PROGRAM BRINGING YOUNG HAITIAN STUDENTS TO SASKATCHEWAN
(Regina Leader Post) - By Tonaya Marr
Two years after an earthquake devastated their country, five Haitian students are getting the chance to make a change - beginning with their education.
The students will be given the chance to learn away from home, at Ecole Secondaire College Mathieu in Gravelbourg.
Part of a program called "Project Haiti," the students will be moving to Gravelbourg for the opportunity to finish high school. Project Haiti is a partnership between College Mathieu and Western Canada Relief for Haiti.
The project is meant to create some of the future leaders of Haiti through high school education.
The students will be taking an alternative curriculum that focuses heavily on leadership skills, along with typical high school courses.
After graduation, organizers hope the students will either return to Haiti to help rebuild the devastated nation, or pursue further education.
"My personal dream is that those kids will realize that they can go back and educate their brothers and sisters," said Frankie LeClare, superintendent of education for the Conseil des Ecoles Fransaskoises. "So they can contribute in terms of education, health in the country or infrastructure."
The organizations sent a group to La Petite Savanne, a community adopted by Western Canada Relief for Haiti, in March. The group met with 20 students nominated by community leaders and elders to take part in the program. From this group, five students between the ages of 16 and 18 were chosen to live and study in Gravelbourg, while earning their high school diplomas,
"We had to go (by) their age, their level of maturity - those were the first two criteria," said LeClare. Students were also evaluated on their verbal and oral French skills, and the likelihood that they would be able to remain in Canada for the duration of study.
"You have to remember that these individuals have nothing," said Roland Lafrance, chairperson of Western Canada Relief for Haiti. "All they have is the ability, we feel, because we had a team go down and assess them. They have the ability, according to our team, to be successful."
Gravelbourg and College Mathieu were natural choices for the project, as the high school is French-speaking and has dormitories available for the foreign students.
"I personally think it's wonderful," said Nicolas Couture, a Grade 12 student at College Mathieu.
"It's a great way to advertise our school and to participate in the reconstruction of Haiti."
It will cost $26,500 per year to keep each student at the school. However, volunteers believe getting the students into the country will be easier than it sounds.
Both organizations are seeking donations from individuals, organizations and companies.
The five students will require air transport, clothing, insurance and lodging, as well as other expenses, during their time in Canada.
Already, the project has raised around $8,000 for their cause.
Being able to introduce the students to the school, community and Canadian weather in September would be ideal, but in order to make that happen, funding would need to be secured soon.
LeClare plans to see the program continue and evolve over the next five years, hopefully resulting in partnerships with post-secondary institutions.
"It's a long-term goal for us, but really and truly, when you think about it in terms of Haiti, it's a short-term goal."