Haitian school built with local donations withstands Hurricane Matthew


Six years ago, as an earthquake devastated Haiti, Edeline Felizor laid on the third floor of a school for teachers with her arm pinned under the rubble, a broken neck and five fractured vertebrae. “I saw something hit my head, and I lost consciousness. After so many hours, when I woke up, I was under the debris. I didn’t know what to do. I was crying and then I started to sing songs of the Bible,” she told La Jolla Light.

Felizor was rescued and following surgery, she secured a humanitarian visa and moved to La Jolla, where she lived for her first six months in San Diego with physical therapist Stephany Hoffman. “Within a few days, we got her walking on a walker. We did therapy every day, and by the end of three weeks we had her walking!” Hoffman said.

Now Felizor lives in Escondido with her host family, the Shewmans. Byron Shewman’s skills as an interpreter took him to Haiti after the earthquake to help a medical team. There, he met Felizor and was instrumental in getting her and her sister — who came along as her caregiver — their visas.

During her stay in La Jolla, Hoffman and Felizor wondered how else they could help Haitians. As Hoffman explained, “She really felt strongly about how important education is, and she thought that if there was any help for Haiti, it had to come through the education of the next generation. That has always been her dream.”

Hoffman, Felizor and Shewman together founded Project Edeline, under the umbrella of the Youth Without Border’s, an organization administered by Shewman. With the help of many generous La Jollans, they said they gathered the funds to open a school in Croix Des Bouquets, Haiti.

Institute Edeline School (IES) opened its doors in 2012 with only one kindergarten class. Now, it is a K-Grade 4 service for children. “We started with 30 children and now we are at 135,” Hoffman said. “We began with kindergarten, and when they graduated, we let them go to first grade, and took on more kindergarteners. We are building upward.”

The services provided include a twice-daily meal for students and clean water. “In Haiti, once you’re serving food, people concentrate. We had to build a wall so we were able to provide food in a civilized way, and in this case, that all was very important for Hurricane Matthew, because it helped keep everything standing,” Hoffman said.

In a traditional-style classroom, the students learn math and English, but also basic life skills. “They are learning self-care and good health lessons and we are teaching them some basic home gardening,” Hoffman said.

She reported that earlier this month, after the pass of Hurricane Matthew through Haiti that killed more than 900 people, the IES is still standing, and most of the students are accounted for. “The building did great, that’s what we are so proud of, but the garden was wiped out, and there was some water damage. We’ve accounted for about 100 of the children, but we haven’t heard from about 30 ... they may have been evacuated to the top of the hill.”

Hoffman described how Principal Jean Monde Saintil crossed the river after the bridge collapsed, carrying his bike over his head, to go find his students.

Edeline Project accepts donations — $50 pays for vitamins and medicine; $100 for school supplies; $300 sponsors a student for one year and allows them to attend IES and receive two meals a day; $1,000 sponsors a teacher for a year; and $5,000 helps expand the school building so new students may attend.

Now, Edeline Project is sending water purification tablets and cholera medicine to Haiti. “Anytime after something devastating happens in Haiti, the water quality is always an issue, so with all the floodwater sitting there, bacteria grows, and if people don’t have access to clean water and they drink that water, they may get and die of cholera,” Hoffman said, adding that a few students have already been diagnosed with the disease.

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