Alumna Pleads to Alma Mater for Haiti

International School of the Peninsula (ISTP) alumna and Stanford University graduate, Marie Josée Mont-Reynaud visited her alma mater (ISTP) to talk to students about relief for Haiti, and that every gift and action matters.
Feb. 3, 2010 - PRLog -- International School of the Peninsula (ISTP) alumna and Stanford University graduate, Marie Josée Mont-Reynaud, stopped by ISTP to talk to students about relief for Haiti and her organization, If Pigs Could Fly.

Marie-Josée (or, Marie-Jo, as she is affectionately called), graduated from ISTP in 1999. Her former teachers, Barbara Greiner (now Middle School Principal) and Clementine Bonneville, were gathered in an assembly, along with a large group of middle school students, to listen to Marie-Jo explain Haiti's plight.

Since the recent earthquake in Haiti, over 100,000 people are presumed missing or dead. Marie-Jo compared this number to the Bay Area's Loma-Prieta earthquake in 1989, which killed 63 people. She asked the students if they knew why there was such disparity between the two numbers and the two countries.

Marie-Jo explained the conditions of Haiti, and how it is one of the poorest countries in the world. Haiti was colonized, exploited for its resources, and also used as a slave colony. Modern Haiti has not recovered from the distress of its past, and as a poor country, cannot commit to the same building codes and standards as other, more affluent nations. Therefore, when the earthquake hit, the destruction was wide-spread and massive in the larger cities such as Haiti's capital, Port au Prince.

For years, Marie-Jo and her organization, If Pigs Could Fly, have spent their time helping Haitians in the mountains of Latournelle, to improve their educational, medical, and agricultural projects. No basic infastructure exists in this poor, hillside community in rural Haiti. People have no access to roads, potable water, health care, telephones, electricity or public schools.

One point that Marie-Jo made had hit home: there are no public schools in Haiti. Families must pay for their children to attend school. In a country as underdeveloped and poor as Haiti, this is a daunting task.

Marie-Jo spoke to the students about what they could do to help Haiti. There are local organizations that need help organizing or packing supplies; donations of small amounts -- even coins -- can help in so many ways. In fact, If Pigs Could Fly has created an emergency relief fund as a result of the earthquake on January 12. All monies collected for this fund will go directly to disaster relief efforts - including medical care for those injured and rebuilding efforts for collapsed homes and schools. Since If Pigs Could Fly is a small organization, they accept small donations. Even donations of $5 make a big difference in their small efforts to help people recover from this disaster. The organization has no overhead and no administration, so all funds go directly to the mountain people of Latournelle, Haiti.

At the end of the assembly, Marie-Jo opened the discussion to questions from students. A very thoughtful question was asked, "Do you think that this earthquake will make things better or worse for Haiti in the end?"

Marie-Jo answered honestly that although the earthquake was an unfortunate disaster, the world's eyes are now on Haiti and hopefully, conditions will continue to improve.

When asked why she got involved with Haiti, Marie-Jo clearly stated that it was due to her French-immersion background at ISTP. "We had to do a paper in high school, and I picked Haiti because I went to school here [at ISTP] and can read and speak French. I thought, I could read all the French documents and understand."

Marie-Jo went on to clarify that although Haiti has French roots, the actual language of the country is Creole, with similarities and differences to French.

The assembly ended with ISTP Middle School Student Council Representatives presenting Marie-Jo with a donation of approximately $400 for her organization. Students Samuel St. Claire, Amit Tal, Camille Bourbonnais, Luma Hamade, Raphael Serrano, Lauriane Glessner, Mimi Tram Le, Amély Joly, and Vienna Hoffmann had been fundraising in anticipation of Marie-Jo's arrival.

If Pigs Could Fly also seeks to create long-term connections between Americans and Haitians, as well as uses funds to purchase livestock for Haitian children to breed and later sell, to offset the costs of going to school. The program also supports a sustainable agriculture and school feeding program by funding the planting and harvesting of peanuts. Women in Latournelle use the peanuts to make peanut butter which is served on crackers to school children. This is sometimes the only food the children will have during the day. All projects focus on providing work, not charity, which empowers the Haitian people instead of creating dependency on outside support.

If you would like to make a contribution to If Pigs Could Fly, you may:

   *  make a gift via PayPal to the account:
   *  send a check, made out to: Haiti Project - If Pigs Could Fly - 4250 El Camino Real, C126 - Palo Alto, CA 94306

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ISTP is an independent, co-ed nursery-8th grade bilingual education day school located in Palo Alto, CA, with Chinese immersion and French immersion programs.

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