About Me

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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The impact of e-learning on women and children: Taking the Digital Mentoring Project to the next level

I have been developing the Digital Mentoring Project (DMP) in Haiti in a fairly casual, organic way. We have about 30 school leaders there now supplied with BlackBerry smartphones. Getting a "tool" in these principals' hands has been the first step, as well as giving them the opportunity to dialogue with each other and myself.

We now need to take the DMP to another level. There is a real need to move from a "professional network" to also providing on-line resources that the principals can access from their smartphones. These resources should include short videos (featuring Haitian principals), web-links, pdf documents, and interactive forums. To do this is going to require some significant financial support and I have begun this conversation with our development office at Laurier.

In conjunction with this, we need to add to the research which has been happening regarding the impact of digital technology on learning, particularly for those who have typically been marginalized. Here is an interesting article from the Gates Foundation which speaks to this issue (in health):

Mobile Phones for Women's Empowerment

I am not aware of anything like the DMP occurring in any developing world context so I think we're onto something very important. Now we have to figure out how to make this happen.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Laurier Haiti 2013 Service-Learning Trip Final Thoughts

As we debriefed with the group and as I've reflected on the past 10 days, here are my top 10 key take-aways:

1. An amazing experience for everyone involved. We learned more in 10 days than many of us have learned in a year or more of formal education.

2. The group agreed that the opportunity to travel by van to Cap, and to spend a few days in Pignon, gave them a better perspective on the wide range of schools, communities, and geography of Haiti.

3. The workshops in Pignon were well-received and we could take a group to this community to provide more training for teachers and principals. English lessons at College de la Grace or working at Caleb's camp could also be valuable aspects of a future trip.

4. Tours of a variety of schools, from Assumption College to Dutty Boukman to The Key, provided insight into the wide range of public and private schools in Cap-Haitien.

5. Our afternoon English language program was very appreciated by the participating students. The high school students we worked with were really hungry for conversational English language opportunities. They were an amazing group to work with and individual relationships were established. We discussed the possibility of future groups spending the morning working with an English-language teacher in a school such as Assumption College and then spending afternoons with students pooled from a variety of schools (according to level/ability).

6. Although the university (UPNCH) was not able to accommodate us for an English language program this time, there are some potential areas of partnership in the future. We discussed opportunities for an English language lab, supporting on-line course development, and involvement in a Masters of Education program.

7. We were constantly amazed at the incredible hospitality we experienced in Haiti. The epitome of this was the hosting of Justin Metelus, the Director of the Ministry of National Education in the north. Justin is a very well-known man in the community and responsible for directing education in the north, yet he took most of his days last week to spend with the group. He toured us through different schools, hosted us every day for lunch, and spent many hours discussing with us the challenges, and his vision, of education in the north. On a number of occasions we asked ourselves, would any leader in a similar position be as hospitable and generous with time in Canada? Would we?

8. Likewise, we were struck by the passion people have to support development, through education, in Haiti. Symbolic of this was Thelus Wilson. Similarly to Justin, Thelus spent almost every day with us in Cap. He has started a new school, about 20 minutes outside of Cap which is meeting the needs of children who cannot afford to go to school. Although this is the first year of the school operating, Thelus has a great vision for building a larger school where more children can attend. It is hard to describe Thelus but three words come to mind: Humble, committed, and servant-leader.

9. We saw that education is not just about formal schooling but also about the overall development of the child and his/her family unit. The Sacred Heart Centre, and the leadership of Andre there, represented this best for me. The nutrition program and early learning centre are providing amazing programs to support those who are impoverished and marginalized in Cap. Although the challenges are immense, piti piti (little by little) these types of programs are making a difference.

10. Contrasts. Haiti is full of them. From the awe-inspiring beaches of Labadee to the over-populated classrooms of Dutty Boukman, there are so many contrasts in/to Haiti. What a wonderful country.

Thanks Betty Ann, Jesslyn, Blake, Sarah, Heather, Jenni, Amy, Karley, and Jhonel for an amazing trip! Piti piti zwazo fe niche!

