In 2009 a New Trier High School team of educators accompanied 2 Haitian staff members, Maurice Bonhomme and Jean Cayemitte to their hometown of Petit Goave, Haiti to assess repairing the primary school Maurice's father began in 1953. Ecole St. Joseph, educating thousands of children over the years who are leaders in Haiti, the US and all over the world had a leaky roof, cracks in the plaster walls and needed a fresh coat of paint. Maurice and Jean completely fund all costs of running the school from their own earnings here in the US, providing teacher salaries and tuition for over 150 students attending whose families cannot afford to pay. In Haiti, 50% of the population is illiterate, there is no public school system and if a child is fortunate enough to receive an education it is from a private school where all books, supplies and uniforms must come from people with 80% unemployment in their country.
We heard about Ecole St. Joseph and Maurice's story with great interest after the trip there from a New Trier team member, our friend Carolyn Muir who teaches World History and Service Learning. Our children had become friends at John Hersey High School, and soon our high school community joined with New Trier on behalf of Ecole St. Joseph, as well as our children's alma mater Thomas Middle School. We had the pleasure of meeting Maurice at the 5 star Chicago gold coast restaurant where this gentleman worked evenings as Executive Chef after working days as security for New Trier, all "to keep kids off the street", as Maurice says. Inspired by his story, I signed up to run Chicago's spring half marathon to help raise funds for his father's school repairs.
On January 12, 2010 at 4:53 pm (Haiti is in the central time zone) the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck, devastating Haiti's capital Port au Prince and surrounding area in the worst natural disaster ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere, killing over 220,000 people and leaving more than a million homeless. The epicenter was almost exactly under the coastal town of Petit Goave. Ecole St. Joseph, like so many other buildings, was completely demolished to rubble.
Overnight, the New Trier community's goal became rebuilding Ecole St. Joseph. In for a penny, in for a pound.
Over $100,000 dollars was raised by spring.
Re: Building Ecole St. Joseph
Asked in April to create an art project St. Joseph students could do on the grounds of their destroyed school, help facilitate it and assist New Trier's terrific team in providing relief to the Ecole St. Joseph community in the earthquake's aftermath, Cody and I became forever changed by new Haitian friends made and our experiences there. Upon returning home, the first thing Ted said was "I should have gone too." With Rachel traveling in 8 European countries after college graduation while Cody and I were in Haiti, Ted & I felt the importance of a parent's availability from the US in case of emergency.
Ted got his chance to go to Haiti in 2011. Working with one of the team members, gifted architect Nate Kaiser, Ted's years working in and owning a design firm as well as commercial and residential construction helped him prepare at the Muirs' dining room table ideas and drawings for rebuilding Ecole St. Joseph from the measurements Nate took on the earthquake destroyed grounds in 2010. At Maurice's dining room table with his nephew Steeve in 2011, we had the pleasure alongside Carolyn and her husband Cameron to meet a Haitian engineer, Joseph Edner, who had built in Port au Prince as well as locally in Petit Goave. As Maurice described, you can see from the pictures Joseph is beautifully rebuilding Ecole St. Joseph "straight as a palm tree!" What happiness no words are big enough for on the faces of students and teachers when Ecole St. Joseph opened brand new doors this fall! We look forward to returning to Petit Goave next year after the other 2nd story side is finished and the school completed, celebrating a new beginning for the Ecole St. Joseph community with our Haitian friends!
This is the reason we created #2 Pencils. Will you join with us to support Ecole St. Joseph to be able to hire more of the best teachers it can to educate more of Haiti's children? On behalf of Rachel, 4th grade teacher at Chicago International Charter School and Cody, a Belmont University junior we thank you for stoking the dreams of Haitian children-no different from ours-for the chance to go to school.