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Most of you have been following Junior and Bestfriend since we met them when they were in their mid teens in January of 2010 after the Haiti earthquake. They lost their home, family members and identity papers. They were so motivated to help themselves that they ventured up to a field hospital and offered their translation services to medical staff. As volunteers, they were inspired by the medical services that they saw international doctors and nurses provide to their country. It became their hope to educate themselves so that one day they could provide medical care in their own country.
We were able to enroll them in high school in Port Au Prince and they graduated with honors and pride. Finding the right medical school and university was very challenging and after several efforts, Junior and Eder went to Universidad de Catolica Nordestana in the Dominican Republic. This move meant adapting to a new culture and the even bigger challenge of learning Spanish so they could successfully study in this new country.
Meanwhile, Vitiello, who had also volunteered at the camp, was busy trying to help at home after all the loss in his family from the earthquake. He eventually joined Junior and Bestfriend and completed high school in the Dominican Republic. He is now well into his civil engineering program at university and plans to eventually return home to Haiti and build earthquake-safe buildings
On October 1,2022, Eder and Junior graduated medical school! They accomplished this with very limited resources, often studying by headlamp and with hunger pains. The next step is to prepare for the US Medical Licensing exam by participating in a two year preparation program at Kaplan Medical School in New York. This is the best course of action for foreign medical students. Once they pass the exam, they will be matched to a residency program. Although Eder was able to get his visa and has begun his prep course, Junior is waiting for his paperwork and we are buoying his patience as he studies online. With their motivation, multilingual abilities, and enthusiasm, we know that all of their future patients will be blessed to receive their medical care! G.A.P. continues to support all of their living and educational expenses during this process.
In Haiti, at 14 years old, I was in a dangerous electrical explosion accident that burned some parts of my body and killed one of my little cousins. This accident allowed me to have the opportunity to come to Boston for medical treatment. I flew to Boston as lifeless as the grave; I was in the hospital for a while. One day, I woke up and found myself in a different country, the United States, wrapped up in bandages in a hospital bed. I had no idea how I got to this country and what happened to me. I was at the hospital for a while, the doctors thought I was going to die, but God gave me a second chance to live. I was badly injured, I got 3rd degree burned, and around 20-24 surgeries, and I am going to have more surgeries. I went through many medical processes, such as, x-rays, pressure garments for burn, physical and occupational therapy.
The hospital asked to release me and my aunt from the hospital, but I had no place to go and no family in America. Luckily, God put many wonderful people in path such as Dr. Nancy Sobel of Global Adolescent Project, Livie, Maura, and others. They helped me and my aunt find a place to stay; first, a shelter, now a nice public apartment. Those people are always there for me when I need them especially Nancy and Maura. I want to be a nurse so I can help people who are going through the same experience as me. I have been through it and I know what it feels like.
When I started doing well, I wanted to go to school. When I entered Tech Boston Academy I was in the 7th grade. Now, I am a senior. My perception of the school was different from those in Haiti. For example, there were no technology in schools in Haiti, and students had to do everything by hand. Also, in many Haitian schools, students are required to wear uniforms. Schools don’t provide transportation for the students so students have to pay for it. Furthermore, parents have to pay for their child to go to school from kindergarten through college unlike in Boston where parents only have to pay for their kids’ university. If the parents don’t have money to pay for their kids’ school, the kids cannot go to school. Schools in Haiti don’t have materials for the teachers to teach the students. One teacher teaches all the subjects while you have multiple teachers for each subject at any school in Boston. I was out of school a lot because of medical treatment for the burn.
Every experience was new and confusing to me, I had no idea of what to do or how to handle anything about the school. The school’s structure was hard for me to follow. The language was the hardest part, because I didn’t speak or know how to write in English. I couldn’t do the schoolwork, and didn’t understand the teachers. I often got lost and forgot what class to go next and I would end up crying. I was shy, and afraid to communicate with my peers because I didn’t want them to make fun of me or give me a hard time. My grades weren’t good, and I rarely completed the school work or study. I didn’t comprehend the material and didn’t know how to ask for help. Luckily, I transferred to the SIC Cluster side of the school, where there are many Haitian kids and teachers. That made things easier, and they were glad to help me and guide me through the school’s system.
I learned the importance of studying and getting good grades in order to excel as a student in my junior year and realized that education is the key to success in life and to accomplish my goals. Over the years, I got amazing grades, and did everything I needed to do to get those grades. I go to school every day, attend all my classes and come prepared. I stay after school almost every day with my teachers to get help with my assignments. I pay close attention in class, and when I don’t understand something about the lessons, I tell the teachers or get help from my peers. Over the years, I have grown academically and socially, and no longer feel like an outsider from the school.
I learned many lessons from my experiences.The increase of challenges of the school did not send me into panic, but instead helped me focus my thoughts on my goals and my future. I do have the ability to improve my chance of attaining my dreams. I intend on looking forward, rather than worrying about how high I rise or how far I may fall. Every failure and struggle provides ways to improve in life and do better next time.
UPDATE: Farah is now studying Early Childhood Education at Bunker Hill Community College. G.A.P. assists Farah with tuition and materials.
This project came out of our partnership with APAAC-Haiti, which is the only alcohol and drug treatment and prevention program for the entire country of eleven million people. We wanted to continue helping youth and wanted to create a program that would contribute sustainability to the community. The pilot project has identified three schools in high risk areas of Port Au Prince. The principals of the schools have identified four deserving students at each school who will be trained in drug abuse and HIV prevention and mental health counseling.
Each student will present prevention activities at their school. The parents of each student will also be trained and provide a prevention activity in their community at their church or other civic organization. GAP CREATE will provide all training and assist with tuition for each student. This is a big incentive as there is very little public school after grade three in Haiti.
We recently went to Jeremie which was the area of Haiti that was hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. Hurricane-force winds – 119 km/h (74 mph) or greater – affected about 1.125 million people in the country. The Haitian government assessed the death toll at 546, although other sources reported more than three times that figure. Nearly complete crop damage occurred in Grand’Anse and Sud departments, leaving the impoverished population without a source of food. Communication networks and the road system were also compromised. After the hurricane washed away the Petit-Goâve Bridge, southwestern Haiti was temporarily unreachable from the remainder of the country, which slowed the distribution of emergency aid. The ongoing cholera outbreak worsened after the hurricane, killing at least 29 people.
We completed five focus groups in the area and the communities are asking for mental health support and training. We are working to raise funds to train Mental Health Agents (paraprofessionals) who will then conduct monthly community education and prevention activities as well as be available for ongoing mental health and wellbeing activities. Our plan is to replicate this program in other hurricane affected ares.