Typically-unusual last day in Haiti: Haiti isn't the only country to experience power failures

On Sunday, May 19 we traveled home. For me, it was a day of mixed emotions. I was certainly anxious to get home to family and to work responsibilities. At the same time, I felt that some of the inertia we built up over the 10 days was about to end. It's difficult to foster program development, whether mentoring or English language or otherwise, from 2000+ kms away.

Traveling on Sunday was book-ended with two "typically-unusual" (a new phrase for me that pretty accurately describes working in Haiti) events. The first occurred @ 6:45 am as we sat down for breakfast at the Stella Maris in Cap-Haitien. Andre ran into the room and informed us that our flight had been changed from 8:30 to 7:45 am. We called Justin and rushed to eat and complete our packing. Justin arrived in 30 minutes and we were off. We pulled into the small Cap airport at about 7:35 and checked in. You have to understand that the Cap airport is small and we were the only flight leaving. And our flight involved 19 people. In typically-unusual Haitian style, we then waited until after 8 to start boarding. We departed at 8:15. So much for leaving at 7:45. One of the nuns at the Stella Maris said that sometimes the airline will pull this type of manouver in the hope of selling the person's ticket when he/she does not arrive on time.

The flight from Cap, included a "fly-over" of the Citadelle; what a gorgeous view.

After a 30 minute flight to Port au Prince (quite the contrast to the 6+ hours of driving we did earlier in the week to get from PAP to Cap), the group spent the morning touring the city. Jimmy, Jhonel's brother who owns a number of private schools in Haiti, coordinated this time and was a great host. The tour included seeing where the national palace used to stand. It has recently been razed due to the damage it suffered in the earthquake.

The pictures of the crumbled palace were symbolic of the state of affairs in Haiti after the earthquake. The group also got to see the new5-star Occidental hotel in PAP. A key word which we had used regularly to describe Haiti was "contrasts" and the hotel certainly represented this.

Karley had not been feeling well so she and I hung out at a restaurant while the group toured some of the city. In typically-unusual style, Karley slept with her head on a table for about 1.5 hours! At the end of that time, Chris and Kelly Lieb, friends from previous trips to Haiti walked into the restaurant. What a coincidence! Chris and I spent time discussing getting phones to him to distribute to some of his contacts. This will be where many of the donated BlackBerries will go since they will be distributed across the country to some of the more remote communities. This will give a good opportunity to test the Digital Mentoring Project in marginalized areas.

Our flights to Miami and then to Toronto were on-time but our last book-end typically-unusual event occurred when we pulled into the gate in Toronto: The power on the plane went out. We were on time but we had to wait 10 minutes for the doors to be opened and we exited with the aid of emergency lighting and flashlights. I guess the power doesn't go off just in Haiti!

Well, we've come full-circle. We started with a ride to TO thanks to Scott and Red Car Service and here we are getting ready to go home!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Climbing to Citadel, Haiti

Karley Writing:
Today is our last day in Haiti, so we decided to visit the Citadel, a huge mountaintop fortress in Milot. We took the Blanc-Mobile (our name for our trusty pick-up truck) up half-way, and then walked up the steep road of the mountain. We took numerous stops on our way up because the roads sometimes were too steep, and we were all sweating by the time we made it to the top. We had the option to take a donkey up all the way, but we were convinced that we could walk it.

The Citdal is an absolutely beautiful and old building, with an awesome history. It was built by 20,000 workers designed to keep Haiti safe from the French. It's built upon a 3,000 ft mountain, and you can see all the other mountains and valleys around it. We saw all the cannons and cannon balls that were never used as well. Henri Christophe, the general in the Haitian army, started the building of the fortress in 1805. The Citadel rises 130 feet, and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Haiti. When Christophe died in 1820, the building construction was stopped, therefore it was never finished. It was also never used, as the French never attacked them.

On our way back, it was all downhill which got us places much faster. We stopped a quarter of the way down to have a coconut and mango break, since it was already a good 4 hours since we had eaten breakfast. We shared our food with our tourist guides and looked down at the awesome view below us. We saw some locals as well and by the time we got to the bottom, everyone was tuckered out. What an awesome experience!

