Since the summer of 2011, school was held in director Shad St. Louis’s family house(outlined in blue square in the satellite image to the right.) The school is now in Merger, Croix des Bouquets(outlined in the yellow), but most of our students come from the community of Sibert, Croix des Bouquets, where Shad’s house is.
The initial 42 students crossed a river, walked, ran, hopped on a “tap tap”, motorcycle or with their parents on their bicycles, or a combination of those to get to school. Our students truly vary in their living conditions, from living in tents in a tent camp, makeshift shacks out of mud and wood or tarps and corrugated metals To support their families, a majority of our parents find commerce businesses to manage, selling food or wares in streets or markets to the community. Other parents find work in construction, tending gardens or animals, sewing and tailoring, or driving “tap taps” But business and life here can can be tough, as medical visits, school shopping or even just buying enough food for the family can crumble all the business savings in the family. The HEART team has worked to help our families with their economic needs by starting some business opportunities that will allow our families to furnish their trades and skills, and allow true paths to self sustainability. This school year, we will continue to provide and expand business and sustainable living opportunities for the people of the Sibert community.
During the summer of 2012 there was much work done on the site of the new school. The school is located right near the area called locally “the bateyes of Merger”. Most of our preschool class is made up of children from this area. Many of the grandparents of our new students were brought to Merger to work for a company that managed the sugar plantations. We imagine the way of life in this village about 50 years ago to be much like the brutal way of life for the Haitians working the sugar plantations in the Dominican Republic, exposed in the movie “The Price of Sugar” ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1045874/ ). Many of the older family members of our new students say the work in the sugar fields was incredibly difficult labor, cutting, tying and carrying sugar cane in the hot sun to be sold to make sugar or rum, but they always paid enough and there was always work to be done. Now, stuck in the village, living in the cramped houses built by the sugar company better suited for barn animals, many of the community members say that much of what they do is sit around, unless they are lucky to find work. We are looking forward to offering vocational school classes in the afternoon for the community, and also introducing the animal program, micro finance program, and sewing circle to the members of this community, to offer other options than sitting around. A few of the fathers of our newly registered students have a lot of experience in farming, but the fields around the village have no irrigation system. We have started a garden in our school and hope to expand it to have more community members be involved in the planting, tending and harvesting of the crops.