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Rotary International

Matènwa Yearly Update 2011



“Anpil men,chay pa lou.” “With many hands,

the load is not heavy.”


Dear Friends of Matènwa,

We have exciting news to report; it has been a year filled with progress and promise. But first, we send you our sincere thanks for joining hands with us to make it all possible.

Your support and confidence give us the determination to prove every day that children in rural Haiti can learn in the language they all understand, without being hit or humiliated. We are determined to make this model the norm in schools across Haiti.

It has been 15 years since the Matènwa Community Learning Center (MCLC) began as a one-room schoolhouse. Now MCLC provides a preschool to ninth grade education and an arts campus with life giving programs that are shaped with the collaboration of many educators and activists from in and outside of Haiti. Instead of the common image of rote memorization, dictation, corporal punishment, and dictatorial classroom management, one sees hands on materials, critical thinkers, authors, and collaborative leaders for peace and justice.

As we celebrate 15 years, we celebrate you ~ our long-standing and our recent supporters. With many hands, the way forward is made possible.

With love and appreciation, Chris, Abner

& Juliette



Progress and Promise: Mother Tongue Books

“If you could only see how the children’s eyes light up when new Mother Tongue Books come to Matènwa. They love these books so much!”
(Writer and MTB mentor, Connie Biewald)

Books written by children for children are beginning to show a child centered way to meet Haiti’s need for reading material written in Creole for elementary school children. It’s literacy, it’s empowerment, it’s real cultural exchange as these trilingual (Creole,

French, and English) books are published and exchanged between Matènwa and US schools.

Early work has been supported by Rotary Clubs: Port Au Prince, Puerto Rico, and Skidaway, Rotary International, the Fayerweather Street School, and the Basic Science Partnership. There is much promise in this growing initiative. We encourage you to join in, through classroom and service learning projects, and through your financial support.

For examples of Mother Tongue Books, see:, the “Matènwa” tag. A site for kids is in progress: To get involved contact Saskia:

Progress and Promise: In the News

Through the years, Matènwa educators have been collaborating with prominent Haitian linguists Yves Dejean (above) and Michel DeGraff (below) to further the cause of classroom instruction in Creole for Haiti’s children. Haiti’s Department of Education passed the Bernard Reform in 1979, stating that instruction should be in Creole through the 4th grade to promote Universal Education. Implementation has been very slow. But, there is promise and Matènwa has led the way. Articles in the Boston Globe, “The Power of Creole” by Leon Neyfakh and on BBC NEWS, “Should Creole Replace French in Haiti’s Schools?” by Cordelia Hebblethwaite, both cite Degraff’s work in Matènwa. Through his research, Degraff has witnessed the unsurprising: Children succeed if educational programs are offered in a language the students understand. DeGraff states: “Haiti will never be able to rise to its potential if you have 90 percent who cannot be instructed properly. Once you open up that reservoir…. Imagine how many well prepared minds you would have to try to solve the country’s problems.”


FACES, a world cultures magazine for children ages 9-14, devoted its Fall 2011 issue to Haiti. Among its features were interviews with 11 Matènwa students. Here is a sample interview:

“My name is Chrisla Fleurant. I am 9 years old. I am a fourth grade student at the Matènwa Community School. I live in a family of 10 people. My mother and my father are the ones who work to give us what we need. I love my country very much because it is a beautiful country that has a lot of  fresh air, beautiful sun, and nice temperatures. We also have a beautiful culture that has a time for everything and a language that many other nations enjoy,”

Peace and Justice Award

The Peace and Justice Award was given by the City of Cambridge, MA to Chris Low in June 2011 in recognition of her work to build bridges and create community  between and among people, crossing divides of neighborhood, ethnicity, gender, race, and class. Family and friends were present to join in the applause!

Schools for Schools Partnerships 

Schools for schools Partnerships were started in Puerto Rico thanks to Anna Grimaldi Colomer. The Interact Club working with the Parkville and Commonwealth schools spearheads an annual Heart for Haiti community celebration, which has led to funding of the Matènwa Library. It is one outstanding example of what can be done. We are hoping that other schools and clubs will get involved. Please contact Pam Smith at

Progress and Promise: In the Gardens

Across rural Haiti, most families survive by farming small plots of depleted, non-irrigated soil. Little attention is given to improving the knowledge or techniques used by farmers even though such skills determine the very survival of the family. But in Matènwa gardening is an integral part of the curriculum, and the school garden serves as hands-on experience, breakfast food, and a demonstration site. Students and teachers make a wall to stop erosion. Children work together at school and bring these techniques back to their home gardens.

