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Vantage Team Visits Haiti
written by Staci Kaufman, Superintendent

The 2013 Haiti team returned safely a few days ago, and accomplished much good work in the past week. The Vantage Interact Club, affiliated with the Van Wert Rotary Club, sponsors a carpentry program in the mountain village of Borde, Haiti. Vantage students raise funds throughout the school year to pay the carpentry teacher's salary ($100 per month) and furnish supplies and hand tools for the students. The furniture made by the carpentry program is sold in Cap Haitien, Haiti, and the funds are returned to the customer service account to buy more supplies.

Social studies teacher Peg Bollenbacher, the club's advisor, has traveled to Haiti annually for 10 years. She will retire this year, and is turning over the Interact Club to science teacher Matthew Miller. Ms. Bollenbacher will continue to return to Haiti annually on her own, as she has a deep bond with the local Haitians involved in our project. This was my first trip to Haiti, as it was for Mr. Miller. Seeing the carpentry school and surrounding facilities, which include another school building for multiple grade levels, a church, and a small kitchen building and small administration building really affected us—all are cinder block buildings with holes to let in light and air. Vantage will continue to target resources to meet their instructional needs. As incoming president of Van Wert Rotary, my service project will likely be constructing a green structure, or Earthship, (google Earthship Haiti) to supply solar power and sanitized water to some degree. Several of Ohio’s Rotary club’s incoming Presidents have indicated possible interest in helping accomplish this important goal.

As I expected prior to going to Haiti, words cannot express what I saw and experienced during the seven days I was there. I have memories for a lifetime, a lot of photos of the culture and people, and a renewed commitment to our Interact Club's project in Haiti.

CAPTION 1: Ann, who runs the medical clinic in Borde, with one of the microscopes donated by Vantage.

CAPTION 2:Vantage Superintendent Staci Kaufman with Jocelyn, a kindergarten student at the Borde school in Haiti.


“What We Did on Our Spring Break”
Spring break will hold special memories for 3 members of the Vantage Interact Club and their advisor. Club Advisor, Ms. Peg Bollenbacher, Interact Club President, senior Danielle Taylor (Lincolnview), senior Tiffany Hahn (Paulding) and junior Samantha Spangler (Wayne Trace) all travelled to Cap Haitian, Haiti. The purpose of this trip was to deliver hand tools for the Vantage carpentry class in Bordes.  This year, 10 Haitian students graduated from the carpentry class that is sponsored and sustained by the Vantage Interact Club and their Rotary partners.  Since Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, it is necessary for the Club to not only teach the Haitians a skill, but to also provide the hand tools.
The Interact Club also collected and delivered 20 boxes of medical equipment and supplies, which was given to a Haitian medical clinic that treats orphans for free. While they were there, Bollenbacher and the students worked to sort the tools and medical supplies. They also visited the carpentry class at Bordes, Haiti, where the carpentry students, told the Americans to continue the educational program because it is just too important to end. “Seeing what little they had at their school made me feel very fortunate for what we have. They don’t focus on what they don’t have, but are grateful for what they DO have,” said Tiffany. On Easter Sunday, a graduation ceremony was held, at which diplomas and hand tools were distributed to the graduates.
The Vantage crew spent the week visiting friends, exchanging educational and cultural ideologies and visiting Haitian historical sites.  At Milot, Haiti, the team visited Christophe’s Palace. The Haitians built the palace in appreciation of Christophe’s leadership to repel the French from Haiti. The palace was destroyed by an earthquake around 1840. The students were impressed with the Haitian’s ability to carve and their other art work. As a reward for their labor throughout the week, the team spent a day at the beach, near Labadee, Haiti.



As usual, the students were initially shocked at the standard of living that Haitians must endure. It is difficult to imagine what daily life is like in Haiti. No running water, sewage systems, garbage pick-up or traffic laws, were just a few of the things that Haitians live with every day. Danielle said, “Looking out the window of the plane when we first arrived, and only seeing shacks and garbage, I just wanted to cry. But the people are nothing like what they live with – they are amazing and so friendly.”
New friendships were made, and a better understanding of other cultures was learned. The three American students said that they would NEVER take their standard of living for granted ever again!

Pictured above: Vantage students Danielle Taylor, Samantha Spangler, and Tiffany Hahn are surrounded by young Haitian children during their visit over spring break. One of the youngsters in the background holds Danielle’s smartphone.
Pictured at left: Vantage Interact club advisor, Peg Bollenbacher, hands out a Certificate of Completion to a graduating member of the Bordes, Haiti carpentry class.

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