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The Teaching Goes On: A Special Message from Our School Director

The Teaching Goes On: A Special Message from Our School Director

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.

fall2020 teaching staff haiti
On the stairs: Priscila and Phedre
Front, from left to right: Immacula, Kate, Yonel George and Eli

 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!

With gratitude,

Cara Nesser
Director, Have Faith Haiti

In need of a reason to bear those pearly whites?

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.

What Oscars? We’ve Got Our Own Film Festival

What Oscars? We’ve Got Our Own Film Festival

An annual highlight of the school year, our students are treated to a documentary film festival celebrating the work of independent storytellers who provide educational, and thrilling, perspectives to explore. Designed by school director Cara Nesser, the festival takes place at the start of winter term and is guided by different thematic lessons.

After each film, students have discussions, and then participate in activities that relate to the film, adapted for each grade level. High school students, for example, write opinion essays and learn more about documentary filmmaking. Just like at Sundance, ballots are distributed for students and teachers to vote on a scale of 1 – 4. At the end of the week, the scores are tallied, and the movie with the most 4s wins “Best of the Fest!”

Monday, February 3

Film: Spellbound (2002)

Eight youthful competitors, sponsored by their hometown newspapers, travel with their families to Washington, D.C., to compete in the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Now in the national spotlight and under heavy pressure to perform from parents, teachers and their audience, the children struggle to advance toward the championship — and its accompanying scholarships and cash prizes — while approaching competitive spelling with the focus and intensity of Olympic athletes.

Shown to: Primary 1 – 4, Collége 2, Secondary 1 & 2
Theme: Putting Yourself Out There & The Rewards of Hard Work
Notes: We so love our English and French spelling bees, and this showcases real diversity in the students’ backgrounds.

Tuesday, February 4

Film: Apollo 11 (2019)

Never-before-seen footage and audio recordings take you straight into the heart of NASA’s most celebrated mission as astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins embark on a historic trip to the moon.

Shown to: Primary 2 – 4, Collége 2, Secondary 1 & 2
Theme: Imagine it and make it real
Notes: A Sundance award-winner, it took 6 years to make and is a compilation of footage shot back in the day of the entire Apollo mission from start (idea) to finish (bring hime the astronauts from the moon). The footage was in archives at NASA since the 1960s. Watching it is like watching the mission come together in real-time.

Film: A Reindeer’s Journey (2019)

Ailo, a newborn reindeer, embarks on an incredible odyssey with the help of his mother.

Shown to: Kindergarten, Pre-Primary 1 & 2, Primary 1

Theme: Survival and courage
Notes: For the younger students who haven’t learned about space yet.

Film: A Reindeer’s Journey (2019)

Ailo, a newborn reindeer, embarks on an incredible odyssey with the help of his mother.

Shown to: Kindergarten, Pre-Primary 1 & 2, Primary 1

Theme: Survival and courage
Notes: For the younger students who haven’t learned about space yet.

Wednesday, February 5

Film: 1st Position (2011)

Six young ballet students, all from different backgrounds, prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix, a competition in which dance schools and companies from around the world scout for new talent.

Shown to: All classes except pre-school

Theme: Working for your dream; Endurance

Thursday, February 6

Film: Inventing Tomorrow (2018)

Passionate teenage innovators from around the world create cutting-edge solutions to confront environmental threats.

Shown to: Primary 1 – 4, Collége 2, Secondary 1 & 2

Theme: A universal look at using science to solves problems
Notes: It is a wonderful and inspiring film, especially for our kids who love science. Several of the kids featured are from third world countries.

Friday, February 7

Film: The Biggest Little Farm (2018)

A couple are followed through their successes and failures as they work to develop a sustainable farm on 200 acres outside of Los Angeles. Over the years, the desolate they purchase begins to thrive and its transformed.

Shown to: Primary 1 – 4, Collége 2, Secondary 1 & 2
Theme: Embrace the unknown/cope with problems
Notes: A model for sustainable agriculture

Film: The Elephant Queen (2019)

Athena is a mother who will do everything in her power to protect her herd when they are forced to leave their waterhole. This epic journey, narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor, takes audiences across the African savannah, and into the heart of an elephant family. A tale of love, loss and coming home.

Shown to: All classes except pre-school
Theme: What makes a leader?

Remembering Haiti’s Devastating Earthquake, 10 Years Later

Remembering Haiti’s Devastating Earthquake, 10 Years Later

As the calendar marked the decade since the 7.0-magnitude earthquake, we remember the day by giving voice to the memories of the children at Have Faith Haiti who have never forgotten. You can watch the short video below.

Help is needed more now than at any time since the earthquake itself. We have the luxury of forgetting. Haiti and its children do not. Hear the stories from our kids at Have Faith Haiti Mission

Posted by Mitch Albom on Sunday, January 12, 2020

Mitch Albom also brought attention to the attention that must still be paid with an editorial in the Los Angeles Times:

Opinion: Helping one child at a time in Haiti 10 years after the devastation

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — It’s been 10 years since Haiti suffered the magnitude 7.0 quake that killed over 300,000 of its people and left more than a million displaced. The scale of the destruction left the Haitian economy, its government and daily life indelibly changed.

January marks two important days for our family at the mission. On the 9th, just a few days before the earthquake, is Chika’s birthday. She would have been 10 this year. Mitch wrote about the bittersweet remembrance as well, in the Detroit Free Press.

Chika’s birthday bittersweet, 10 years after Haiti earthquake

How do you celebrate a missing loved one’s birthday? How do you mark a date that used to be so happy and now is fraught with sadness and nostalgia? I know so many people who have lost family members, a byproduct of getting older myself, and when their birthdays come around they are filled with ennui. Some host commemorative parties. Some post old photos. Some visit cemeteries. Some just want to be left alone, to think about the years that might have been.

Celebrating World Photography Day

Celebrating World Photography Day

This spring, a photography elective was offered to high school students at the Have Faith Haiti Bilingual School. This is the first year a high school cohort and program were offered at the mission school, as the children have both gotten older and progressed academically to reach a standardized high school level!

Different lessons called for different subject matter, but please enjoy just a few snapshots of nature in their environment, especially the smallest life among them!

Photo credits to Junie-Anna and Esterline

Junie-Anna and Esterline at the Have Faith Haiti mission

Junie-Anna vs. Birds

Though they invaded her favorite reading spot on the swing, they still received a beautiful treatment here.

Speaking of winged creatures… 


… And those with legs

Shifting perspectives

What’s up there, and what must come down

Grow, grow, growing from the earth!


Valiantly holding back on all fungi / fun guy jokes… 


The Spelling Bee Turns Six

The Spelling Bee Turns Six

The annual spelling bee at the Have Faith Haiti Bilingual School is both a year-end celebration of our students’ language advancement and a fun way for teachers to evaluate students’ spelling skills. Inevitably, some familiar faces make it to the final rounds and in keeping with tradition, the students’ excitement in preparing usually means a few ties!

Please enjoy this recap of the 2019 Bee, held on June 14th (more…)