The Power of Education Foundation is very fortunate to have dedicated and passionate volunteers like Michael Natatella. Below is a summary of Michael’s first trip to the school in Haiti. 

“This being my first trip to Haiti, I must first give a tremendous amount of credit to The Power of Education Foundation’s board of directors, all of the volunteers who have come before me, as well as the Haitian staff for their tremendous hospitality, generosity, and desire to grow as a school. I am especially thankful for Trillium Hibbeln and her guidance in preparing me for the trip. As the educational consultant it was necessary first to observe and learn. Monday and Tuesday was filled with observing classrooms, asking questions of both Jen Masternak, as well as teachers, and the school directors. They opened their classrooms to me and the team, allowed us to participate in their learning, and get to know the students who showed up bright and early with beautiful smiles and hugs for all of us!

I then found opportunities to devise professional development in the areas of keeping students active and engaged throughout the entire lesson, as well as developing an intervention instrument to be used by teachers for students who are struggling, and/or not passing their trimester exams. This instrument will allow teachers to gather student, teacher, and parent data and target specifically what they need additional instruction in so that they can make academic progress. Working side by side with Jordan and Evenson in order to tailor the instrument so that it fits with the existing school culture was powerful. We also Skyped with classes from Michigan and Georgia in order to enhance cross-cultural understanding. The students from Haiti and the U.S. sang songs to each other, asked questions, and created art that was and will be shared between the students.

I look forward to continuing to learning more, understanding the culture, and collaborating with the school in a variety of activities for years to come so that all students at the school are impacted both academically and socially!”

– Michael 

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     Access to basic healthcare is a basic human need that often goes unmet in many parts of Haiti.  Students and families suffer from preventable disease, chronic illnesses and injuries.  Students who are sick and malnourished are not able to reach their full potential in school or in life.  The students at The Power of Education Foundation are fortunate to have access to ongoing medical check-ups and follow up on chronic illnesses.  This consistent care has saved a lot of suffering, raised human potential and even saved lives.        

     Each year, our Medical Director, Dr. Jeri Kessenich along with our partner, Kids Health for Haiti, organizes two teams of volunteer physicians, residents, medical students and nurses who travel to Haiti to provide important ongoing medical care.  The second team for this year will be at the school at the end of April.  Here are a few of the objectives of their upcoming trip: 

  • Conduct biannual health screenings with physicals, with monitoring of growth and nutritional status, anemia, etc; and deworming of all students.
  • Follow-up on the students who had positive TB skin tests, to see how many have received their chest x-rays and how many need further treatment.  Institute an effective system going forward.
  • Provide puberty education (body changes, hormones and their role, emotional changes, acne, menstrual cycle, body rights, etc.) with both boys and girls and hopefully also a session for the parents.
  • Hold an open forum for the parents of the youngest children regarding preventing illness, accessing community resources and maintaining healthy families.
  • Distribute water purification supplies to families in need.
  • Apply fluoride varnish and educate parents about dental care in children starting from birth, in the hopes we can change the dental hygiene in the next generation of Haitian children.
  • Follow-up of chronic issues like asthma, abnormal blood pressures, and eczema
  • In addition, one of the resident physicians who will be on the team, Katherine Patrick, has a special interest in the barriers parents face in accessing health care for their children. She will be interviewing as many parents as she can to determine what some of the barriers are.  We hope to identify the major issues, and develop education around these barriers, in the hopes of making the parents decisions when accessing health care outside of the Power of Educations medical facility easier.
  • Finally, Dr. Kessenich is also working on a project that she hopes to implement in the fall, which involves monitoring and long term treatment of adult hypertension (HTN) in our school personnel and the adult caregivers of our students.  Given the extremely high rate of hypertension in the adult Haitian population (well-studied, and reported at around 50%) and the fact that untreated hypertension is a well-known risk factor for heart disease, stroke and early death. She believes that a long-term program to treat this will improve the quality and length of lives of those that participate. 

     The medical program continues to become more sophisticated each year and is now utilizing of a common electronic medical record, allowing for eventually being able to monitor students health and offer onsite health worker medical advice.  We are so proud of the fact that The Power of Education Foundation and Kids Health for Haiti are able to provide services to the whole child, including medical care, nutrition and quality education. Thank you to all of our donors and partners who help make this program possible.


Girls Education

28Jan14

Have you been watching the amazing increase in awareness around the world about access to education for girls?  16 year old Malala has inspired millions to pay attention to the specific challenges that keep millions of girls from reaching their full potential. (http://www.amazon.com/Am-Malala-Stood-Education-Taliban/dp/0316322407)  The video series, Girls RIsing (http://www.girlrising.com/) has given a voice to this movement and shown that each girl’s story matters.  

