New beginnings: School in Haiti starts school year with added classroom, ET support
By Melanie Tucker | (email@example.com)
It’s been a long road, but a major goal was met last month when 47 preschool children started the year at a Christian school in Haiti — a school that has been built by a team of Haitian parents and a nonprofit located right here in Blount County.
The nonprofit is called God’s Plant for Haiti, and its founder, Jemps Maignan, is Haitian but now resides in Maryville. The school, named Ecole Planete de Dieu Pour Haiti, is located in Marmont, Hinche, about 60 miles outside Port-au-Prince.
Maignan just returned from Haiti after spending almost 50 days there, helping to finish up a third classroom so it could open on time. The school enrolls children ages 3-6 and gives them a Christian education along with the core curriculum of Haiti.
“We got a lot accomplished,” Maignan said upon his return. “The biggest thing was getting the classroom finished.”
Working on a future
Also while there, Maignan elicited the help of parents to clear a patch of ground and plant peanuts, which will be ready for harvest in a matter of weeks, he said. He had no trouble convincing the Haitians to lend a hand.
“It was wonderful to see people of all ages, men and women, come together,” he said. “They did all of the labor. It shows how much they want this.”
This is the second year for the school. Thanks to support from around the world and right here in East Tennessee, all of the children have uniforms and hot meals every day. There are three teachers and a principal in charge of the classrooms and also a janitor, cook and security person.
One of the obstacles to starting a large farm, which is Maignan’s goal, is lack of a nearby clean water system. He said they have to walk to a spring about 1⁄4 mile away and that will make it difficult to provide crops enough water to survive. Digging a well will be the best option, Maignan said. That would cost about $5,000.
But in the meantime, the parents and children at the school are elated to begin a new year with hope for their futures. Maignan said he wants to help the Haitians become self-sustaining, something they also want for themselves.
“It does make it easier when everyone comes together,” Maignan said. “They are doing this for themselves and are proud of the work they have done.”
Once a well can be dug, that will allow the school to plant several crops they can use to feed the children. Any surplus can then be sold, Maignan said.
A holiday visit
His next trip to Haiti will be very soon. Maignan is going back to take Christmas boxes to the 47 children and hold a Christmas party. Items for the shoe boxes are needed, he said. Things like toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, barrettes, underwear, small toys, pencils, erasers, hard candy, etc.
Maignan came to Blount County in 2007 and said he didn’t receive his first Christmas present until he came here. His parents provided a good life for him in Haiti but they were never able to afford gifts at Christmas, he said.
There are other needs Gods Planet for Haiti will be addressing over the next several months. The school needs a playground, Maignan said. But the water system will take precedence.
Thankfully, the recent hurricane that blew through Haiti didn’t cause any damage to the school. It did wreak havoc on other areas of this small nation, which has been the recipient of so many hard knocks over recent years, from the earthquake in 2010 to outbreaks of cholera and hurricanes.
Looking back at 2012, Maignan said he feels God has richly blessed this ministry and the people it serves. He is optimistically headed into 2013, realizing there is still work to do and more support required. He would like to be able to add a classroom to the school each year.
“The people of Blount County have been praying for a long time,” Maignan said. “We have been able to accomplish a lot because of that support. We are going to keep going. We won’t ever give up.”