Editor’s Note: In 2016, Aptos announced a long-term commitment to help improve the lives of vulnerable children in Haiti through a partnership with RetailROI and Lifesong for Orphans. Aptos’ ongoing support for the community of Bercy, Haiti, includes monetary donations, material resources and hands-on volunteering. As we approach the five-year mark of that commitment, here’s a look at the progress being made, told by Aptos' Diane Cerulli, who is closely involved in the initiative.
As a result of Haiti’s political unrest and the global pandemic, it has now been more than three years since I was in Haiti with my Aptos colleagues and RetailROI friends. Although these circumstances have prevented me from being there physically, it hasn’t stopped me and others from staying connected and supporting Lifesong MBO's efforts on behalf of Bercy, Haiti, from afar.
Through updates from Amy and Mike Rivas from Lifesong MBO, as well as initiatives such as RetailROI's SuperFriday event and Lifesong’s virtual vision trip, I and others have still been able to celebrate the positive change taking place in Bercy.
During this year's RetailROI SuperFriday event, keynote speaker Darryl McDaniels, superstar founder of Run-DMC, discussed how your situation doesn't define you. This really resonated with me when I think about the vulnerable kids in Haiti who live in a country that has had devastating natural disasters resulting in high levels of poverty, homelessness, unemployment and malnutrition and low levels of education.
Darryl went on to say that everyone has a purpose and they just need the opportunity and some help to fulfill their dreams. That is an apt description of what we are all collectively trying to do in Haiti. We want to offer help and hope, so the residents can best achieve their dreams.
The Lifesong MBO school in Bercy focuses on encouraging its students to be the persons they want to be, and to provide the education necessary to help them break the cycle of poverty in Haiti. In November 2020, 100% of the 9th grade class passed their national exam. These 9th graders have three more years to learn, grow and apply the critical-thinking education they will be receiving. Not only do they benefit from passionate, educated teachers, but they also have tools to assist their education journeys, including computer and science labs that Aptos and RetailROI helped fund and install.
Later this year, on July 31, 26 seniors from the Lifesong MBO school will be graduating, representing the first graduating class since the school opened. This is a big milestone and I for one will be there in person or via Zoom to cheer them on as they proudly accept their diplomas.
The Lifesong MBO team is working on a plan for the graduating students to help them successfully transition to the next stage of their lives. As part of this process, they are identifying each student's passions and interests in continuing their education at a vocational school or university, or helping them find a job. Once again, I am amazed at how the Lifesong MBO team continues to find new ways to help the children (and young adults!) reach their dreams.
To make sufficient and sustainable change, it’s not just about educating the future leaders of Haiti. It's also about helping the larger community. Here are a few ways Lifesong MBO, RetailROI and Aptos are investing in the development of Bercy.
Medical Clinic: After years of planning, the Medical Clinic opened up in December 2019 and consistently sees 60 patients a day. People are lined up waiting when they open, and they depend on this clinic because of its affordability, excellent staff and access to pharmaceuticals. Due to the large number of babies and children in the area, the Medical Clinic is hoping to add a blood lab and pediatrician.
Job Creation: Dependable jobs are essential to vibrant and healthy communities and families. To help support job creation in Bercy, the Lifesong campus currently employs 75 adults at the Lifesong farm, guest house and boutique. I've spoken to many of these employees and they are so grateful to have a steady job, be respected, have access to healthy food, and have enough income to start saving for a home of their own.
Kids Programs: Lifesong MBO provides meals to over 1,000 kids through its school, feeding program and weekly kids camp. The group also provides activities such as a weekly soccer program that 800 boys and girls participate in, as well as swimming lessons during the summer. These programs provide nutrition and healthy activities, and teach important life skills such as teamwork.
Whether you are looking to donate funds for specific projects, want to take a trip to Bercy for hands-on volunteering or are willing to share your expertise to teach Bercy residents a skill or trade, there are many ways to get involved. If you are inspired by the stories of those in Bercy and want to learn more, reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit RetailROI.org.