Workshops with teachers and school principals in Cap-Haitien

Yesterday we were able to lead a two hour workshop for teachers and principals on using manipulatives in math and on school leadership. Jhonel Movan and Amy Lin from the Ontario Ministry of Education led a nearly 2 hour workshop on using manipulatives. They both did an amazing job and it was very well received. Thanks to Amy's work, we were able to leave over $1,000 in manipulatives for the Faculty of Education at Regio Assumption College and for the new school that Thelus Wilson, one of our hosts for the week, has started (in the photo below, are Thelus, Amy, Jhonel, and a math teacher from Regio Assumption College). I concluded with a challenge to the group regarding school leadership which seemed to give a good conclusion to the afternoon.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Break time in Belly Beach, Labadie

Karley writing:

I am currently typing this blog while sitting on Belly Beach, a beautiful and private beach that the whole group is enjoying after a long week of working. It's been a great week of teaching English classes, but now we get to enjoy the scenic and relaxing part of Haiti! We took a long car ride around the mountain, and stopped at  some small ferry boats. From there we took one ferry boat for about a 5 minute ride, all the way to Belly Beach. We've ordered a lobster and some drinks, and are passing the time by swimming in the gorgeous Caribbean Sea waters. You can see the mountains in the background and I've even gotten some practice in for a triathlon that I'm going to compete in when I get home. All the girls have been tanning on the beach, while the boys are enjoying the snacks (typical). We will be going to more workshops this afternoon, but for now everyone is enjoying the sun and water! Sarah was given a whole bag of mangos yesterday as a gift from one of her students, and we're opening them up at the moment! It's been nice to sit down and relax for the first time in a while!

Pictures will be posted later!

University Agreements

Today, we had our second meeting with the president of the Public University of the North at Cap-Haitien as well as his senior administrative team. We have been discussing ways we can develop some programs as a result of the partnership agreement we signed last year. Some of the areas we are discussing are:

1. English Language Lab (centre) - for students, faculty, and local professionals to develop their conversational English language skills.
2. Supporting the development of on-line courses.
3. Scholarship opportunity for a student to attend Laurier for a semester.
4. Developing a Master of Education in conjunction with other Haitian universities.

These are all very exciting opportunities but each has some significant challenges. We are planning on meeting again in October, with a team of other Canadians representing different groups such as BlackBerry and University of Ottawa, to see what we can accomplish together.

In a separate meeting, we met with the dean of the Faculty of Education at Regio Assumption College in Cap-Haitien and started discussions about developing a Memorandum of Understanding with that school. It is an excellent school in the heart of Cap which may provide a suitable alternative location for some of the same areas.

We are still having very slow Internet connections so we'll try and get some pictures posted tomorrow!

English as a Foreign Language classes come to a close

Today was the final day of our EFL program. What a week it has been! We had about 60 students participate in the classes. It was great to be able to recognize all of them today with a certificate of accomplishment. Many of the students did not want to leave and kept taking pictures and talking to our Laurier team members.

I have been incredibly proud of our group. Despite the HOT classrooms (and some upset stomachs) they each persevered and kept the students as their focus. I feel honoured to have been part of this group and they certainly represented themselves, our university, and Canada extremely well.

We are still having very slow Internet connections so we'll try and get some pictures posted tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Day in the Life of a 16 Year Old Canadian Girl in a Haitian School

Karley Writing

Today was a very busy day, at least for me! I woke up this morning at 6 o’clock this morning to get ready to go to the Regina Assumption College school. I was going to follow around two girls to see what an average school day would be like for a 16 or 17 year old girl in Haiti. I was very nervous about today, and felt that I was out of my comfort zone because it would be my first day on my own, in a school full of girls that did not speak any English. We had one of the Sisters from the Stella Maris drive us, and we got there exactly at 7, which is when school starts. The two girls, Ellen and Diane, met me at the office and walked me to their classroom. From there we went through the following subjects: Math, Haitian Literature, Algebra, English, Chemistry, and homework. Thankfully, Ellen spoke very good English and translated many of the teachers and students’ questions for me. In math, the teacher spoke some English, so we chatted for a while. The class asked me about school life in Canada, and I tried to speak slowly and in small words so that they could get an idea about what I was saying. It was a rough start, but by the end of the first period, Ellen and I had gotten the hang of talking together. They also sang me a song which I recognized, My Bonnie. Here are the lyrics if you’re not familiar with the song:

My Bonnie lies over the ocean,
My Bonnie is over the sea,
My Bonnie is over the ocean,
Oh bring back my Bonnie to me.
Bring back, bring back, oh bring back my Bonnie to me, to me!
Bring back, bring back, oh bring back my Bonnie to me!

