Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Who and What is HaitiScholarships?

This is the second of our series on “What BonaResponds does”.  It is intended to (re)acquaint our followers and others about how much BonaResponds does and to get more people involved.  Lack of volunteers is always the #1 thing holding us back, ALWAYS.  So come help.  


HaitiScholarships.org is a spin-off of BonaResponds.  It is its own 501c3 that helps to pay for students schooling in Haiti.  

Haiti is one of the world’s poorest countries and also only about 700 miles from the US.  There are a million reasons for the poverty.  From corruption, to lack of education, and of course natural disasters the nation has had a very tough time over the past century.  This problem was greatly exasperated when Haiti was devastated by a 7.0 earthquake that killed over 200,000 people, leveled hundreds of thousands of buildings (estimated at 280,000), and left nearly a million people homeless. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Haiti_earthquake)

BonaResponds was active almost immediately sending medical supplies, crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs to groups on the ground in Haiti.  Many of our leaders went to Haiti on non-BR trips (BonaResponds itself was not allowed to go as it was deemed too dangerous).  

It was on these trips that we came to realize that the need for help in Haiti was much much greater than merely hauling rubble and rebuilding buildings.  Many of those we helped had little formal education and could not afford to either go themselves to school or to have family members go.  

We decided to help fund some Haitians going to school in Haiti.  Quite quickly it was decided that we’d expand and spin-off the newly started HaitiScholarships so that we could include more people and do fundraising that was separate from St. Bonaventure and BonaResponds. (you can only ask the same people so many times).  Also this allows us to disburse checks easier, collect money online, and shiled the university from any tax implications since our mission (educating Haitians) is different from that so SBU and could be a problem for the IRS. 
In 2011 we made a new charity and filed for our own 501-c3 status which was approved in 2012--therefore all donations are tax deductible! (Thanks to Alex for this!) 

Our board is made up of people from around the country and while Jim is still officially the president, he will be the first to admit that Alexandra Armstrong is the real driving force behind HaitiScholarships. 
Currently we have 43 scholarship winners from elementary school to college in Leogane and Port-au-Prince.  We'd love to get the number to 50 students and be able to follow them as they progress though their education and into jobs.

Biggest challenges?  

*  verifying school costs (typically about $250 a year for elementary school, $350 for High School, and $500-$700 for college and vocational schools) and assuring that the proper student is credited at the school level--anyone on the ground in Haiti want to help??
*  getting scholarship winners to give monthly status updates on how classes are going
*  fund raising--Haiti is far removed from the news and raising money is a challenge.

Next step: 

We hope to start a penpal program whereby students can write back and forth with volunteers in the US.  (This would be a GREAT class project if you are a teacher!)

Want to help?

  We are always looking for donors, people to organize fund raisers, and people to help spread the word on Haitischolarships.  Just email HaitiScholarships@gmail.com and be ready to get to work! 

Additionally, HaitiScholarships and BonaResponds work hand in hand on collections of school supplies that BonaResponds ships to Haiti.  These collections have changed from medical supplies to food and now they are shipping gently used notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, and even laptop computers.  To date over 70 pallets have been shipped. We’d love your help in raising that number and being able to help more in Haiti.


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