Update: September 2016
School is back in session and the library is providing the community with a needed center for study and access to books and computers.
Update: August 2016
Anny Frederique (3rd from right), member of the Conseil Administratif of the Deschapelles Community Library was invited to attend and make presentations at the Green Education Symposium hosted by the National Library of Aruba which focused on conservation of soil and water. This is an issue throughout the Caribbean as well as the world. The Deschapelles Community Library has already begun a composting program and is beginning a recycling effort.
Update: July 2016
Summer Camp is up and running at the Deschapelles Community Library. Different week-long courses lasting a couple of hours take place each week such as healthy life styles and maximizing nutrition through food choices. Regular activities such as reading books, using LEGOS and educational games, and computer activities take place all day as well.
In addition, group sports activities are made available as there are few opportunities in Deschapelles for children to engage in different sports. Different volunteers from the community participate in the camp weeks. While August 8 focuses on introducing the library and all it has to offer to adults, that service will be ongoing throughout the year.
THE LIBRARY IS OPEN!!!
We and ODES are thrilled to announce that Bibliyotek Communitaire de Deschapelles (the Community Library of Deschapelles) has officially opened its doors to the community.
A celebration was held on January 8, 2016 in an all-Haitian affair with the people of Deschapelles, our collaborative partner, ODES, and the library’s Haitian supporters, FOKAL and Digicel. This is the culmination of a wonderful and productive collaboration between supporters of Sister Cities Essex Haiti and the people of Deschapelles led by ODES, an all-volunteer organization comprised of Deschapelles community members. Many thanks go to Haitian supporters FOKAL (Fondasyon Konsesans ak Libèrte) and Digicel. Now that the construction is complete, many people in the community are taking full advantage of this completely new opportunity in Haiti’s Artibonite Valley.
On April 9, 2016, SCEH Executive Committee members, Dan Taylor-Stypa, Jenifer Grant, David Evangelisti, Terry Parkinson and Kathleen Maher, attended a Dedication of the Library in Deschapelles.
Over 250 people helped celebrate the opening of the library including a representative from Digicel Foundation which provided a generous grant to ODES for the construction of the library.
A ribbon cutting ceremony after the Dedication was followed by a picnic for all who attended.
Since the opening of the library, approximately 200 people per week visit the library, clubs have been formed (including the French Club and the English Club), children’s reading groups have formed and many workshops and programs have been held. For example, on April 29, Dr. Rulx Narcisse, a doctor at Hospital Albert Schweitzer and President and Founder of the Haitian Astronomical Society, presented a program on astronomy at the library. See the video below of the highlights of the presentation!
The following is a report we received on January 21, 2016 from ODES member Anny Frederique:
“I have to share with you all that yesterday at the library, it was business as usual since inauguration: more and more attendees. There were the usual neighborhood kids who read (so many choices of creole and french books) to each other, alone and one came with a mother! and of course after reading they begged for a game of UNO so I taught Plerette [one of the librarians] so she could be a go-to adult who knows the game. We played the card game met for 7+ year olds with 5 kids, 2 of which were 5 and 6 years old!
SCEH Made a Book!
Carole Devillers, a prize wining National Geographic photographer, who created a series of photo books (Anna Goes To The Countryside, Anna Goes To School, Anna Goes to the Seashore, etc.), just created Anna Goes to the Library featuring Bibliotheque Communautaire Deschapelles!!! The Anna books are published in French and Kreyol. It will first be sold at the annual, very popular May book fair, Livres en Folie, in Port au Prince.
She very much enjoyed working with the Deschapelles librarians, Odverne Charles, Eulicaine Fleurisma, Plerette Mervil and Besly Belizaire, and the children visiting the library.
A film about the making of the library!
North Cove Films has made a seven-minute film about the making of the library. We invite you to view it by clicking here.
As of November 2015
The library building is nearly complete and the librarians are getting ready to welcome Deschapelles!!! Kathleen Maher and Terry Parkinson traveled to Deschapelles in November in this transition period from construction to operations.
They were so pleased to arrive early in the morning to a hand-washing demonstration conducted by ODES members in front of the library. Later that day, they were welcomed by a small group of children who are participating in story-time with the librarians.
