Blue Ridge School made its first visit to St. Peter’s School in Berault, Haiti, exactly one year ago. This past November, Aaron O’Donnell ‘18 and Wai Kwan Ng ‘19, accompanied by teachers Mr. Evan Graber and I, gave up part of their Thanksgiving break to visit St. Peter’s.
The partnership between the two schools was initiated several years ago by Chaplain Anne West and Pere Fred of St. Matthias Church and School in Cherident, Haiti. Chaplain West was kind enough in November to drive us to the Baltimore airport in the wee hours of the morning for our 8:00 am flight to Port-au-Prince. We arrived around 2:30pm and were warmly greeted by Pere Fred and a bit of music.
Haiti is ruggedly beautiful, and its people are resilient. The country has suffered many hardships, including years of political corruption and a recent earthquake and hurricane. As a result, the people live in dire conditions. The poverty is incomprehensible. Blue Ridge School is playing a small but important role in helping one of thirteen small schools in the mountain region served by Pere Fred. St. Peter’s School has eight teachers, a principal, an assistant principal and 120 students in grades K-6.
On the second day, we left Pere Fred’s Hostel in Cherident to go to St. Peter’s School in Berault. Mr. Graber did a superb job of navigating the roads. After a two-hour adventure along mountain “roads,” we parked the SUV under a lone tree and proceeded to undertake stage two of the expedition – the hike! With backpacks loaded with school supplies, Frisbees, baseball gloves and t-shirts, we began our two-hour ascent in the blazing sun. Pere Fred joined us as well to serve as navigator and translator. He also insisted on bringing a donkey as he was sure I would need to ride it. I did not. However, I was more than happy to let the beast carry my pack!
The school has four buildings. We visited each one that serves two grades each. We were introduced to the students and their teachers, and they learned a bit about us. During last year’s visit, BRS students were told that the school was in desperate need of new roofs so this became the major fundraising project. On this visit, it was great to see that the buildings did, in fact, have new roofs. The teachers could not have been more appreciative.
After the school day ended, we met with the teachers to gather information. They each were so gracious and thanked us profusely for coming to visit again and for maintaining our partnership. These teachers are real heroes. They walk those rock-strewn paths each day to arrive at the school. They make do with minimal supplies. And they cannot count on being paid! They teach for the love of teaching.
My take away from this fact-finding trip is that our partnership is without a doubt appreciated, welcomed, and absolutely needed. It took a while for the teachers to finally tell us what they could use the most. Not surprisingly, they need to be paid each month to take care of their families. And their additional requests, which were surprising, were laptops or tablets! They have no electricity, but they do have the ability to use solar power.
This year, let’s make it our mission to help these remarkable educators bring their mountain school into the 21st century. We will be sending another trip to Haiti this spring. Let’s have the boys’ backpacks laden with laptops and tablets! Please consider being a part of the fundraising project. Contact Chaplain West (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information on how you may help.