I thought this was very sweet (they even changed the name “Bonnie” to “Karley”) until they wanted me to sing the song all by myself. That was extremely out of my comfort zone because I don’t sing and am extremely self-conscious about my singing, but I did it anyways because I didn’t want them to feel like I was being rude. I don’t know if my singing has improved, or if they were just being polite but I got a standing ovation at the end. We had Haitian Literature next, which I didn’t understand at all since it was all being spoken in French, but Ellen told me that they were learning about Haitian artists. 

I also had a conversation with some of the girls about Justin Bieber. They asked me if he was my favourite singer and I said yes, for conversation sake (let it be clear that I do not like Justin Bieber’s music, whatsoever). I told them the story about how he came to one of my soccer games once, and how my town is basically right beside his, and they were all pretty impressed. After Haitian literature, Ellen and Diane took me down to the cafeteria, where I was swarmed with many little girls who were excited to pet my hair and stroke my skin. The group of girls shared their food with me since I hadn’t brought a snack (it was only 9 o’clock in the morning). After snack time, we went back to the class to learn Algebra. They were learning about the formula for the sides of triangles, which I found easy to follow along (it’s ironic because math is one of my worst subjects back home). 

At this point the girls had gotten very comfortable with me and started to send me notes in English. One girl asked if I loved her, so I responded with a ‘yes!’ because I was not sure what else to put. Other girls asked me some more basic questions, such as my favourite sports and what I liked about school. Some girls complimented me on my smile, and asked if they could comb my hair for me, which was an interesting combination but I agreed nonetheless. Some topics that came up quite frequently were if I was married or if I had a boyfriend. When I responded negatively, they cried out with outrage. When they asked me why I didn’t, I didn’t quite know how to respond. I ended up saying that I liked being single because it was fun. The group didn’t quite believe that; most of the girls had boyfriends or really wanted one (one girl stated that she had two, and I’m still not quite sure if she was joking or not). After Algebra, English came fourth which was the easiest out of all the subjects so far (obviously). The teacher had me to participate in some of the activities, which were pretty easy (thank goodness, how embarrassing would it be if I couldn’t complete proper grammar in my first language?). They were learning about the differences between using “will” and “going to” and when it was appropriate to use them. After English came Chemistry and then a homework period. Those went by quietly and when my Laurier group came to pick me up, I gave some gifts to Ellen and Diane to thank them for helping translate English to French. 

I ended up giving Ellen my email, and I hope we stay in touch! 

Pictures posted tomorrow!!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Digital Mentoring Project Updates

We have been fortunate to bring a lot of BlackBerry phones with us to Haiti. These are being used to connect educators with each other, both in Haiti and in Canada. I distributed 6 of the phones in Pignon to various principals. Today, I identified a number of other participants, including the Director of the Ministry of Education and a number of principals in private and public schools.

I am so thankful to BlackBerry for their donation and to the people of Waterloo Region who also believed in this project and donated used BlackBerries - at the end of the week, I will post some pictures of principals who receive these BBs.

Sweet Sixteen in Cap-Haitien, Haiti

Karley Writing

Today I had the most unique experience ever; I got to spend my 16th birthday in Haiti. We started our journey to a university in the back of a pick-up truck, not knowing exactly what we were going to do, and just going with the flow. After waiting for an hour in a waiting room we were informed we wouldn't be able to do any interaction with the students so we headed to a public school. I was very surprised to learn that this public school held around 6,000 students! The Minister of Education took us around to 3 different classes (mostly grade 13 classes) and we all introduced ourselves and what our purpose was going to be. Our group offered a free program for the rest of the week for those students who wanted to learn English. When Jhonel translated my introductions in each class, he let them know that it was my 16th birthday and the whole class (of around 100 students per classroom) started singing :happy birthday" in English! This was a pretty cool experience, considering that's not the kind of reaction you would get at Elmira high school!  Some students were upset that we didn't visit their classrooms and apparently they were practicing singing "happy birthday" in case we came, but because we just didn't have the time we were unable to visit any more classes. As well as receiving another marriage proposal, I was already considering it a pretty successful day.

