Local students help construct school in Haitian village

Sydney Cole presents the plaque dedicating the school to the village.

Sydney Cole presents the plaque dedicating the school to the village.

Thanks to many months of hard work and dedication from the Greenwich Chapter of BuildOn, a small village in Haiti is close to finishing construction on a brand new school.

It all began with Josie Day, a former Greenwich High School student who had grown up in the mountains of Haiti and was adopted by a Greenwich family. Josie was thankful for her life here but her dream was to return someday and give back to the country that had raised her. Yet Josie never had the opportunity to fulfill her dream, as she passed away shortly after the earthquake in Haiti. Instead, a group of students decided they would help make her dream come true.

Nick Bancroft, a recent grad from GHS who had gone with the organization, BuildOn, to Mali, Africa, gathered a group of friends to form a Greenwich Chapter of BuildOn. The chapter’s goal was to build a school in a village in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere and dedicate it to their friend, Josie.

With the blessing of Josie’s American family, the Days, the students set about raising the money necessary to build the school. Some of the fund-raising events included a teen dance at Arch Street Teen center, a car wash, a tag sale and tables at Old Greenwich’s First Light and Arts on the Avenue. The kids also did presentations at elementary schools and collected supplies for the new school. After six months of fund-raising and with the help of many donors, the group had enough to build the school.

Finally, in June, the Greenwich Chapter — Nick Bancroft (12th grade GHS), Freddie Bancroft (11th grade GHS), Corey Bancroft (ninth grade GHS), Sydney Cole (11th grade GHS), Lucas Dell’Abate (ninth grade GHS), Wyndsor Doyle (ninth grade GHS), Emma Montgomery (12th grade GHS), Hailey Nicholson (10th grade Rye Country Day), Caroline Nicholson (ninth grade Rye Country Day), Scotty Sutton (12th grade GHS) and Alex Zuber (ninth grade Rye Country Day) — was ready to go.

The Greenwich group of 11 students was joined by five students from Lowell High School in San Francisco and several adult staff members from the BuildOn organization to travel to Haiti. The group flew into Port-au-Prince and then traveled along dirt roads for five hours to reach the small village in the mountainous southwest part of the island. The kids were welcomed to the village by the natives who were thrilled to meet and host them. All students stayed with local families within the village.

The first thing done before construction of the school could be started was the signing of a BuildOn covenant signed by the villagers and BuildOn students and staff which ensures the village will finish and care for the school. Then the work began and students joined with a large force of villagers and skilled laborers, supplied by BuildOn, to start building. The group dug the foundation, carried rocks and carried cement in buckets, passing them in an assembly line with their Haitian brothers and sisters. It was hard work, especially with the rustic tools, heat and humidity, according to BuildOn. The kids took turns doing four-hour shifts a day at the site.

While they were there, the students also had cultural activities in the village which included baking traditional bread and learning about voodoo from the village’s voodoo priest. They ate local foods prepared by a Haitian cook, brought a water purifier to clean their drinking water and learned a bit of Creole in order to communicate with their hosts. The village gave a joyous closing ceremony and the students presented a plaque dedicating the school in honor of Jocelyne Gilles Day.

The students then traveled home leaving the villagers and BuildOn to finish the school.

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