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25949: Wharram - news - To Haiti from Hampton Roads: Educator takes skills home (fwd)
To Haiti from Hampton Roads: Educator takes skills home
A trip sharing skills with Haitian teachers led Beatrice Fequiere to an
ongoing mission in her native country.
BY ANGELA FOREST
August 10 2005
NEWPORT NEWS -- Beatrice Fequiere had hazy memories of life in Haiti when
she left at age 7.
But the images she saw upon her return more than three decades later were
clear and unforgettable: Huge potholes in the roads, no traffic lights and
buildings without running water or indoor plumbing greeted Fequiere in 2003.
"For a country so rich in history, it hurts," said Fequiere, who is an
assistant principal at An Achievable Dream Academy. "It just breaks my heart
when I see that. They are such a proud people."
Known today for its political instability, violence, poverty and
environmental problems, Haiti in the 1800s carried out the world's only
successful slave rebellion against France. It was also the first country in
the Western Hemisphere to ban slavery.
A friend's request for Fequiere to come back to Haiti and train teachers
this summer gave her an opportunity to maybe change the country's present
For several days in early July, Fequiere taught 17 teachers from throughout
Haiti, using tools easy for them to access for their classes - playing
cards, dice and the elements of nature.
"I used dice and cards to do simple multiplication," Fequiere said. "And
they showed me things. "One teacher showed me how they used the trees to
teach about the life cycle."
The workshops were at the Ecole Patriotique, a school that serves about 40
students in grades one through four.
The school is in Laogane, about two hours from Port-au-Prince, the capital
where Fequiere was born.
Fequiere's parents, who worked for the United Nations, left the country in
1967. The family lived in Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of
Congo) and Canada before coming to the United States. Fequiere became an
American citizen when she was 17.
"If it wasn't for my mom and dad having an education, that would be me back
there," she said. "That's why I decided to go back and help."
Despite media reports of armed gangs controlling the country, kidnappings
and illegal arrests, "I never felt in danger. I never felt threatened or
unsafe," Fequiere said.
Basic supplies such as books and paper are scarce in Haitian schools.
Still, the Patriotique school contained four donated computers, without
Internet access, that rely on generators for power.
A lack of funding keeps students from attending school more than four hours
a day. Just more than half of Haitian residents age 15 and older can read
and write, according to government statistics.
Most of the Patriotique's teachers had only a few weeks of training, said
Fequiere, and none had college degrees.
"But they were just as dedicated" as teachers in this country, she said.
In talking to students and interacting with teachers, "I was very proud to
be Haitian," Fequiere said. "They were poor and everything, but they're
doing the best they can with very little."
Fequiere hopes to tell Achievable Dream students about life in Haiti and her
travels there. She also has enlisted support from a few staff members and
teachers who want to accompany her when she returns to the country next
Donna McCuthen, a nurse, and Josephine Jones, a reading resource specialist,
both at Achievable Dream, said they would love to apply their job skills in
improving the lives of Haitians.
"I love reading and I love literacy," Jones said. "I'm sure I could learn
something and bring it back and modify it for (the Achievable Dream) kids."
Copyright © 2005, Daily Press