A very tired but happy birthday girl!
I wasn't expecting anything else to occur when we got back to the Stella Maris (the place we are staying), considering I had only known my group for 5 days and I didn't expect anything from them. But they took me by surprise and really gave me a birthday to remember, even if it didn't have all the fancy stuff that you can get back in Canada. I came down to the dining room to find out that the Sisters had laid out a special place for me with some flowers in a vase and a special place mat. The group insisted that I sit at the end of the table, since I was the "special guest". Then they all presented me with a card that was signed by everyone; most of the comments complimented me on my skills to nap anywhere at anytime. And finally, they presented me with a delicious looking vanilla cake that the Sisters had made for me that was loaded with icing, alongside some jello. If the group is reading this, I want you to know that I really appreciated your efforts to make me feel welcome in the group, and for making my 16th a birthday that I'll never forget!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Cap-Haitian Ride

Karley Writing:

Today we headed to Cap-Haitian from Pignon, where we had previously stayed for the last few days. Before we left, we visited Pastor Caleb's church which was right across from our guest house. The singing was amazing, even if I didn't understand anything that they were saying. We hung out with a few boys that were just hanging around our vehicle after that, and we gave out Canadian pins and stickers.

You might think 39 miles wouldn't take that long to travel, but let me tell you that in Haiti, it takes you at least twice as long. Our group calls this "Haitian time" because no one is ever on time. At around noon, we were all getting hungry so we decided to stop in a little community to see what we could find to eat. We ended up getting sugar canes, which have quite an interesting taste. Some of us couldn't finish them, so we ended up giving them to the children in the community, which they graciously took. They cut them right in front of us and everyone tried a piece. We were just getting ready to head back onto the road when Heather suggested that we should go for the full culture experience and try to get some fresh coconuts from one of the trees. Unfortunately, the trees were way too high for any of us to climb, but some of the men in the community volunteered to cut some down for us. It was a pretty awesome experience, and I even tried the meat on the inside, which actually turned out to be pretty tasty. Sarah went full out cracking her coconut on the ground to get the meat out. After we had eaten our fill, we learned that our car needed a little jump start to get it started. So the same men that had gotten our coconuts helped push the car, alongside some of our group members. We waved goodbye to the small group that had gathered around to see what all the commotion had been about, and continued on our journey to Cap-Haitian.

Cap-Haitien: A City With Great Potential

This week we are providing English as a Foreign Language classes at the Public University of the North at Cap-Haitien (UPNCH) and at local high schools. The city of Cap-Haitien is Haiti's second largest city, located in the northern part of the country. As we've experienced, it takes approximately 6 hours to drive to Cap from Port-au-Prince. On Sunday, we will fly back to PAP in about 30 minutes.

Cap is a lovely, colonial city. It is surrounded by mountains and has a fairly deep port. It has a rich history dating back more than 500 years. It was actually the place that the revolution, which overthrew the French in 1804, began. There are some beautiful sites such as the Cathedral in the core of the city and a nice walking path along the Caribbean. Probably the most famous landmark is the Citadel which sits on a mountain perch a few miles from town. The Citadel is a UN World Heritage Site.

This city has tremendous potential. Not only are there local industries which are taking advantage of its port and the fact that it is far from the challenges of Port au Prince, but there are some excellent opportunities to develop it as a tourist hub for Haiti. Carnival Cruise lines actually owns a stretch of beach close to Cap (that's another story for another post!). It is a beautiful setting with beaches, the Citadel, and an interesting culture/history. Part of the reason we are doing English classes here is to help students learn English so that they can be part of this tourist industry.

