South Windsor Haiti Preschool continues its mission
By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
South Windsor - posted Thu., Jan. 23, 2014
It’s been more than four years since a devastating earthquake - one of the deadliest natural disasters on record - took the lives of a reported 220,000 people and displaced millions in Haiti. The Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake resulted in widespread media coverage, with many countries responding with humanitarian aid.
That same year, Dr. Saud Anwar was part of a team of physicians and other medical workers who traveled to the Port-Au-Prince area of Haiti to provide medical and psychological services to people impacted by the disaster.
“This is a very dense part of Haiti with millions of people living in an area the size of South Windsor,” said Anwar, who is now the mayor of South Windsor. “People were afraid to stay in their homes [for fear of collapse]. Their lives were completely destroyed.”
Anwar said he found it very easy to fall in love with the Haitian people. Despite suffering such unthinkable tragedy and facing so many complicated issues, they kept smiles on their faces. “We felt the need to do something long-term for them,” he said.
A “dream team” made up of members of the South Windsor community, including representatives from the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, was soon established. Their goal was to build a school for children, as so many of the schools in Haiti were damaged or destroyed completely. The group took some time to look for appropriate land to build on, but the task became challenging, as land records were difficult to come by. Their search prompted them, instead, to build on an existing school, Ecole Agape - A Home of Love.
Back home in South Windsor, the community rallied to support the school. “We asked the kids in our schools to write letters to the children in Haiti, and handmade signs were put up all over town to help raise funds and awareness for the school,” said Anwar. The community also sent books and other learning materials. “Our strategy has been two-fold: to build a school and to unite a diverse community in South Windsor in a single purpose,” said Anwar.
The people of South Windsor have been generous and the team’s efforts have been rewarded. Today, the Ecole Agape Programme Prescolaire de South Windsor, which opened officially in October of 2011, serves about 70 preschool-age girls. There are two classrooms and, as a result of another partnership with St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Storrs, the girls receive daily nutrition, five days a week at the school.
Yet there is still much to do. Going forward, the school’s team members and supporters plan to build a library. They also hope in time to add a health care component.
“We are living in challenging times,” said Anwar. “But it’s a blessing that we are in a position to help others. It is important that this community can come together for social good. It makes us closer.”
To learn more about the South Windsor Haiti Preschool and how to donate, visit the website www.southwindsorhaitischool.org.