Isn’t it heartbreaking to see Haiti so barren, devoid of trees? Deforestation causes:
- Rising temperatures
- Decreasing rain
- Soil in the mountains washing away so much, the rivers run brown
These in turn lead to lack of food and jobs for the people in Haiti. Poverty keeps people dependent on cooking with wood and charcoal, so the trees don’t have a chance of making a comeback.
While the above snapshot of Haiti looks quite grim, we are here to tell you, there is a viable solution to these challenges called biodigestion. Basically, organic waste like food scraps, leaves or grass clippings are put into the biodigester. What comes out is liquid plant fertilizer which helps grow more food and clean cooking fuel to cook the food which is grown. The diagram to the right created by Home Biogas shows you the cycle. At the HEART in Haiti School, we are using a large scale design to produce gas for our school of 124 students, plus faculty and staff to eat two meals a day, 5 days a week.
In December 2015, we started small with an IBC tank design, which was led by Kathy Puffer of Solar Cities. Kathy recorded the process and educated participants during the build so they can create digesters on their own in the future. In a few weeks, the biodigester started producing clean fuel, which our gardener uses to cook his meals.
In October 2016, thanks to a grant from the Doolittle Foundation, Thomas Henry Culhane, the founder of Solar Cities, lead our team to build a large scale biodigester which will create enough cooking fuel for our HEART in Haiti School Community. Students, staff and community members who assisted with the build are being prepared to spread the word about biodigestion, while creating businesses which provide income for the school and sustainable jobs.
While this build was taking place, teachers were attending a training lead by HEART Education Chair Maxito Sainvil and Board President Maria Blon. The theme of the training was problem solving. The teachers were shown the above picture of Haiti, which was shocking to them because they have never flown over their country. We discussed how biodigestion is a solution to many of Haiti’s problems. The women shared how cooking with wood stings their eyes because of the smoke. Our team of teachers eagerly went to see the biodigester and learn how it is used. They have requested we offer them more training in the future on biodigestion and we are asking the teachers to incorporate this innovative technology in the school’s curriculum.
Biodigestion gives the HEART in Haiti School the opportunity to save money by producing clean cooking fuel and liquid plant fertilizer from organic waste which previously littered the land. Teaching sustainable ways for the people in Haiti to cook and grow food, which gives the mountains the ability to grow a lush canopy of productive trees is a winning scenario for all involved.
Our wish for this project to continue moving forward is to apply for grant money to purchase a Puxin biodigestion mold, which can make biodigesters in 3 different sizes, depending on the purpose. This investment will be the foundation of a reliable biodigestion business for the school and community.
The Paul family has been with the school since its inception. Wisguens, a 6th grader this year, started with us when he was in kindergarten in 2010. He and his three sisters live with their mother and father in a one room corrugated metal shack about 2 miles from the school. Every morning, Wisguens’ father will accompany the children to school, walking or carrying one child on his bike, and in the afternoon, his mother walks to pick them up. Neither of his parents completed elementary school, but they help their children with their studies and support the school as much as they can. Last school year, Wisguens received the best grades in his class for a marking period and his siblings all receive positive remarks from their teachers.
Their mother sells vegetables in the local market, and when he can their father cuts wood to sell for lumber. In 2013, he developed an infection in his finger from a splinter. The family couldn’t afford medical care. By the time HEART learned of the injury, the infection had spread. HEART coordinated medical care and generous HEART supporters donated $300 so that a local hospital could treat him. Unfortunately, his finger had to be amputated, and he has not been able to regain the same strength or agility to cut lumber as he had before the injury.
When a hurricane like Matthew passes through Haiti, families like Wisguens’ face even more challenges than they already face on an average day. Families may go without an income for days, since there are no open markets to sell produce and no dry wood to be cut to sell. Families may go hungry because they did not have the savings to stockpile food and clean water for the storm. Students miss days of school because schools close due to flooding and wind dangers, and excessive mud in the streets prevents safe transportation. Community members also go without being able to communicate with their loved ones by phone, because the electricity has been out since Sunday night and phones are not charged. Some community members lose their belongings and important documents in heavy rains because there are no safe places to put these items, and many have to spend time to try to rebuild makeshift homes and businesses that suffer damage from heavy wind and rains.
