Today Matters, Vantage Superintendent Blog



Monday, April 15, 2013

Student Interact Club--Haiti Project

I am pleased to blog that our 2013 Haiti team returned safely and accomplished much good work in the past week. The Vantage Student Interact Club, affiliated with the Van Wert Rotary Club, sponsors a carpentry program in the mountain village of Borde, Haiti. Our students raise funds throughout each school year to pay the carpentry teacher's salary ($100 per month) and furnish supplies and hand tools for the students. The furniture made by the carpentry program is sold in Cap Haitien, Haiti, and the funds are returned to the customer service account to buy more supplies.

Social studies teacher Peg Bollenbacher, our club's advisor, has traveled to Haiti annually for 10 years. She will retire this year, and is turning over the Interact Club to science teacher Matthew Miller. Ms. Bollenbacher will continue to return to Haiti annually on her own, as she has a deep bond with the local Haitians involved in our project. This was my first trip to Haiti, as it was for Mr. Miller also. Seeing the carpentry school and surrounding facilities, which include another school building for multiple grade levels, a church, and a small kitchen building and small administration building, was beneficial. We can better target our resources to meet their needs, one of which is some form of power and clean water. I hope to succeed in completing a green structure, or Earthship, (google Earthship Haiti) to supply solar power and sanitized water to some degree.

The addition of any power at all will allow our Haitian students to use some power tools vs. strictly hand tools, and also have better lighting in the classroom/workshop. The cinder block walls include open spaces for "windows" to allow air and light into the building. That is the only light source. All of the buildings are built in this manner, including the church, which again, has absolutely no power. Our solar project could also be routed to the church or the grade school as well to improve learning conditions.

As I expected prior to going to Haiti, words cannot express what I saw and experienced during the seven days I was there. I have memories for a lifetime, a lot of photos of the culture and people, and a renewed commitment to our Interact Club's project in Haiti. In future blogs, I will post photos taken while in Haiti. Here is one of my favorites: this small cooking fire area feeds over 120 school children. Only a wooden table and a pile of starter timber are in this small building which we call our "kitchen". There is obviously no power and the structure is lit by the holes in the cinder block wall.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Preparing for trip to Haiti

April 2, 2013

The position of superintendent has provided me with several opportunities and challenges over the years. An opportunity I will talk about today is the chance to see the small carpentry program which Vantage Career Center operates in the mountain village of Bordes, Haiti. Bordes is near Cap Haitien, on the northern coast. Our Interact program, which is a student club, and affiliate of the local Rotary club, has been active for several years. Its main project is raising funds and supporting the carpentry program in Bordes. Local Haitiens travel long distances to attend our small school, where they learn basic carpentry skills to help them provide a way to support their families.

I will visit the program and meet several of the local people who are integral to our efforts. Social Studies teacher Peg Bollenbacher has traveled there annually for the past 10 years, and will travel with first-time attendee Matt Miller and I. Matt is a science teacher at Vantage, and is really looking forward to the trip. It will be both his and my first experience there. We hope to confirm the need for a green shelter to be built in the next year, which would house medical care and free clinic services when visitors come to assist the people of the Cap Haitien area. The green structure uses solar power to heat as needed, and sanitize water. The entire structure is really a great science lesson in itself! More later in future blogs.

Upon return, I hope to engage several other Ohio Rotary clubs to assist our project by contributing funds toward this purpose. Rotary grants may be possible from the Rotary International site and the District club, which will aid, and probably expand, our project's scope. Ten clubs have given me their contact information already. It would be wonderful to provide a few of these structures in the areas which desperately need clean water and safe shelter for medical services.Hopefully a task force of people from these clubs will travel with us later on to construct the green structures.

We hope to attend a local Rotary meeting in Cap Haitien while there next week. Regardless of the outcome of the service project, I will return having met my primary goal, which is to see our students' work over the years, and meet the local people who have been involved with our carpentry program regularly. Words cannot describe the impact which I am certain to experience in Haiti, but I will try my best to do so in a blog or two after April 15. Today Matters, more than ever. Make your day a worthwhile one.