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Blog / Mar. 22

The Aptos Commitment to Haiti: 3-Year Update

Diane Cerulli

Editor’s Note: In May 2016, Aptos announced a long-term commitment to help improve the lives of vulnerable children in Haiti through our 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. Here’s a look at the progress that has been made.

The Community
The community of Bercy, approximately 10,000 people, lies along a strip of land running from the ocean to the foothills of the mountains in Haiti. The members of the community lack basic life resources such as clean drinking water, education, medical care and secure home environments. I, along with many others, have given a lot of time, energy and passion to work alongside RetailROI and Lifesong for Orphans to support their mission of strengthening this community.

Diane volunteering with RetailROI in Haiti

Here are a few examples of the positive change that has been brought to Bercy thus far:

  • 132,000 meals were served in 2018.
  • 275 job opportunities have been created.
  • Clothing depots have been organized and over 500 residents were fitted and provided with new clothing. (Significant gratitude is owed to Aptos customer Tommy Bahama for its generous clothing donations.)
  • Four resident homes for orphaned students were built, with at least two more planned for 2019.
  • Construction of the first and only medical clinic at the Lifesong MBO Bercy campus has begun.
  • Aptos’ Noel Goggin and other colleagues have implemented trainings focused on customer service, food safety and team building with the Bercy staff at Lifesong MBO.
  • More classrooms have been built to accommodate more students.

The Children
What I’ve learned most during my volunteering is that no matter how little you have, how little you know or how little you earn, happiness is possible. The children of Bercy exude happiness, and a light shines within them that is reflected on each of us who have made the trip to help.

All of us who have visited Bercy are aware of the life-changing impact we can have on the local children, and also the impact the children have on us while we are there.

Aptos’ Nikki Baird went on the most recent Haiti trip, and said this:

“One of the emotionally hard parts of my visit was seeing just how hungry those kids are to learn. We brought coloring books – the pages they tussled with each other over were the activity pages, like “match the picture to the word” or a sheet of practice math. To see all of that potential – I don’t want to say that it’s wasted, as that’s not entirely fair. But it lies fallow. Untapped, except for the lucky few who happen to be within the realm of influence of organizations like Lifesong.”

RELATED POST: You can read Nikki’s full blog post on what Haiti taught her here.

As a result of the efforts of Lifesong and the support of RetailROI and its charity partners, tremendous opportunities have been extended to the children of Bercy. Here are a few highlights:

  • 135 children will receive a superior high school education.
  • 35 children are participating in an “allowance program” to learn the value of hard work. A portion of their payments can be spent on personal needs, and 10% is held in a separate account that teaches them how to save.
  • 41 laptops are available in the school computer labs, with students being taught basic Office programs.
  • 100 kids were a part of Camp Courage, a summer swimming camp that encourages swimming and academic enrichment for disadvantaged and disabled children.
  • 800 kids participated in a soccer outreach program, encouraging stronger, healthier communities.

It’s also safe to say the Bercy children have made major impacts on our lives as well. Watching them learn basic skill sets and seeing them empowered and embracing camaraderie has helped inspire my ongoing commitment.

Diane volunteering at school in Haiti

On one of my last visits, I got the opportunity to volunteer in an English class. When the students would accidentally slip back into their native language of Creole, I would remind them they had to speak English in this class. It became a running joke between the students to correct each other when they would slip back into Creole, but the best moment was when their teacher accidentally slipped into Creole. The students had a field day letting him know. The teacher and his entire class were laughing; it was definitely a moment to remember. And I know the next time I pop into their English class, they will remember this and either always speak English or have fun catching their classmates or teachers slip up.

The Love, The Happiness, The Hope
The Bercy children share such an unbelievable bond and have so much love to spread to those of us who visit them. There’s no chance of leaving without feeling love and gratitude back. We always go into these trips asking Mike and Amy Rivas, the directors of Lifesong MBO, what supplies we can bring, what technology we can set up, what’s on our list of to-dos. Every time their response is “just love on the kids.” So that’s what we do and what I enjoy doing most.

In addition to opening up our eyes to so much love, happiness and hope, there are many lessons to be learned when visiting Haiti – no matter what age you are. Aptos’ Helen Kostis brought her two sons to Bercy, and this is what they had to say:

“This was an eye-opening experience. I wish my friends could see how these kids live. We take for granted how lucky we are.” – Antonio, 16

“The kids are so happy with so little. They play with broken toys that other people throw away. I’m never going to forget this.” – Dionisio, 14

What I mentioned in my last blog post about RetailROI still stands true today: The Lifesong orphanages and schools are filled with genuinely happy kids who have a real passion for learning. For me, and for Aptos, it’s a privilege to help.

Interested in joining our next trip to Haiti?
I encourage you to join us on a trip where you will interact with students, staff and the Bercy community, providing them with knowledge, encouragement and support to achieve their hopes and dreams. It is also a great trip for teens to join, as it is guaranteed to be a life-changing experience for all. Interested in learning more? Email me at dcerulli@aptos.com.