So, while the building is not yet completed, ODES has slowly begun to introduce the community to the library. A construction punch list has been agreed upon including the installation of screens, completion of the library shelves, adding doors to the “twalets”, and installing the water tank on the “chateau dlo” (the water tower near the gatehouse).
The librarians plan to invite teachers to tour the library before it opens to review the rules and procedures with them so they can return and tell their students. ODES will be making a decision soon regarding the “official” opening of the library. So stay tuned!
Kathleen and Terry also spent some time in Port au Prince to continue our relationship with FOKAL and to make new ones that will benefit the library.
As of July 2015
SCEH Director Jean Maignan was warmly received by members of ODES and others when he visited Deschapelles in July and brought back these photos! Very exciting. We are getting close!
As of March 2015
Progress! The cupola (which is important for passive solar ventilation) is installed and the roof (which is insulated against the heat of the sun) is on! Now the windows are being fitted and installed and the floor will be finished. Soon, the library construction will be complete! The Conseil Administratif (the library advisory committee formed by ODES members in Deschapelles) in collaboration with the SCEH Library Committee have been busy training and hiring librarians; selecting and purchasing books; selecting electronic sources of reading/research materials; and selecting and purchasing furnishings.
Many thanks to FOKAL (La Fondation Connaissance et Liberté/Fondasyon Konesans Ak Libète), an independent foundation in Haiti supported by the Open Society Institute and other international and local organizations. Since 1995, FOKAL provides a range of educational, human development and economic activities to the local communities and community civil society organizations in the country and has become the leading independent organization shaping the future of Haiti.
As of September 2014
The library building is well underway! We were a bit stalled waiting for the angle iron to arrive for the roof. Last month, the angle iron began to arrive! Progress!! The roof has been installed on the gatehouse which provides not only a welcoming building for patrons to pass through and check their backpacks, but also provides storage, and the room for the electric generator. (We will be looking into solar possibilities at a later date.)
Operationally, we are very pleased to report that FOKAL informed ODES and us early this year that they will be happy to provide partial support of the library’s operational budget. ODES and we are very grateful and honored to have their support.
While ODES and our Library Committee have been very busy with the construction of the building, they have now turned toward the planning for the library’s operation. To that end, ODES has formed an Conseil Administratif (an Advisory Board) that is developing a budget for the library, in collaboration with SCEH and FOKAL. It has also identified and trained two librarians and, among other things, is working on programming, volunteer coordination, community and school communications.
We are well on our way to a fully functioning library and community center in Deschapelles. Pretty soon, we will need a name!
As of August 2013
Construction is well underway on the Deschapelles library. The architectural drawings are complete, the perimeter wall is largely installed, the well has been dug, the site has been mapped out, the foundation has been laid and rebar for the supporting posts have been installed. This is truly a community effort.
As of April 2013:
Jenifer Grant just returned from a visit to Deschapelles and has provided us with wonderful news that there is a beehive of activity at the library site: the wall is largely installed, the foundation of the library building is dug, rebar is getting laid and cement is getting poured. Check out some of these photos!
Men are shoveling sand, gravel and rocks into the cement mixer. The cement mixer is the only mechanical piece of machinery on site and is turned by hand. The house in the background is owned by our neighbor who is a teacher. He is quite excited about the prospect of the library right next to his house!
Water is in the blue containers which is brought by truck to the site. Cement is brought to the foundation area by wheelbarrow and 5 gallon buckets.
The library site with #8 rebars for the posts as specified by architect Hope Proctor. They were all bent by hand using a traditional jig.
As of March 2013:
The construction phase of the library has begun! As you can see from the following photos, the perimeter wall is largely installed, the site has been located and mapped out, and they have started digging and preparing the foundation. This is truly a community effort with ODES leading the way. Luquece Belizaire, President of ODES, is the Construction Manager, and has been able to employ many residents of Deschapelles providing much needed income for their families.
At the end of January, SCEH Executive Board members, Terry Smith, Dan Taylor-Stypa, David Evangelisti, and Jenifer Grant traveled to Haiti to evaluate the construction progress of the library.
They also met with Elizabeth Pierre-Louis and Eric Toussaint of the FOKAL Library in Port au Prince and continued to strengthen that already established relationship.
