Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What is happening? A BonaResponds update

A fast update since I have been remiss on getting newsletters out.

  1. We are SWAMPED with wheelchair requests.  Could really really use some more volunteers.  As I just this morning told a woman (Barbara), we can get 4 requests a week and it takes 2 weeks often to do a ramp, so there is a significant waiting list :(  Want to help?  Want to donate for one?  Each ramp costs about $1200 or so. 
  2. Saturday we will kick of the first Haitian tutor session.  VERY exciting!  Have rented out an internet cafe for two hours so they can have internet access.  We'd love to have you involved!Yes you can.  It is not rocket science (although if you want to teach rocket science, maybe it can be arranged too!)  It can be done from anywhere.  Locally, a group will be meeting in the Swan Business Building to walk do it together for the first time.  Come help! 10:45 on Saturday!
  3. Also on Saturday we will be finishing Karen's ramp! :)
  4. Sunday is a trail day.  11:15 meetup.  Garbage pickup and cutting downed trees in Bob's Woods.  It has been a rough winter!
  5. Shoe collections this week leading up to Barefoot Bonas day on April 29th.  We are also selling raffle tickets to help fund the shipping costs.  Shoes will go to SolesForSouls.
  6. BR-Dallas had a great weekend last week.  They worked at a the Circle R picnic for the Kids day.  Here are some pictures.
  7. BonaResponds has been helping in Pakistan.  Shaheen reached out to us and we are helping in there.  Last week he fed (partially with our donation) 300 people.  Amazing.  This is an area with many poor and now homeless people.  Want to help?  Donate and make a huge difference.  Each hot meal is about 80 cents. 
  8. Speaking of meals.  We got word this week from Feed My Starving Children that the 108,846 meals we packed are on their way to Guatemala!  
  9. More Good News from Haiti!  In addition to the tutoring program, we heard from the solar installer.  He can install solar electricity into schools for $2500 USD.  It is not as large of system as we had hoped, but it is all we can afford right now.  Goal: 3 schools by fall semester.  (What a great program for a class or business to sponsor!  Electrify a school and learn about solar energy at the same time!)
  10. Starting a new 501c3: (site will be built soon).  It will tie together many of the areas that have evolved since the founding of BonaResponds.  For instance it will work with Haitischolarships, BonaSIMM, Enactus, and Embrace it Africa on microfinance and education.  VERY excited about it!!
  11. Got a truly heart felt request from Jessie in Haiti.  He volunteered with All Hands back after the earthquake.  He is without a job and his house is in great need of repairs.  We are looking to help him.   The initial estimate for home repairs is just under $1000.  The tools we left (ok, the tools JustRespond left there in January) can be put to good use.  Anyone want to help sponsor this building project?
  12. looking for a summer intern position?  Send your resume to Jim.  It is non paying, but will look great on a resume and you can be helping people at the same time!  Would be partially for BR and partially for
  13. JustRespond may be making a trip to Haiti this summer but it is still uncertain.  SO many reasons to go, but money is tight and can only be send it so many directions.  Still deciding.
  14. Tired of reading?  Here is a soundcloud update (3 minutes of what is happening with BR). 
  15. Thanks this week to John and Anne, Zane, Lisa (another great Creole-English dictionary--Amazon only has 5 more.  Pretty cool!  Lets corner the, and Exxon-Mobil for donations!  It takes both volunteers and donors to make this work. 

Thanks everyone!  Hope you are having a great week.  jim

Looking to donate? click here! :)
Want to buy another dictionary for our tutoring program?  Click here :)
Want to volunteer?  SHOW UP!  :) It really is that easy.
Want a summer internship?  Email
Want to make a difference?  Do one or all of the above!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Haiti Updates

Haiti (Photo credit: elycefeliz)
April 8, 2014

The purpose of this is two fold: one to keep everyone up to date on what is happening and secondly to recapture the momentum we had in January.

(all costs are in USD.  1 USD is about 44.6 HGd.

What is happening? A lot! (Yeah I know, poor English).

* We had a HaitiScholarships Board meeting this past weekend.  It was good.  Several new board members who brought good energy.  They are interested in helping raise funds and hopefully raise the amount we can give.  Due to a lack of funds however we decided against opening the program up to new students at the current time.

