About Me

My photo
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.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Another excellent blog with posts on Haiti

I have been amazed as I've read the blog posts of those who participated in the learning trip to Haiti last week.

Here is a blog, developed by Roopa Reddy, a colleague at Laurier, that I would highly recommend simply for its excellent content. You will also note that the most recent posts are from Laurier students who engaged with the Centre for Education for Women and Children in Cap-Haitien. I have had an association with this NGO for a number of years but have not spent the quantity of time there as Roopa, Laura, Jerry, and Katie did last week.

Click on the following to be taken to the blog: Edumodels

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Directing to other blogs on our recent Laurier learning trip to Haiti

I am aware of two other participants who kept blogs while on our Laurier trip to Haiti. Both are superb and provide different perspectives than I provided. Please consider taking some time to review them by clicking on the names below:

Bruce Alexander

Lindsay Sheppard

Monday, May 18, 2015

Partnerships and Friendships: Investments in "Global Perspective Capital" in Haiti and Canada

Our Laurier team returned to Canada early this morning. By all metrics, it was a successful trip including:

  1. Conversational English classes with approximately100 high school students at two different schools.
  2. Multiple math, science, and technology workshops for approximately 80 teachers in one urban and two rural school settings in northern Haiti.
  3. Support of micro-credit and other developmental programs for a Haitian NGO.
  4. Special education support and training at one school involving approximately 30 teachers.
  5. A cultural exchange involving 20 Haitian and Canadian university students at the Citadelle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But this doesn't provide a complete picture.

The foundational reason we engage in each of these projects is to form relationships that help Canadian and Haitian students and professionals to learn more about "the other." By learning about the joys and challenges that we experience in the various places in which we live, we also learn about the greater human experience.

What that means is that I become more aware, more sensitive, more willing to question, and more eager to engage in developing a global perspective.

It is difficult to measure these "mores" but the anecdotal evidence is strong ... we are building the global-perspective capital (i.e. the social and emotional structures to better understand the world in which we live) of many Canadians and Haitians.

In this sense, this past week does not end today but continues to pay dividends long into the future.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Wrapping up a productive and stimulating week in Cap-Haitien

Today was our last full day in Cap-Haitien and it was as enjoyable as each of the days before.

We met a group of 12 Haitian university students in Cap and drove to the Citadelle. The Canadian and Haitian students split into groups of four and toured the Citadelle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The students were then interviewed about their hopes for the future, both for themselves individually and for their countries. It was a powerful time of relationship-building and perspective-sharing.

 In the afternoon, we made our way to Labadie Beach. This is the area where Carnival Cruise Lines docks. We took a small boat to our own private beach. This was a great way to wrap up our trip. The group relaxed and enjoyed some amazing food.

This evening, we had our final debrief as a group. The group had to share one word which encapsulates the experiences of the past week. Here is the list of words:


It has been an amazing trip largely because of the high-quality of the participants. If you have been following along, I hope you have enjoyed the vicarious experience!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Why I love Haiti

People often ask me why I continue to be engaged with capacity-building in Haiti. Two distinct examples from today solidify my response.

Thelus and Evelyn

I have known Thelus for eight years. I taught him in a M.Ed. course and am a co-supervisor on his Ph.D.

Thelus is a risk-taker. He started a private school (La Cle) three years ago largely to support children in an impoverished community outside of Cap-Haitien. Many families don't pay any tuition to attend the school due to their limited means. Thelus teaches in other schools/universities to ensure that he can pay the salary of teachers.

Laurier has provided about 20 laptops to Thelus. Today, we saw the laptops in action and it was beautiful! In Evelyn's class, the activities were even differentiated for the children and this was facilitated by their access to laptops!

I am so proud of Thelus for having a vision for education in the community. He and his family have many hardships (beyond the financial burden of paying for the school, they also have a son with a significant disability). However, Thelus and Evelyn remain resolute in their vision!

 On a side-note, we had an awesome game of soccer today ... blancs (that's the name given to whites/outsiders) + 2 of our secret weapons (Doody, Samy) vs. the kids from La Cle. There were some heroics from the likes of Bruce Alexander, Bree Chaput, Lindsay Shepperd, Lydia Frey, Doody, and Samy.

The final score shall remain a secret.


 Samuel and Doody
 picture from last year (just to make sure I look as young as possible)

I got to know these two young men three years ago when our first Laurier team came to Cap-Haitien. Doody was the very first student I met at a large, over-crowded public high school. He engaged me in a conversation in the school's hallway and I immediately recognized a special quality to Doody. He introduced me to his friend Samy and I quickly realized that these two young men had strong personal qualities and I could see that they would be leaders in their communities, if not their country.