This winter, I am fortunate to be taking a class specifically on this issue of Girls Education through Johns Hopkins University and Teachers Without Borders.  In this class, I am exposed to heartbreaking stories of girls who are fighting for a chance at a better future and the brave people who are taking up their cause in places like Afghanistan, India, Columbia and Haiti.  Our first assignment was to reflect on the girls we teach (or support) and what their challenge looks like, sounds like and might feel like. I would like to share this reflection with you today… 

“When I stand on the roof of the school building, I see mountains surrounding the city on three sides and the ocean dotted with fishing boats.  As soon as the sun rises, the city comes alive with dogs barking, horns blowing and the sounds of many people walking to work or school.  The walk to school is typically not the first work of the day, especially for the girls. Girls carry the burden of extra chores like getting water, cooking and washing clothes.  Before they can make the long and often dangerous walk to school, they must finish these things.  The girls are often late, arriving after the beginning of morning assembly.  This means they must wait outside the gate, in shame.  The lucky girls have an older brother or father to walk them to school to ensure that they are not robbed or raped on the way to school.  Other girls walk together to try to reduce their risk. Girls in urban Port-au-Prince are not discriminated against outwardly in terms of going to school, but the expectations for them create obstacles that are not present for boys.

 Once they enter the school walls, you can see the girls own “walls” of protectionism coming down.  The teachers at this school have created a safe place, a loving place.  It took a while after the earthquake, but you see girls smiling, laughing, and making friends.  Despite the very real dangers and suffering they endure on a daily basis, they throw themselves into their school work and make dreams for their future.

 At the end of the day, the girls return home to hours of childcare, housework and cooking.  If there is daylight or moonlight left, they will be allowed to study.  Some of the girls are actually owned by other families.  They were sold off by their families because they could not feed them. They are sent to school because they receive food and medical care, which makes it cheaper for their families.   Night is a dangerous time to be a girl in Port-au-Prince.  Lack of electricity, unsecured living arrangements and lack of male protection at home lead to many sleepless night for these girls.

 So when I look out the windows of the classroom, I see an unfair world and a group of brave girls (and boys) who are fighting all of the odds against them.  Deeply aware of their own reality, they still find a way to hope for a better future. The school is so much more than a place to learn.  It is a safe place that allows them to be a child, if only for part of the day.

I am taking this class for every girl in this school.  They deserve to bring their potential out into the world.  Image


Our new Director of Communications, Alli, introduces herself and explains what motivates her to volunteer…

“During my junior year at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), I enrolled in a liberal studies course on immigration to the United States. The course began with a look at the ethnic groups and nationalities that had led the early waves of immigration to the U.S. Groups, such as the Irish, Italians, and Jews, were representative of the émigrés coming in the mid- to late-19th century, most with stories that are today well known. Near the end of the course we began to study Haiti; and as the U.S. As part of our studies of this latter group, the professor assigned the book Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat. While I was fascinated by what we were learning, I did not expect the book to have the effect on me that it did.

I’m sure that almost everyone has said at some time or other that a book was so good, they simply couldn’t put it down. And that’s what happened to me when reading Brother, I’m Dying. I literally could not put the book down! I stayed in the library all day missing my other classes so that I didn’t have to stop reading. Students and teachers in the library probably thought I was crazy as I sat there and read and laughed and cried.

In the book Danticat describes her family’s heart wrenching story of their life in Haiti and their eventual emigration to the United States. I could go on for hours about her and her family’s experiences, but I’ll keep it short and suffice it to say that the story changed me…her story changed me! The whole time I was reading the book I continually asked myself “Why is this happening?” And “Why isn’t someone doing something?” And finally “What can I do to help?”

I’m a Liberal Studies major at Grand Valley. The program is unique in that it offers students courses from a wide variety of programs within the university; and essentially allows the student to design his or her own major and area of emphasis, based upon individual interests. Before enrolling in this course, I wasn’t quite sure what my area of emphasis in the program would be. But it was during this class and reading this book that I had one of those “Aha!” moments and things seemed to click. From that point, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to help people. And I wanted an education that would help me do that. I wanted an education that would help me make a difference for others who haven’t been as fortunate as I’ve been or have had the opportunities that I’ve had.

One day when browsing online, I found the Power of Education Foundation (PEF) website. I immediately sent an email to volunteer. After some back and forth communications, I had a chance to meet with Matt Davis, Chairman of PEF, to discuss a possible role for me with the foundation. Needless to say, I was nervous to meet with the foundation’s Chairman, but even more so when asked to join the foundation’s volunteer staff as Director of Communications.  I was thrilled and honored, but I was also scared at the same time. After all, this was a very successful person; a person who is so passionate in his beliefs and interested in helping people that he co-founded a non-profit organization to try and change the way things are and to make a difference. And every day at the foundation, I am reminded about how important the work we are doing is – even though it’s sometimes still difficult for this college senior who is trying to make her classes, finish term papers, and graduate on time to wrap her head…my head…around how I got here. But I really do feel fortunate to contribute to such an amazing organization!

