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December, 2008:

December Update

Dear Friends,
Happy holidays! The Matènwa Community Learning Center has finally caught up with the 21st century! Now you can read all about us at

I am so happy to share some of our recent accomplishments and new ventures. For the next several years Juliette and I will be living in Haiti from February to August to further these projects. As part of our efforts to be a TOTALLY GREEN school we are revitalizing local arts and food products that have been disappearing in favor of imported goods. Children are learning to weave and sew. We are planting bamboo and other plants that we can utilize. We already compost and use natural fertilizers as well as solar energy. Haiti has over 300,000 child servants called restavecs. Having access to education, Matènwa families feel no need to give away their children. Last year I trained several adult literacy teachers to use a program by Kathy Cash aimed at improving the treatment of children. Through reading illustrated stories of common abuses with discussion and role-plays afterwards, adults were transformed; some pulled their children from the restavec system, others started giving their restavecs time to play. I was so impressed with this program that I want to implement it across Lagonav. I’ll talk more about this at our fundraiser March 21st. Our guest speaker will be Jean Robert Cadet, author of Restavec: From Haitian Slave Child to Middle -Class American.


Love, Chris and Juliette

Mother Tongue Books
It is illogical to think that a child can read for meaning in a language for which he or she does not have a rich oral vocabulary.

Equipped with a dozen brand new MacBooks, printers, scanners, cameras, a satellite dish, and solar power (thank you, Rotary), we are making an old dream a new reality. Since our inception in 1996, the elementary classes have been making their own handmade books, but now we are able to publish them and send them to our partner schools here and abroad. By sharing books across borders and translating them into a mother tongue, children are contributing to each other’s education and helping one another become literate. This social justice project brings joy to all who are reading, writing, and exchanging books. We foresee the creation of many Mother Tongue school libraries. ACPrint will produce our most popular titles.

Matènwa teacher Millienne and I received the first Mother Tongue book from Fayerweather Street School students in Cambridge, Ma. Send one in!

The Garden and Breakfast program
Tree and vegetable gardening is one way students learn to appreciate their rural community. It’s a skill that directly improves their lives. It provides much of the food for our breakfast program.


“We take such good care of the garden. The plants don’t die. Growing food in your own garden feels great. You get to eat vegetables without spending money to buy them in the market.”~MCLC student

Visits: Life changing experiences for
teachers, students, and families

Many of our goals are being met through exchange  visits with Haitians and foreigners. We learn from each other by exchanging ideas and experiencing different environments. Our model’s impact is reflected in the voices of our visitors and hosts.

Reflecting on returning home: “I hope we will settle into a less packaged-and-prepared, more healthful-and-Haitian-like diet… We have noticed that people share what they have, offering something to anyone who comes to their porch…Hopefully, we will return home with a greater appreciation for what we have and choose to live more modestly, resulting in a more balanced, informed lifestyle.” ~Teacher, Portland, Oregon

“Where I was working I always used a whip… it does not make children understand, on the contrary, it puts them into a slave mentality. [After visiting Matènwa] I made a firm decision to change myself.” ~Teacher, Dezam, Haiti


“The LKM staff has been crucial in the founding and development of the IDEAL school in the slums of Cité Soleil. They’ve welcomed folks as observers, and dedicated their time working with teachers and students there. They deserve virtually all the credit for the school’s choice to use nonviolent teaching and have been the central figures as the IDEAL kids have learned to run a school.” ~Dean of Shimer College, Port –au-Prince, Haiti

We are building on positive interdependency. As your generous support provides education, improved health, and the foundation for human dignity, MCLC also reaches out, offering ecocultural homestays, Creole immersion, teacher training programs, computer classes, and art products for sale. Together we make a sustainable difference in many lives.  ~December 2008