Esther, Shamaika, Angeline, Jimmyna, and Stephania have been spending a lot of their free time recently writing short stories and even designing pictures for each page. They asked one of their teachers, Danielle, to help them edit, and soon they formed their own little writers’ “retreat.” Over two days, our budding novelists talked about parts of speech – like nouns, verbs, and adjectives – and worked on story maps. Story maps take a graphic approach to building out the elements of a story or book, “mapping” out the beginning, middle, and end of a story.
The young writers spun tales about friends at the beach and their own activities.
Two new wonderful volunteer additions at our school are teaching the joy — and the skills — of the craft maker.
Amy and Bob Thibodeau joined the Have Faith Haiti Mission team from Canada to lead courses in making and repairing things. Called WWW: Wood, Wiring and Water, the Thibodeaus are leading four different bi-weekly classes of varying age and skill to help students learn woodworking, electrical wiring and plumbing.
Currently focusing on woodworking, students have already completed two projects — shower hook shelving and a picnic table. The goal is to build five small tables for younger children, and possibly donate one of them to a neighboring orphanage or location in need of them.
Additional activities also include sewing, and some of our teen girls have made small drawstring knapsacks for themselves and others at the Mission.
Their developing skills – and growing love of the craft – are already so impressive, we may have some master craftspeople and artisans in the making!
This year, our annual Spelling Bee was held in September. Although it’s usually a late spring event, school director Cara Nesser wasn’t able to visit because of COVID-19 restrictions. Held just before the start of our new fall term, the spelling bee thus came with an extra challenge: the students had to remember vocabulary words from last year, and study them again.
For the first time, the spelling bee also coincided with a visit from Mitch and Janine Albom, both of whom agreed that even they weren’t sure how to spell some of the words!
Despite her rigorous attempts, Ms. Cara could not whittle down any class to just one winner even with words like crustacean, Platyhelminthes, Cnidarian, catalyst, ecclesiastical and the all time most dreaded word: Deoxyribonucleic acid (the scientific name of DNA, in case you folks at home didn’t know!) Even Mitch was sweating out this one!
Our oldest group, Secondary 3, not only had to spell the words, but define their words as well. If there was any question as to the validity of the answers, Mitch served as the “panel of judges” to determine if the answer qualified. He looked up dictionary definitions online, in real time, and fortunately, with one exception, all the answers were right. All of the words we use in our Spelling Bees are taken from actual classwork—no random words are added to the Bee.
It was an exciting Spelling Bee, followed by our annual “school opening” ice cream party, and this year, a special concert presented by our two in- house rock bands!
Now we are busy in school, learning MORE words for next year…
Check out the winners gallery!
> Read an important update from school director Cara Nesser on the impact of COVID-19 on the Mission’s school, and the resilience of our teachers and students!
In the nine years since I founded the school at the mission, we have had our challenges, but no time has been as difficult as this past spring, when we needed to close the mission to anyone from the outside due to the risk of COVID-19 infection. This included nearly my entire teaching staff.
We have a team of dedicated Haitian teachers, and without them, the school had to be restructured, but education comes first, and we carried on thanks to the efforts of my wonderful assistant Kate, my administrative director Yonel, and my Preschool teacher Immacula, who is also a nanny living on site. Another of our nannies, Chantale, assisted every day. We consolidated the classes, and all of the essential subjects continued. Our students thrived, and everyone had a great positive attitude. We are never intimidated by challenges!
One of the secrets to our success came from our “student teachers“. I’d like to give a shout out to Edney, Junie Anna, Widley, Nahoum, JJ Esterline, Samanza, Chivensky, Appoloste, Djouna, Bianka, and Mirlanda. These teens taught reading and grammar classes to the younger students, and assisted in the Preschool. Nahoum also led art classes, and Chivensky helped with PE. Without them we would not have been able to accomplish what we did. I am very proud of them! With everybody pitching in, the learning went on, courses were completed, and final exams were taken.