Installing the perimeter wall: rock, grave, sand and cement are poured into wooden frames.
A perimeter wall with chain link fencing on it is being installed to secure the site. Note the women that are employed as well. This is a very good example of ODES’ collaboration who advised the SCEH Library Committee of the need to secure the site.
Three ancillary buildings are being constructed. A gatehouse at the entrance of the library will help to secure the site. A depot will be used for storage. And a pump house will contain the water pump. Water is required for the construction of the building (e.g. mixing mortar) and will be necessary during the operations of the library. The water pump will also serve the needs of the immediate community. Note the rebar being used for earthquake protection.
The library is staked out using posts and string. This development represents a tremendous amount of work by Hope Proctor, an Essex architect, along with other architects and engineers in Connecticut and Deschapelles all of whom have volunteered hundreds of hours. Thank-you.
Hurrah! We have begun digging the foundation for the library. Many men and women in the Deschapelles area have been employed during this process. This is truly an exciting collaboration–both for people in Connecticut and for people in Deschapelles!
As of June 2012:The design phase of the library has begun! In June 2012, Terry Smith, Chair of the SCEH Library Committee, and Jenifer Grant, SCEH Director, travelled to Deschapelles and met with Luquece Belizaire, President of ODES, and Patrick Dominique. Luquece, who has much experience in contruction in Deschapelles, has agreed to serve as Construction Project Manager. Patrick is a Haitian engineer who has agreed to advise Luquece and the SCEH and ODES Library Committees with regard to engineering issues.
In March 2012, Hope Proctor, a New Haven architect and Essex resident, Terry Smith, Chair of the SCEH Library Committee, and Kathleen Maher traveled to Deschapelles, Haiti to visit the site for the library and discuss the design with our Haitian partner, ODES. It was a very productive visit.
Stage 1: Obtaining the land–COMPLETED. In February 2012, a long-term renewable lease agreement was entered into with a Haitian-American for a parcel of land located near the main road running through the center of Deschapelles. The lease can only be terminated by the lessor at the end of each 10-year term. If he chooses to terminate, he must pay us 75% of the cost of the building for the library. The lease continues until such amount is paid. On the March visit, Hope confirmed that the site for the library is very good: large enough for the library, outbuildings, and future planned activities; not subject to flooding; flat and cleared; and well-located within the town.
Stage 2: Designing the building—UNDERWAY. During the March visit, Hope was able to observe local building styles, learn about local construction, and meet with the ODES Library Committee to discuss programmatic needs. Hope will revise the plans she presented at the March 2 SCEH have a Heart for Haiti fundraiser. As this building will be of major importance to Deschapelles, we are working to ensure that it reflects well on the community and Haitian culture. The library will be as open as possible providing flexible and adaptable space for tables and chairs for study and for educational and cultural activities. The building is anticipated to be 2,000-3,000 square feet and may be constructed in phases.
In addition to collaborating with ODES, Hope is working with three other architects on the SCEH Library Committee including two Haitian architects and one familiar with construction in Haiti. Another member of the committee has a background in design and is helping us to explore sources for lighting, power (including solar power), and other technology (e.g. internet).
Hope and Terry are also researching a possible design of the building using portables.
Stage 3: Getting Estimates and Seeking Grants—UNDERWAY. A Deschapelles resident who has experience in building a sizeable structure in Deschapelles has agreed to serve as Project Manager. He will provide preliminary estimates based upon Hope’s preliminary drawings. The ODES and SCEH Library Committees are each identifying and seeking grants for the library in both Haiti and the United States.
The next stage, preparing the site for construction (e.g. digging a well, installing composting latrines, and securing the site through construction of a wall and guardhouse), can be initiated while we are working on Stages 2 and 3. The actual building of the library will take place as soon as we are able. One goal of SCEH is to employ local craftsmen and materials as much as possible.
Our friends in Deschapelles and all ODES members warmly welcomed Hope. We are all very grateful for the collaborative sprit with which we are working on this project.
As we move forward with the construction of the library, we already have selected three individuals to run the library. Besly Belizaire and Charles Odverne, residents of Deschapelles, have successfully completed an internship program with FOKAL (see below) and will become Assistant Librarians. We are hopeful that our Librarian candidate, MacKenzie Charles, will be able to participate in the FOKAL Librarian Training Program in the very near future, which we have been advised is almost near completion but is still under development.