Here is a picture of what the harbour looks like at 7 am today - gorgeous!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Safely arrived in Cap-Haitien

We had a great drive today from Pignon to Cap-Haitien! Although only 39 miles, it took us more than 2 hours to cover the distance. The roads were in pretty rough shape for much of the way. We'll try and post some pics later.

Tonight we met with Justin Metelus, the Director of the Ministry of National Education for the north of Haiti.  He is planning our time working with the university and the high school.  We then had dinner with Andre, he director of the Sacred Heart Centre in Cap.  We will be doing some work at their nutrition centre and pre-school.

We had a great time in Pignon and are now excited about what this week holds.

More to come!

Teacher education workshops in Pignon

We had a full day of workshops with 30+ teachers in Pignon yesterday. The teachers represented different schools from the area and we were hosted by College de la Grace. We had an excellent response to the following workshops:

-teaching with courage and integrity (Steve)
-leadership in teaching (Jhonel)
-teaching to students' strengths and needs (Jenni)

Jenni teaching with the help of Jhonel (notice the lovely Laurier banner!)

Here are the participants (each given a certificate of accomplishment):

It was an excellent day and we are thankful for the opportunity to serve and learn here.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Street Markets and Playing With Children in Haiti

Karley Writing:

 In the evening of our first day here, we decided to head off on an adventure to the street markets right outside our guest house. It was a very interesting experience, seeing as most of the woman were selling the exact same merchandise. Some woman even started to push each other when fighting over Jess, who was about to purchase a souvenir that both woman were selling. They are all very persistent; they like to grab you by the arm and lead you over to their part of the road. I didn't end up buying anything since I was too overwhelmed, but I watched as other members of the group bargained for the things they wanted. I then had the unusual experience of a boy coming up to me (I'm pretty sure he was a few years older than me), starting a conversation, and then asking to marry me. I declined politely, stating that I didn't think it would work out between us. He then tried to sell me some bracelets, so I took that as my cue to rejoin my group. I happily took pictures of the children after that, who were roaming around and playing with each other. 

As soon as we returned from the street markets, we had about an hour of sunlight left so we decided to hang out with some of the kids who were playing soccer in the front area. Apparently some of the kids didn't want to play with us, and ran off with the ball to start their own game. We then decided to join an intense game of basketball that was taking place, and then Jess had the idea to grab a frisbee/boomerang (which we later named "The Frisberang"). While we were playing, Jess and I noticed a little boy who was having some troubles with keeping up his pants, and we later realized that his button was broken. Jess ran up to the guest house and brought down a new pair of shorts for him, which he smiled brightly at and quickly put on. He spent the rest of the evening with us, and we had a really fun time.

Paper Jewelry in Pignon

Karley Writing:

Yesterday afternoon the girls, myself and Blake headed over to a school and church behind the Haitian streets to buy some jewelry that was being sold by women in the community. This was the first time the women had gathered together to sell their merchandise collectively. They were all hand-made by the women and they were keen to get pictures with those who bought their specific items. Everyone bought something, whether is was bracelets, key chains, earrings, or necklaces. We learned that since they were crafted by hand, some jewelry could take up to 8 hours to make, which was the reason why they were so expensive. I ended up buying 4 bracelets, which ended up costing me $20.00 American. This is the woman who made the bracelets I bought, she was more than happy to take a picture with me.

As a special bonus to our time in that area, we saw children playing on the top of the roof of a building right beside the school. When we asked the locals what it was used for, we were informed that it was an orphanage, which was the first one we had seen. As we entered, the bottom floor was very bare, aside from a lone bicycle lying on the ground. We continued upstairs to find out that all 8 girls were sharing one room and all 7 boys were sharing the other. They were all very excited that they had visitors, and we were all sad to say goodbye. We were hoping to go back today to deliver some toys and stickers, but where unable to carry out that idea.

College de la Grace - Pignon

This morning we spent about 4 hours participating in the 20th anniversary of Caleb Lucien's College de la Grace in Pignon. Caleb has done amazing work with this school. It has 1200 students and has added a vocational program. One of the ingenious things Caleb did when he started the school was to buy 8 motorcycles to use as taxis to bring teachers to his school. The reason he did this was because the school is in a rural area and he couldn't recruit top quality teachers from the immediate vicinity.