Haiti is known as the “Republic of NGOs” (non-governmental organizations), and it’s my opinion that many of these “NGOs” are not aiming for long-term results. When I met with Chairman Davis to discuss the foundation he said something that has stayed with me. He said, “I believe that the only ones that can help Haiti are Haitians.” And now after working with the foundation and seeing its mission in action, I understand what he meant. PEF is helping provide quality education for Haiti’s children, and, in so doing, is training the country’s future leaders – leaders who will hopefully have the capacity someday to institute real change. One of my favorite quotes from Brother, I’m Dying is “if our country were ever given a chance and allowed to be a country like any other, none of us would live or die here [in another’s country].” The Power of Education Foundation is working toward giving Haiti that chance… to be the country it deserves to be. And I am proud to be a part of that.”  Alli


“There is no chance, no destiny, no fate,
That can circumvent or hinder or control
The firm resolve of a determined soul.”
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

For our group of twenty-two 6th graders, this is a pivotal school year, a year that could ultimately determine their future. In Haiti, 6th grade is the end of the primary cycle of schooling and in order to continue on, students must pass a very difficult national exam. Those who pass may continue their education, but those who don’t often find their formal education comes to an end. Our 6th graders are determined not to let this year be their last.

On a hot, sticky morning in early December, our 6th grade students arrived at school early as they often do to put in some extra study time.  But something was different.  One by one they entered the school yard wearing their Sunday best instead of their school uniform.  Along with their backpacks full of textbooks, they carried in a cake, snacks and drinks. The teachers and principal were confused, but the students couldn’t have been happier.  They had secretly planned a surprise and it was all coming together.

The 6th graders gathered the teachers and other students for a party to celebrate their commitment to move on to 7th grade together. Habraham Mickerlange, the class president, gave a special speech to the group and said “We all vow to be in 7th grade next year. We are a group of 22 kids who will take part in the official exams at the end of the year and all of us will pass the test.” They committed to studying hard and helping each other so they can all move on together and realize their dream of higher education.

Our students are not looking for a handout, only the opportunity to get an education. They have set a goal and know it will take everything they have to achieve it. They will be at school early for extra lessons and study until the last rays of sunlight are gone. They will work hard because they are acutely aware of the alternative.

When we started the Power of Education Foundation, our mission was to provide hope and inspiration in a place where both seemed in short supply. In our four years in Haiti, we have learned that this goes both ways. We are amazed and inspired by the confidence, solidarity and determination demonstrated by this group of sixth graders, and by all the students behind them as well. We continue to grow in our understanding that the people of Haiti do not need to be “saved” by others; when provided the tools and the opportunity, they are more than capable of saving themselves. This generation of students represents the future of Haiti, and we could not be more proud or excited to watch their hard work and determination blossom into achievement and meaningful change for their country.

 Image

 


Every three months, our teachers administer a rigorous set of standardized tests to 1-5th graders.  These test scores are just one indicator that help us assess where progress is being made at the school and where more work needs to be done.  The following is an update from the most recent tests that we are sending out to all child sponsors.  It gives a little look into how our students are doing.

Dear child sponsors,
We have just received the test scores from the exams that were completed in April and wanted to give you an update.
As we have expected, it takes perseverance and determination to improve academic excellence in the face of such difficult circumstances in Haiti. The great news is that our fifth grade class, who will be sitting for the national exams in just one year, 21 of 22 students passed this round of testing.  This is the first time that such a high percentage of students have achieved this level of success.  These students have been at the PEF school for three school years now, so we are starting to see the fruits of our labor.  The teachers’ hard work and unending commitment are evidenced with this achievement. 
 
In the lower grades, we still have a lot of work to do. The average pass rate in grades 1-4 was 64%.   We know that many of these students, especially the youngest ones, are in school for the first time and will require more time to be able to achieve at grade level.
 
Throughout the last six months, working closely with staff in Haiti, we have developed a list of interventions that we believe will have an impact on academic success. 
 
1.            Addition of Kindergarten
2.            Revised student enrollment processes
3.            Smaller classroom sizes
4.            Additional classroom resources
5.            More text books
6.            Professional development
7.            Facility modifications to enhance physical learning environment
8.            Addition of morning meal
  
With the help of our generous donor community, we have begun implementation of all of these items.  We are hopeful that over time, these interventions will make a difference in test scores.  We know that they are already making a difference in the lives of these students!

 


“We have yet to have power during clinic hours for the ENTIRE week. Maybe for our last day. We didn’t have power so no internet for the last couple nights. 

We have made a pretty good impact with seeing all the kids. We have a few left in the first grade and have made attempts to get everyone into the clinic. We have so many piles of charts that our piles have piles. We will try to make sure that loose ends get wrapped up tomorrow. We have had a steady flow of community patients and have started to have to turn people away. It is heart breaking, but I am afraid that we just won’t be able get all our work completed and the kids are our first priority.

We had our first of two parent meetings today and the parents are so grateful for us here. When I gave them the option to deny our services, they actually laughed! They were grateful for the water purification drops. It was wonderful to meet the families that had children with medical issues and severe anemia to be able to make sure they understood the best care for their children. 

Chuck Furlong has made arrangements with a local hospital for the local care for our TB positive kids.

Our translators and housemates here in Haiti feel like family. We have had some inspiring conversations with Jordan in regards to the problems in Haiti and have brainstormed some potential solutions….micro-finance ventures may be an option. Also, PEF is looking at the next step after next year when the first class would be “graduating” to secondary school. If you need a story of inspiration check out Jordan’s story on the PEF site. http://www.powerofeducationfoundation.org”