As plans for construction of the library become solidified, the Essex Library Committee will refocus our efforts on the Library’s collection and materials. We are grateful for the efforts already made to underwrite the costs of books and materials. We are particularly grateful to the Chester, Deep River and Essex Rotary Clubs for their commitment to purchase 1,000 books for the library–an effort well underway. Thank-you!!
THE PROPOSED DESCHAPELLES LIBRARY
The creation of a library in Deschapelles was the first project initiated by Sister Cities Essex Haiti and ODES.
Despite the fact that all Haitians value education highly there are few libraries in rural Haiti. Although the official language in Haiti is Kreyol, until recently there were very few books written in Kreyol as French was and still is taught in elementary, secondary and University level schools. French is also the language used in formal governmental, business and international communications. In rural Deschapelles, there are very limited opportunities to borrow books or to purchase books even if one had the funds. ODES would like to change this by providing a space with opportunities for learning and reading.
Because electricity is scarce in much of rural Haiti, including Deschapelles, students have no place to study at night and can often be found studying under the few street lights provided on HAS grounds. Even HAS depends entirely upon its own generators for power.
Both the SCEH Board and the ODES Board created Library Committees to work with one another to establish the library, including identifying the site and building for the library, locating suitable books in French and Kreyol, determining a source of electricity, advising with respect to furnishings and equipment, assisting ODES with respect to its operations, and raising necessary funds. ODES will take responsibility for the library’s operations, including hiring staff, enlisting volunteers, setting policies (including the hours of operation, book lending systems, use of the building by community members and groups), establishing rules and regulations, and setting a budget.
The SCEH Library Committee, in collaboration with the ODES Library Committee, spent several months assessing the most suitable site for the library. In February 2012, a long-term renewable lease was entered into with a Haitian-American for a parcel of land located near the main road running through the center of Deschapelles. Previously used for growing crops, the land is highly suitable for constructing a library building.
The committee is currently exploring different construction options including portables (shipping containers) as well as traditional concrete block construction. The group looked at bamboo construction and determined that it would be too expensive as well as being a relatively new form of construction in Haiti. One goal of SCEH is to employ local craftsmen and materials as much as possible. We are also exploring the possibility of constructing the library in phases.
At present, we have five architects on the committee including two Haitian architects, one familiar with construction in Haiti and a local Essex architect who has assumed responsibility for schematics and plans. Another member of the committee has a background in design and is helping us to explore sources for lighting, power including solar power, and other technology (eg internet), and is researching grant opportunities as we recognize that help with construction costs as well as the library’s resources will better enable us to serve the community. We will review plans with ODES in early March as their input is crucial. We have also begun the process of exploring construction costs.
FOKAL (La Foundation Connaissance et Libertè/Fondasyon Konesans ak Libète) has agreed to serve as a source for training and administrative guidelines. FOKAL, which is an independent foundation in Haiti supported by the Open Society Institute and other international and local organizations, provides a range of education, human development and economic activities to local communities in Haiti and has become a leading organization shaping the future of Haiti. One of FOKAL’s many programs is support for community libraries throughout the country including training and administrative guidelines and support. FOKAL has agreed to work with ODES to provide opportunities for the training of a librarian and staff at no charge.
The SCEH and ODES Library Committees collaboratively selected three individuals to run the library. Besly Belizaire and Charles Odverne, residents of Deschapelles, have successfully completed an internship program with FOKAL and will become Assistant Librarians. We are hopeful that our Librarian candidate, MacKenzie Charles, will be able to participate in the FOKAL Librarian Training Program in the very near future, which we have been advised is almost near completion but is still under development. To learn more about FOKAL, click here.
Library Without Walls: While the library is being constructed, Sister Cities Essex Haiti and the ODES Library Committee are working not only to train the necessary librarians at FOKAL but also are providing library services in Deschapelles–a library without walls concept. A group of teen-age girls have been reading to children in the HAS Nutrition Annex. In addition, the Essex Girl Scouts and a group of teenagers in Deschapelles have begun a Pen Pal Program exchanging letters with one another about their respective lives in their towns. Furthermore, a group of physical therapy students at HAS who submitted a list of books that they would like the future library to have, have received several of the requested books, including several copies of the Victor Hugo version of Romeo and Juliet.
