School is an anchor in difficult times

Gressier , Dec 08, 2020

Families in Haiti are hard hit by the economic effects of the corona pandemic. The children who attend the elementary and high school in Gressier, which the WACKER Relief Fund supports, also face poverty and hunger during school closures. Father Gerald Jeannot, a Salesian of Don Bosco and Director of the Don Bosco school Riobé in Gressier, Haiti, reviews this past corona year in his letter.

The elementary and high school in Gressier (Photos: Copyright Don Bosco Mondo e.V.)

“This past school year has been unprecedented in the history of our country. A long school year that began on September 9, 2019 and despite the summer heat, only finished at the end of October. Two major events disrupted the school program: the COVID-19 pandemic and the political unrest during the lockdown. Public life ground to a halt – large-scale demonstrations against corruption and crime dominated the streets.

One and a half weeks after resuming classes we noticed the first repercussions of the lockdown. From September 18, 2019 to December 8, 2019 it was hazardous to navigate the streets, especially in big towns. There were roadblocks and children who have to cover long distances to get to school had great difficulty getting there.

The economic situation of many parents became desperate. Many children who depended solely on the food rations handed out at school suffered a lot while schools were closed. School children who live near the school arrived hungry and asked for food parcels because there was nothing to eat at home.

Children in Gressier, pre-pandemic – during the corona crisis, people in Haiti also have to wear masks.

On December 9, 2019, the school and kindergarten reopened for our 1,050 children. 200 attend kindergarten, 450 children go to the elementary school and 400 are in high school. We tried to compensate for the time lost during the closure by adding an hour on to the school schedule.

School continued as usual until March 18, 2020, when the Haitian government announced the lockdown. The kindergarten children even held their traditional carnival – of course, this year it was very low-key because of the difficult economic situation. But the fun of dressing up came as light relief during these tough times.

On March 19, 2020, corona regulations forced us to close the school again. We were very concerned about our pupils, most of whom come from poor families. Often the meal they get at school is all they have to eat the whole day. We sent food parcels home with children from the poorest families, to make sure they survive.

The school also had staff at hand to help parents or students with their worries and problems. We handed out masks and hygiene kits. Holding lessons online was not an option because the children don’t have the technical equipment and there’s no WLAN network.

Thankfully none of the teachers, students or parents has fallen ill with COVID-19. While Haiti is never spared natural catastrophes, it appears to have been lucky with the corona pandemic.

Schools resumed classes on August 9, 2020, the hottest month of the year. Usually that’s vacation time because the heat is unbearable. However, it was wonderful to see how happy the children were to return to school. And how they tuck into the five meals we are able to provide every week with gusto. Many thanks to everyone who supports us in these difficult times.

Roughly 4,650 employees currently participate in the WACKER Relief Fund’s cent-donation program. Their support is keeping the schools up and running. With minimal amounts, each employee in Germany can help the fund provide sustainable support in the years ahead. How does it work? Employees agree to have their monthly salaries rounded down to the nearest euro. the difference in cents is then donated to WACKER HILFSFONDS. Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mirko Kappelhoff, explains: We have only managed to finance the running costs of our school projects with the help of our cent-donation program. Thanks to every colleague who has helped pave the way to a brighter future for these children through education.”

If you’d like to help, please donate to the following WACKER Relief Fund account with Bayerische Landesbank München:

IBAN DE59 7005 0000‎ 0003 3333 33

BIC BYLADEMMXXX

Please state your name and address on the payment transfer form (in Germany, your WACKER ID number is enough). The relief fund issues donation receipts to employees residing in Germany, as the donations are tax-deductible there. The WACKER Relief Fund says a big thank you for every donation. Receipts are sent out in the first quarter of the year.

Don Bosco Mondo e.V.

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