairs and jump rope. Everyone always enjoys free time as well, where they can take a soccer ball out to the field to kick around, or teach some friends a new dance routine.
On August 21st, all the children joined together for a big end of summer celebration. During the ceremony the fruits of everyone’s labor was displayed. Several groups performed dances, accompanied by our talented drum team. The sewing and crochet classes held a lively fashion show to showcase the beautiful skirts, dresses and hats they made. A newly formed band played, children showed off their new English and Spanish skills with conversations and dialogues and the kinder camp performed poems and speeches.
Now that summer camp has ended it is time to start preparing for the school year! How time flies!!
Contributed by Shana Van Valkenburg