Today, we were able to visit Samy's home. The hospitality of his parents and sisters, in the midst of challenging circumstances, really humbled me. The family is incredibly gracious and humble. We were offered fresh fruit and we visited for an hour or more and I kept thinking, "what do I have to offer?"

I am still not sure what I have to offer Thelus, Evelyn, Samy, and Doody. I can certainly offer friendship, despite geographic and linguistic barriers. That may be enough but I wonder what else I/we can do to help them in their journey of building the capacity of this country?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Supporting English language development ... and forming relationships: Laurier teacher candidate perspectives

The following was written by the Laurier teacher candidates who are participating on the Haiti Listening and Learning Team.

Today was the last day of teaching in Haiti for the Laurier Teacher Education Candidates.  After 3 days of preparing lessons and thinking of helpful ways to engage the students and teach them what they wanted to learn in English, it is hard to believe it is coming to an end.

We got to the Regina Assumpta Girls School where we would be teaching for two and a half hours in the morning.  The girls came in on their holiday to participate in an English class with us.  These were the girls that the TECs had met on our first day in the schools.  One group learned basic conversational English skills such as family, food and conversation starters.  The other group learned pronunciation, and did little skits about meetings and greetings.  Both classes learned a little bit about Canada. 

Throughout the week we have been arriving at the school during one of their recess breaks.  Everyday they play a version of king’s court dodge ball.  There was a big tournament happening between classes through the week so we couldn’t play with them.  Today in break, the TECs got an opportunity to play the game.

All 20 members of our group met at Lakay restaurant for lunch.  It was the first time in a week that we got to choose what we ate, and we all took advantage of that.  There was a lot of conch, pork and cashew chicken.

After lunch we headed to Susan Schuenke and taught our last class with them.  The TECs have working with the same groups for the entire week.  The students are in a 4-day English program that ran after school each day for upper year students.  Over the week one group focused on basic conversational English and interacted with Canadian students via snail mail.  The other group focused on meetings and greeting, and building conversations using skits.

At the end of the class, we combined the two groups for a certificate ceremony.  Both the Canadian and Haitian national anthems were sung proudly.  Students received a certificate of completion, Canadian pins and hats for participating in the program. Students were really grateful for their opportunity to learn English and we were grateful for the opportunity to teach them.
Overall we had an amazing week teaching English to the Haitian students and learned a lot from the invaluable experience.  As we type this we are already getting messages on Facebook and WhatsApp from our new Haitian friends!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Feeding babies, training mothers: education in many forms (Blog post written by members of Laurier Enactus)

Some of our Laurier team in Haiti has volunteered to write some of the blog posts. Today's post is written by Laurier Enactus members.

As part of this year’s service learning trip to Cap-Haitien, Haiti, the Laurier ENACTUS team (an organization based on applying business skills to address social needs) has been spending time at a partnering nutrition centre. The nutrition centre is a hub for many services and programs, with an aim to develop the capacity and skills of young mothers in the long term, while addressing nutritional deficiencies in their babies in the short term.

 Babies at the nutrition centre
Over the past year, our small team (three Laurier Business students and one faculty member) has spent time researching improvements to an existing microfinance program at the centre.

In just a few days of being here in Cap, we are really appreciating the critical importance of presence on the ground to really LISTEN to the concerns and needs of people we are working with, and to understand broader context. Skype calls don’t always do this justice!! So we decided to take a step back, and put our research on microfinance aside.. just for now!

At our first full day at the centre, we spent the morning learning about the centre's history, driving philosophy, and overall challenges. We then spent the afternoon mapping out a “gap analysis” on sticky notes (who doesn’t love sticky note mapping?!). This helped us to hear what the Field Director (Andre) and the Office Manager (Denise) identified as needs that women, funders and the centre have, and the gaps that may exist within current programs. Finally, we were able to identify possible opportunities for improvement, including the microfinance program.

 Getting to know new Haitian friends
Although this may not seem directly linked to education (or to our microfinance redesign!), our engagement with the centre has helped us see that education really does happen in many forms. A few of the life skills classes offered to mothers of children in the nutrition centre, as well as to others have really struck us in their value; the Alpha Literacy program for example, helps adults become literate and numerate, some of whom have never been to school before. Seeing two GRANDparents(!) learning to read and write creole was a powerful moment for us; a realization that developing capacity can happen in small and big ways, at various ages, driven by local leadership and relevant training. We are also appreciating that these programs do not necessarily happen in formal institutions.

As for the rest of our trip, we plan to come back to how microfinance fits in the grand scheme of the centre’s work and what structure makes most sense for that program. For now, we are happy to learn how all the pieces of the puzzle can fit together!

