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South Valley Journal

Grace Lutheran School reaches out to support sister Haitian school

Jul 06, 2020 11:17AM ● By Julie Slama

Grace Lutheran School is collecting items to help a rural school through its Grace 4 Haiti drive. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

For several months, students at Grace Lutheran School have been donating laptops, soccer balls, educational supplies and other items to help their sister school more than 2,700 miles away.

Their effort, Grace 4 Haiti, will result in helping students and families in the rural village of Bouyaha with a shipping container filled with items from garden tools to start a community garden to cooking pots and utensils for making rice and beans for the school children’s lunch programs.

“We want our students to have a sense of service and world awareness,” Principal Shelly Davis said. “They’re realizing how much they have here and wanting to share it with students there. We’ve shared pictures, a PowerPoint and letters with them so they get to know them and want to help people in need with supplies and prayer.”

Originally the shipping container, which sits in Grace Lutheran Church and School’s parking lot in Sandy, was planned to be sent by their March 20 deadline. With the worldwide spread of COVID-19, that deadline has been pushed back and donations still are being accepted at a Grace4Haiti GoFundMe website or by donating new or gently used items, including toys and shoes by contacting the school at [email protected].

Grace Lutheran’s affiliation with Haiti began in 2015 when their pastor, Anthony Masinelli, came to the church.

“He came from Florida and already was involved with helping the Haitians. He introduced the efforts to our church and school. When he told us about Haiti, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, and that there wasn’t a school for kids in this rural area. We’ve raised money to build a school and get it going,” she said.

Davis’ husband, Del, was part of the first group that raised funds and went to the rural area to provide teachings to the local pastor and teachers with Bible studies, children’s vacation Bible school and beginning school lessons as well as beginning a school lunch program. They also worked in conjunction with a school of mostly middle school age students, a church and a bakery in Cap-Haïtien to help subsidize the school. 

Davis said that nobody from Grace Lutheran has visited recently because of riots and protests. 

“Haiti has an unstable government and 95% of the people there are low income,” she said. “Last we heard, the school is flourishing, providing education to children who previously didn’t have access to education.”

The Haitian Grace Lutheran School is one room that is partitioned for classrooms during the school day and has an altar in the front of the room for church services. The school opened in October 2018 with 60 students and has since grown to 100 students from ages 5 to 12. 

“They divide the school with the older kids learning sight words and a few who know how to read reading primers and in another partitioned room, there are the younger students who are just starting. They’re taught by volunteers, modeling mostly after the French school system,” Davis said.

The school has a two-walled kitchen where they cook meals over charcoal. Water comes from a well.

“Our students are wanting to know more of who they are. We have used Google Translate to write and read their notes in Creole, but with an English-French program, they’re learning more conversational English,” she said. “Helping these students is becoming a big part of our school, with every class and chapel service.”