* BonaResponds and Haitischolarships are teaming up with Achievenet (Normil’s internet cafe) to provide monthly online tutoring.  I am very excited about this!  We are renting the entire internet cafe (8 computers) for a couple of hours on Saturday mornings.  It is a definite Win:WIN:WIN!  (Haiti, Normil, and the students).  I hope it is the first of many similar programs.   We are also considering a program whereby teachers could get training and tips from teachers here as well.  This would improve the quality of classes in Haiti and likely lead to more interaction with US classes.

* A couple of science kits were sent to Haiti as a test case. The student leaders who are running this want to make it a long term project at many schools (and in multiple nations).  SO NEED feedback on them!  We can not stress that enough.  Think of them as test marketing.  Without feedback we will not know what is working and what is not working.  

*  Due to some troubles between the CJM primary and secondary schools, the primary school fell behind in paying their teachers.  A few of us (not BonaResponds) have stepped in (THANK YOU GREG!) and paid the back pay and committed to the payments for the rest of the semester (April and May).  This is a concern as we can not continue to do this long term.  It is our hope that the school will be approved for money from the Haitian Government by the summer and that will pay for the teachers (primary school students other than those in Kindergarten go to school for free).

* Wesley has identified a lack of food for students as the #1 issue holding back the schools.  We are looking into ways to lessen this problem.  In an ideal world some of the 108,846 meals we packed with Feed My Starving Children make their way to these kids as a short term solution.  Longer term we’d love to be able to sponsor a program there and in Gonaives to buy food (good for Haitian Economy).

English: Satellite image showing deforestation...
English: Satellite image showing deforestation in Haiti. This image depicts the border between Haiti (left) and the Dominican Republic (right). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* We have been working on a few very exciting “green” projects that we hope have impact both in the US and in Haiti (as well as elsewhere!).  The first is a solar heater made with recycled aluminum cans.  Even in WNY where there is limited sun, we have been able to get the temperature well above 200 degrees.  So far the tests have been mainly “Proof of concept” (as Reed would say), but the results have been amazingly encouraging and have led to an expansion of this idea.   We also are testing a VERY easy way to make a charcoal replacement using scrap paper.  This would eliminate many of the garbage fires that burn as well as eliminate the need to cut trees for wood.  It is so easy and cheap that every family could have their own.  Stay tuned.  Again results look VERY promising.  

* I have not heard any updates of late from on the pen pal program.  I hope it is working but typically lack of information is not good news.  Anyone writing? Receiving letters?

* After discussing with a couple of teachers at the Secondary School and George, we plan on going forward with a small solar power project there.  The cost of what we had hoped to get (over $7500) was too much.  We are capping our investment at $2000.  So we will start small.  In the same vein we are still waiting to get an official quote from Robinson on his solar request in Gonaives.  The cost estimate we got did not include shoring up the roof and when it was included the cost was both open ended and likely too much (about $4500).  

*  Five barrels are still in transit containing tools, irrigation kits, school supplies, and books.  They were shipped about a month ago so should be arriving relatively soon. Once they leave our possession we have no way of tracking them.  We will announce it as soon as we know more.  (FYI We paid $2400USD for the last shipment which was slightly lower than initial estimate--that does not count the cost of shipment to the schools via tap-tap.)   Incidentally, this is what the irrigation kits mean to one group in Gonaives: "let me know when you have an update about when the barrels / the Irrigation kits will arrive in Haiti. The irrigation kits will be very important for the participants now as we have just finish with the re-transplanting process and the plants will need a good watering process which the irrigation kits will be very useful for!

The BonaSIMM board rejected our proposed microfinance lending in Haiti (and Uganda) but the result will be a new organization that will be doing it by this fall.  We have already received pledges/donations for $3500 to start in Haiti.  

* GoodNewsHaiti is continuing but at a much slower pace than had been hoped.  We have almost 300 "likers" on facebook, but we are dragging on website and even on participation on Facebook. If someone wants to champion this cause, it would be a great thing!

* On April 29th, BonaResponds is co-sponsoring a Barefoot Bonas day to collect shoes that will be donated to Soles for Souls.  As Haiti is a large recipient of the shoes, this is a good way to help and to clean out your closet!

*  A summer trip to Haiti is still being debated.  This would not be a BonaResponds trip but would be very similar.  Cost is a major issue.  The need is clearly there.  Stay tuned.

* We are aware the HaitiScholarships webpage is currently down. We are working on it. (Anyone want to help/take it over?)

If you would like to help, get involved!  :) you can donate (, collect school supplies, tutor English for a couple of hours a month, write to penpals in Haiti, or much more.