HEART expects to be contacted by parents and families who need help rebuilding and who need medical attention due to water borne illnesses and who need help getting new schoolbooks for their children.
Please consider making a donation to HEART Emergency Fund today. Our families depend on generous donors like you who provide hope for a brighter future for our students.
Emergency Relief Fund
Hurricane Matthew brought major flooding to the community of Sibert where the HEART in Haiti School is located. Since the School is sustainably built with shipping containers and earthquake proof construction it has fared well. Currently the damages within the community are being assessed. As of now the report is that everyone connected to the school — staff, teachers, students and their families — are safe.
Flooded Road in Community Dieusel Watches Rain
Community Bldg and School Entrance Class Room Building and Biodigester
These images were received today. They show the damaged home of four students at the HEART School. They are Wisguens Paul, Adriana Paul, Camelita Paul, Naviala Paul.
On May 5, Mrs. Villa’s 6th grade class at Minisink Middle School in New York, gathered in the middle school library to speak to students and teachers at the Heart in Haiti school via Skype. She and her class have done this in previous years. We greatly appreciate her continued work with the school.
To read full story please click here.
HEART is proud to launch the new heartinhaiti.org. The new website features a rich mobile-responsive user friendly interface, a content management system with access to thousands of plugins to continue improving content and features with ease, and a more search engine friendly architecture. We’re confident that the new online presence will help us continue to grow and touch the lives of many.
Hello! My name is Maria Blon and I am the Secretary for the HEART Board and also Mother of Community Liaison, Carina Blon. School director, Shad St. Louis asked if I would offer a teacher training when I was visiting in January 2014, since I was a holistic mathematics teacher for over 15 years, teaching future elementary school teachers hands-on, interactive ways to teach mathematics and learn critical thinking skills. I was very happy to work with the teachers at the HEART school as they are eager to continue learning and improving their teaching skills. I am grateful that Shad and Carina translated for me as my Creole and French speaking skills are at the preschool level.
The training was based on the teacher’s requests:
1. When during the day should we teach each subject?
2. We would like to learn more teaching techniques.
3. We would like to learn more hands on learning techniques, similar to Montessori.
We addressed the first question as a group, asking the teachers what they have observed in their classroom regarding the best time to teach each subject. Each teacher offered thoughtful insights with some similarities and some differences based on the children’s developmental level. The teachers then wrote a plan for what they would experiment with in the future and predicted how that would work. The reason for using this scientific model for having them discover when to teach different subjects is to model where discovery learning can be used and have the teachers experience this themselves and create a plan best suited to their specific students. We talked about how important it is for children to feel safe enough to make mistakes, experiment and take risks when learning. Interactive learning is messier and noisier but more learning takes place. We talked about guiding students to discover answers by asking lots of questions. When a student discovers something for themselves, that learning is with them for life! Repetition is important to learn skills. Balancing discovery learning with fun repetition is important! The teachers then experimented using unifix cubes and playing cards to teach pre-school through third grade mathematics concepts, which you can see in the pictures below:
After this morning of training, discovering and learning, we shared a delicious lunch of cracked wheat and beans, prepared by Rosita Labousse! To finish the day, we watched the French movie, “The Chorus” in our white container classroom. Despite the heat and small screen, the teachers were engaged with this inspiring movie which shows the power that treating students with respect and love can have on a group of troubled youth. Shad said that the teachers continue to talk about how this movie has inspired their teaching.
Thank you to:
- Monica Irlbacher at Middletown’s Thrall Library who found this wonderful movie for us!
- Ginger Hunt, Carina’s Second Grade Teacher who helped me plan this training!
- Karen Weissman and the Corlears School for donating Unifix Cubes!
There were not enough hours in the day to get to the science experiments, so Allison Wilbur did another teacher training in February when she went down to visit. I am proud to say that when a group of teachers from the Art Reach Foundation visited our school in February, they were very impressed with the teachers and students at our school, which is a huge compliment since they train teachers around the world. This school is wonderful because there is so much broad reaching support from so many people. Thank you all for your interest and support to teach critical thinking and sustainable skills to the children and adults in Haiti!