The community of Deschapelles is very enthusiastic about the prospect of having a library as a place to study and to have access to books. Just as the Connecticut libraries are well used, well regarded, and broadly supported by their communities, so will be the Deschapelles library. The Essex Library can serve as a model for the Deschapelles library with areas not usually thought of in Haitian libraries, such as a children’s area, a lending library, study areas, a community center, and information resource center. The Deschapelles library will become, like Connecticut libraries, well used by many constituent groups such as children and their families, service organizations, businesses, schools, churches and technical informational meetings.
The Deschapelles library could be used as:
A place for students to study after school particularly after dark. Since most households do not have electricity, children are routinely found studying their schoolwork in the evenings while sitting under the few street lamps found on the HAS campus or under rare isolated pools of light in the community.
A lending library for children and adults. Even adults who learned to read have few opportunities to read for lack of books, and thus lose their facility for reading. Reading for rural Haitians is almost all education-oriented, and reading for pleasure is rare.
A place for students and adults to conduct research on a variety of subjects of interest. Many Haitians view libraries as a place to research and learn about a variety of topics.
- A place for mothers and fathers to bring young children for exposure to books for pleasure and educational “toys”.
- A community gathering place, especially on subjects of interest such as educational, technical and environmental seminars.
A potential site for a composting latrine and model gardening systems.
Initial costs will include the rent of the land and the construction of the building or purchase of portable structures. Other costs will include:
- lighting fixtures so students can study at night
- tables, chairs and benches so people will have a comfortable place to study and read
- librarian’s desk
- library materials such as membership cards and card catalogue
shelving for the books
- books in French, English and, for young children, in Kreyol
- blackboards and slate boards, as paper is a luxury many cannot afford
- DVD/TV for educational videos
- power source (generator and/or solar) as there is no other available source of electricty
- landscaping for beauty and for model gardens
- possibly a composting latrine
After the library/community center is operational, additional items could be provided such as computers, landscaping, walkways from the street, and a covered terrace.
Through generous contributions from Essex and elsewhere, Sister Cities Essex Haiti has sufficient funds to purchase or lease the land, and to purchase books, lighting, tables and chairs. Sister Cities Essex Haiti has received donations of books in French and Kreyol. Additional funds are being sought through grants.
Ongoing Costs of Library/Community Center
Since the library/community center would be primarily staffed by ODES volunteers, the ongoing costs are anticipated to be:
- One librarian and one librarian assistant to administer the library and coordinate volunteers
- A caretaker (groundskeeper)
- Replacement books
- Children’s toys—replacement
- Fuel for generator to provide electricity
- Computer equipment (possibly)
Sister Cities Essex Haiti, through the generous support of area residents has already raised initial funds for the library and grant opportunities are being explored. To help with this project and make a donation, click here.
Most people do not have the luxury of having electricity, candles or kerosene for lamps. Consequently, children either have to study before the sun sets or after it rises or try to find a place to study in the isolated pools of light cast by the few street lamps. The proposed library would give students a lighted place to study after dark.
- Most Haitian homes are small and households may have only one table that is used by all family members for many activities. The proposed library would give students a quiet, safe place to study after school.
Paper is scarce and expensive. The proposed library would have chalkboards and slates for children to practice their math and handwriting.
- Because there are few opportunities for many adults to read, they lose that skill once they leave school, in part, because they do not have access to books.
- Electricity is scarce because government electricity is expensive and unreliable. Private electricity generation is not available except through privately purchased fuel-operated generators which becomes expensive.
Mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, are prevalent in the area so the proposed library would have screens.
- Ceiling fans are not planned for as part of the project as fans would add to the cost of electrical generation.
There is limited public education in Haiti and the two largest expenses for a family are food and school fees and supplies.
- A venue is needed for “internally displaced people” (IDPs-those who have left Port au Prince for the countryside after the January 2010 earthquake) to rebuild their lives.
- A composting latrine at the library/community center could be used to introduce the concept to area residents for disposal of wastes and use of such wastes for fertilizer.