Twenty years later, CDG is recognized as one of the top schools in the north if not the entire country. Caleb will give scholarships to the top students to study in the US, Cuba, and DR on the condition that they return to Pignon for some years of service to the community. The alumnus of the year award was given to one such student who received medical training in Cuba and was not back in the local hospital as a doctor.

Here is a photo of Caleb (at the mike) giving a very impassioned speech about his vision for the future of education in Haiti. He joined the Laurier group in the evening for some Q and A which was enjoyed by all!

From Toronto to Pignon

Steve writing:

We had an amazing day yesterday. Unlike when I normally fly to Haiti, our flights were (almost) on time! We were an hour late leaving Miami which meant getting into Port au Prince around 4 pm. We picked up our luggage (all 17 pieces of checked bags) and found our driver. Then it was a matter of figuring out how to get 17 pieces of luggage onto the top of the van - this gives a sense of the packing

Once we were on our way, we got to see some of the sights of Port au Prince before heading into the country. After about two hours, we stopped in Mirebalais and provided some French books to Ecole de Choix. We then continued another two hours, much of it during night now, past Hinche to our destination ... Pignon. The last stretch of the road (1 hour) was mainly mud and, considering it had just rained, it was quite an exciting drive!

Once in Pignon, we were welcomed into the 3rd floor of the Lucien guesthouse. Our sleeping facility is divided into the male and female sections and there are a number of other guests staying in the house. We were all tired but stayed up for a couple of hours to debrief about the day and to talk about the next day (today). The next blog post will give some updates on today's exciting events!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Midnight ... time to pack up

In two hours we leave for the Toronto airport and the excitement is building! We get picked up at Laurier @ 2:30 am and meet some of our Toronto contingent at the airport. So far all flights are on schedule ... a minor miracle for American Airlines. Of all the trips I have taken to Haiti, I would guess that at least 1/2 have had delays or cancellations. Let's hope for better success this time around.

Here's what we anticipate (always important to remember!) happening in the next 24 hours:

-meet team at Laurier @ 2:30 am
-check in to AA and depart for Miami @ 6:30
-flight to PAP leaves at 12:25
-get picked up at PAP and drive to Mirebalais (Ecole de Choix) where we will leave French school books and see the new hospital that Partners in Health (Dr. Paul Farmer) has built
-continue to Pignon ... total travel time on the road in Haiti, approximately 4 hours

Our first three days will be spent in Pignon, celebrating the 20th anniversary of College de la Grace and doing a day of workshops for their teachers. More on these events in future blog posts.

Remember to follow us on Twitter using the following handles: @drstevesider or @karleysider or use the hashtag #laurierhaiti2013

So let the packing continue and the fun begin!

Monday, May 6, 2013

A youthful perspective to Haiti

This article appeared in the Woolwich Observer this weekend. It gives a nice overview of what my daughter Karley will be doing as the "social media lead" for our Laurier team which leaves this week for Haiti (click on the different coloured font below):

Bringing a youthful eye to work in Haiti

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wilfrid Laurier University team - 1 week until departure

We have had an amazing couple of weeks as some of the last details of our trip have come together nicely. We are in Haiti from May 9-19, with a focus in the first 3 days in a smaller community (Pignon) and then in Cap-Haitien (Haiti's 2nd largest city). The time in Pignon will be spent at College de la Grace (pre-school, elementary, secondary, and vocational program - well over 1,000 students) as they celebrate their 20th anniversary. On May 11, we will be working with 50 teachers on topics such as curriculum development, supporting students with special needs, and leadership capacity.

From May 12-18, we will be working with the Public University of the North at Cap-Haitien and the Haitian Ministry of National Education. We will be doing English as a Foreign Language in schools as well as providing workshops for school principals. We are excited to be working with Sacred Heart Center in providing support to their  pre-school and nutrition programs.

There has been some great uptake on The Waterloo Record story (click on the blue to read the story) about the Digital Mentoring Project:

BlackBerry made a very nice donation of new phones to the project and we have had 100+ used BlackBerries donated!