Where are we today? After a few weeks of summer fun on the mission, school began again two weeks ago. We still must severely limit who comes in. I have been able to welcome back only two of our regular teachers so far. They hold their classes in the open air, maintain distance, wear masks (despite the heat) and endure the nasal swab COVID test regularly, in order to be back with their students. Phedre teaches humanities and is our TOEFL specialist, Priscila hails from Brazil, and teaches our Primary 4 class, as well as Cultural Geography and Portuguese, which is one of our two additional second languages (Spanish being the other). We are a bilingual school, and in a normal year, the entire afternoon is taught in French, while the morning is taught in English. None of our French staff can currently come back on the mission, but we hope that will change in January, if the health situation improves.
We are fortunate to have three university students volunteering their time this semester, in order to teach classes for us. Elisa Gonzalez and George Whitford are on a term’s leave of absence from Harvard University and Eli Brooks joins us from MIT. Between them, they are teaching math, writing, literature, Spanish, comparative religion, history and computer skills. George and Elisa will be the ones helping the children to assemble the newsletters you’ll receive. Eli is also teaching two Toy Design and Engineering courses. It’s not often that students get to study something like this with someone from MIT!
Kate, in her capacity as my Head Teacher and liaison, ensures that our academic standards are met. She communicates with me seven days a week, throughout the day and evening when I can’t be there, so I am informed about and involved in every detail of school, down to the spelling words a student missed that day! It’s a lot of work right there, but it’s not the end of what she does. Kate holds a PhD in chemical engineering, and she teaches our middle and high school science and math programs! She is also a great musician, and teaches Music Theory. Meantime, Yonel handles the discipline and supervision, teaches PE, and covers math or language support classes while we are short-staffed.
We may not be many, but we are mighty!
Your support makes all of this possible and I cannot begin to thank you!
Mitch Albom has given us one with this awesome music video of a really popular Haitian band performing The Contours’ 1962 hit, “Do You Love Me?”
Oh, wait, that’s Have Faith Haiti’s very own “garage band” playing the song for the very first time, after listening to it for the very first time and pulling together the music and lyrics without sheet music!
A hairbrush suits Jon U. just fine as he belts out on vocals (with Mitch singing back up), Louvenson is keeping time on drums, and they’re joined by Nahoum on guitar, Widley on violin, Chivensky on electric guitar, and Edney and Appoloste on keyboards. If you’re not a Motown fan, you’ll at least recognize the song as being featured prominently in 1987’s cultural phenom, Dirty Dancing.
Mitch filmed the video during his trip to Haiti last week, his first visit to Have Faith Haiti in months due to pandemic-mandated travel restrictions. The children are doing well and keeping busy as they remain safe inside the Mission’s gates, even as the global crisis has – familiarly – upended normal summer routines and activities for them, too.
But one thing that hasn’t been cancelled is our goal to provide each child of the Have Faith Haiti Mission with the opportunity to attend college. Manno and Siem are currently attending Madonna University here in Livonia. And with the help of Michigan Colleges Alliance, the Have Faith Haiti Scholarship Fund seeks to make college attendance accessible for our children, whose ties to Michigan date back to its founding and have been strengthened over the last decade.
And so we hope you’ll join Michigan Colleges Alliance in-person or online on August 27 for Mitch Albom & Friends – an incredible night of stories, laughter, music, and fun live from shores of Lake Michigan at the Great Lakes Center for the Arts in Bay Harbor, Michigan. A hybrid stage / virtual event, you can attend in-person in the limited, socially-distanced seating (with VIP opportunities), or watch the live stream as Mitch (virtually) welcomes special guests, including Emmy-winning actor and comedian Hank Azaria, Oscar-winning actor J.K. Simmons, and Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist and sportscaster Tony Kornheiser.
Missed the event? You can still watch it on demand.
The Have Faith Haiti Mission is a special place of love and caring, dedicated to the safety, education, health and spiritual development of Haiti’s impoverished children and orphans. You can learn more here.