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School Supplies from Lake Local Arrive in Haiti

Here’s the rest of the story about a shipping container that recently arrived safely at Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after being packed to the brim and departing from a Lake High School parking lot last May.

Organized as a National Honor Society (NHS) service project last spring by Lake senior Abbey Windham with help from her father Dean and a team of Lake student volunteers, the container’s arrival brought it one step closer to improving educational opportunities for Haitian children.  

Lake Local Schools donated gently used district text books, desks, tables, laptops, maps, cabinets, and more that it no longer needed to TeacHaiti after receiving the suggestion from the Windhams.    TeacHaiti is a 501c3 organization that empowers Haitian children to emerge from poverty through education; the Windhams had learned about the organization as a result of doing previous church mission work on the island.  The Windhams attend Maranatha Bible Church in Hartville.  

“The kids here at Lake who helped me with assembling all the items for the shipment did a great job- everything was taped, numbered, so it was organized and made it so easy.  Everyone got along and worked together,” said Abbey. 

Abbey also appreciated the support she received from Lake’s Facility Project Manager John McAllister and District Facility Maintenance staff member Greg Allen in quickly gathering and readying Lake’s supplies for the shipping container.   “They were very helpful, encouraging, and patient,” said the senior.  

Abbey also raised funds last spring through an online GoFundMe account to help pay costs of shipping, duty taxes, and handling of the container.  To raise additional remaining funds for these expenses, the Windhams’ church and Evermore Church in Hartville, and TeacHaiti founder and Haitian native Miquette Denie McMahon completed additional fundraising.  Mrs. McMahon operates two ‘Schools of Hope’ located in Port-au-Prince and St. Michel, and provides some support to a refugee center located in Malpasse.    

After traveling approximately 1,600 miles and arriving in Haiti’s capital at the end of August, the container was released by Haitian customs officials in early September, as most Lake students were starting classes.  “At customs, everything was opened, and scattered as they checked it.  They were looking to see exactly what was in it,” said Windham.  “Fortunately they put everything back in it.”    

Windham explained that the container’s arrival was delayed because of logistics issues that exist on the island, and a riot in Port-au-Prince due to higher gas prices.  After the container was released by customs, Windham and another church member, John Smith, traveled to Haiti Sept. 5-9, 2018, to empty the container a second time and begin assembling chairs, desks, and tables that had been taken apart for easier shipment.  They found “lots of kids” affiliated with TeacHaiti waiting and willing to help.   

Amazingly, only two items - one desk top and one file cabinet -were damaged from among the hundreds of items shipped from Lake Township.   School Items next were put into trucks to be delivered to the two schools and refugee center.  

Mrs. McMahon was overwhelmed by the amount of school equipment in the container when it arrived, Windham said.

According to Windham, the two schools receiving the used equipment from Lake Local Schools will have more resources than Haitian colleges currently have.  “Once these kids graduate from a TeacHaiti school, having been trained on computers, they will have such a legitimate advantage,” said Windham.   

Schools of Hope  

Following the destructive earthquake that struck Haiti in January, 2010, TeacHaiti’s first school opened in Port-au-Prince.  The school started with a preschool class in 2011.  A class has been added every year since, so that now the school serves students in grades K-10.

The Port-au-Prince school employs a full-time English teacher, which most primary schools in Haiti do not have, and has eight classes of students, 11 teachers, a principal, a secretary, a book keeper, and two janitors. The curriculum includes art, music, and other standard subjects.  Sponsored students receive daily meals, and regular medical care from local doctors.  

Meanwhile, Phase I of construction at the St. Michel school was completed in 2017, and Phase II will begin soon.  Currently the school has nearly 60 Pre-K students; enrollment will increase to 80 students after a kindergarten class is added during the current 2018-2019 school year.  The new school will house grades K-3, with plans to expand up to grade 6.   It has three classrooms, a multi-purpose room, cafeteria/kitchen, food pantry, bathrooms, and offices.   Completion of Phase II will provide three additional classrooms, an administration building, and guard house.   A second story may be added in the future.  

Although Abbey officially completed her NHS service project requirements when the shipping container arrived in Port-au-Prince, she wants to stay involved with the TeacHaiti program.  She plans to return in January, 2019 to assist with ongoing work, and distribution of furniture and supplies, at the schools.  

“Supporting TeacHaiti is important to me because it is an organization my family has been close to.  As soon as I was able to visit, I became passionate for the children there.   I love the culture, the people, and the feeling of Haiti, and I knew in my heart that this was my calling,” said Abbey.  

“What drew me and my family to this was Miquette.  She just has a way about her that is strong, faithful, and hopeful, and it has really drawn me to look up to her and become a part of her program,” she added.  For more info about TeacHaiti, visit http://www.teachaiti.org.   

The Windham family with Haitian students during a May, 2018 visit to the island.

 

 

Abbey stands in front of a full shipping container parked outside the Lake High School Performing  Arts Hall last spring before it started its long journey to Haiti.

 

 

Donated supplies from Lake Local Schools replace formerly used furnishings such as these chairs.

 

 

Older students at the TeacHaiti school in the capital city received new desks

 

 

From L to R: Dean Windham, Miquette Denie McMahon, and John Smith stand in front of a donated Lake Local Smart board displaying a ‘thank you’ message.

 

 

TeacHaiti students and staff at Port-au-Prince created a thank you banner for the Windhams.

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Lake Local School District  436 King Church Avenue SW  |  Uniontown, Ohio 44685  |  Phone: 330.877.9383  |  Fax: 330.877.4754
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