(You can also see this post, and others, at www.edumodels.ca)

- Roopa Reddy (on behalf of Laura Douglas, Jerry Liu and Enactus Laurier)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Dodgeball, Career Options, and Pick-up Lines: Highlights of the day in Cap-Haitien

Our team split into four groups today:
-Bruce did some follow-up special education work
-our Laurier Enactus group spent the day at the centre where they are supporting the micro-credit
-our "French leadership participants" had meetings at College Notre Dame to plan some workshops on math/science
 -the fourth group - our Laurier B.Ed. students - is the focus of today's blog post...

We started today by visiting College Regina Assumpta, a school we have worked with in the past. Our B.Ed. students spent the morning working in two classes where the teacher failed to show up to teach! The Regina students loved the opportunity to interact with our Laurier students and our students are looking forward to returning tomorrow for a giant game of dodgeball! Our group loved watching the girls play dodgeball ... there was some serious competition and cheering when a team won!

Three of us then went to College Susan Shenky to talk with the Philo (gr. 13) students about career options. It was interesting to hear how many wanted to be doctors. We discussed this later ... perhaps so many want to be a doctor due to the prestige, job security, and income. However, clearly not everyone would be a doctor in the room of 50 or so students. So we tried to encourage them to consider their skills and attributes in relationship to other career options.

In the afternoon, our Laurier B.Ed. students spent time at Susan Shenky working on conversational English skills. Some students worked on food items from Canadian grocery fliers ...

In the other group, I loved watching the students work on their "pick-up" lines (really, just casual interactions between friends!). Although parts of the lines were scripted, the students completely engaged in the roles! The highlight of the afternoon was one of the students singing a Celine Dion song ... with the whole class joining in!

We were delighted to welcome Rob McBride to our team today. Rob is a BlackBerry executive who has been a significant supporter of the work we have been doing in Haiti. Our team is now complete!

Monday, May 11, 2015

School visits and first day of ESL teaching in Cap-Haitien, Haiti

What an amazing first day we have had in Cap! It's always great to come back here and this trip is no exception to that statement. It is particularly rewarding to be part of such a strong group ... a real tradition for the Laurier team!

Our morning was spent touring three schools including College Regina Assumpta with which we have had a strong relationship for a number of years (picture below of primary students at Regina):

We also visited the Nutrition Centre, a Haitian NGO that Laurier has supported through the donation of some laptops. Pictured below is the nurse who is on staff; she is entering information about children's development stages into an Excel file.

In the afternoon, the Laurier Enactus students learned more about the micro-credit program at the Nutrition Centre and started planning for their support of this project. The Laurier Education students started their ESL program at College Susan Shenky. I was so proud of our students as they quickly engaged the senior high school students in conversational English. Everyone left the classes eagerly anticipating tomorrow's classes!

There are a lot of exciting things planned for the days ahead ... support of English language teachers, professional development in math/science for teachers,  a social media project with university students, meetings with senior high school students to talk about future plans, more conversational English classes, micro-credit development, and a trip to the Citadelle!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Arriving in Cap-Haitien: Emily's Perspective

Against all odds, we arrived in Cap-Haitien ahead of schedule today.

After meeting at the Toronto airport at 3:30 am this morning, we've had a full day of flights, but miraculously landed at the Cap-Haitien International Airport (which typically receives one airplane per day) before 3 pm!

Although I (Emily Sider, 2nd year Laurier Arts student and daughter of Steve who writes this blog) have been to Haiti before, this was my first trip to Cap-Haitien and arriving to the Stella Maris (our guest house) was a wonderful surprise. I'm writing this blogpost while looking out at a beautiful ocean view below.

Our team gathered on the patio overlooking the water, and we were introduced to Andre (who manages the nutrition centre and microcredit that our business/Enactus team members will be working in) and Henoc (a pastor at a local church here in Cap-Haitien and founder of a school we will be working in). We decided that a much-needed break from a day of early flights was in order, so we walked down the hill from the Stella Maris and had cold drinks at a patio restaurant right on the ocean. Just to have today to rejuvenate and prepare for the week to come - which would not have been the same if we had had flight complications - has been amazing.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Haiti Listening and Learning Trip: Pre-departure

In just a few hours we will be departing from Toronto to Miami and then on to Cap-Haitien, Haiti. Here's a map of where we are heading ... see if you can find Cap-Haitien:

Our team of 20 will be involved with a number of learning experiences including primary and secondary schools, universities, and Haitian NGOs that are working with women and children. There are 10 of us from Laurier on the team and the remainder are from school boards, businesses, other universities, and the Ontario Ministry of Education. It is a great group!

We will be posting reports on this blog every day and we hope that you enjoy following along virtually! You can also follow us on Twitter if you want more real-time updates and pictures: #LaurierHaiti2015.