Home Gardens for Ten Families

Thanks to a grant from Pacific Rim Voices, MCLC has initiated a home gardens program. In 2011 ten families each received 2 water drums, 2 gutters with installation, kandelam plants for live fencing of a 10 square meter space, and wire fencing to keep out goats and chickens until the live fencing grows to a secure height and width. Luisine speaks about her garden: “I have already benefitted from my garden. We have eaten from it and sold from it. I live close to the water pump so even though the rains were not coming I walked to the pump and carried buckets of water to my home each day.”

Ten Communities Embrace the Matènwa Model 

For more than a decade, MCLC has served as a model for what education might be in rural Haiti – a place that respects the rights of children, offers instruction in Creole, includes both core academic and arts classes, provides teacher training in pedagogy, content, and classroom management, and prepares students as critical thinkers capable of improving their lives in their mountain community. This year, with many thanks for a grant from The Boston Foundation and support from Beyond Borders, MCLC is bringing its model to ten surrounding communities. Our goal is to reach out to schools across Lagonav.  How wide an impact we can have depends on your compassion and generosity to support our work.

 “Everyone is very motivated to work together. We give a little theory and then go try it. Walter, (one of the Home Gardens beneficiaries) is explaining how organic composting has made his vegetables flourish.” Says Creole Gardens Outreach Coordinator Abner Sauveur.

Progress and Promise: Arts and Music

The MCLC Arts Colony comes to life! Our beehive buildings are providing arts, crafts, and music classes with support from you and the Magpie Giving Circle and from the Hand/Eye Fund.





There is much enthusiasm as the community works to create jobs and income. We need your help to market items for local and international sales.

Progress and Promise: Building Friendships

Last year, teachers asked for educational games. Volunteers brought Bananagrams donated by the company, and other games to play. It worked so well that in July 2012 we will start another exciting experiment.We invite those of you who speak Creole (adults and children), or who can afford a translator, to come share your talents with the Matènwa Community. Matènwa children and adults will express what they would like to learn and we will try to match those interests with volunteers’ desires to teach. Volunteers can come for one to four weeks.



Progress and Promise: With your help!

We began many new initiatives this year. Many children and parents of Matènwa are putting their heart and soul, their mind and strength into working for a brighter tomorrow. Will you join us?

Give alternative gifts for holiday presents:

  • *82 cents/day~$25/month will provide books and breakfast for a child for a year.
  • *Less than $1/day~$30/month will cover a child’s education for a year.
  • * 1.50/day~ $550/year will provide the fencing, tools, and seeds for one home vegetable garden.
  • * 200 /month~$2,400/year will support a teacher’s salary.
  • *250 /month ~ $3,000/year will support change in one of our surrounding community’s school and garden for a year.
  • *Mother Tongue Books ~ create and publish in your classroom; contribute to Matènwa’s MTBs publication initiative.
  • *Art and Music ~ help us to market local crafts; come to Matènwa and teach a skill.

Please send your tax-exempt contribution to:

Friends of Matènwa
P.O. Box 494
Lincoln, MA. 01773

Stay in touch!

Best wishes to you for the 2012 New Year from all of us in Matènwa!

December 2011


December Update

Dear MCLC Supporters,

We thank you for our dedication to the vital work happening in the Matènwa Community.  Haggerty School (Cambridge, Massachusetts) librarian, Karen Kosko, connected us to FACES children’s magazine.  We have been working on two projects: one featuring 10 students between the ages of 9 – 14 and one longer photo interview of a junior high student for FACES’ Fall 2011 publication.



My name is Peter-Frantz. I am eleven years old. I was born and raised in Haiti. I live in Nan Jozen, La Gonave. My school has a library where I can do research. I like Haiti very much because it has a beautiful culture and a beautiful language: Creole. I like to drink coffee because the Haitian coffee is the number one coffee in the world. In my country people have lots of respect for others regardless of where you are from. I am proud to be Haitian.

MIT linguist professor, Michel DeGraff, has a grant this year to work on technology-enhanced and Kreyòl-based education.  He is currently at the stage of working with an evolving team of educators and programmers to produce a suite of Kreyòl and computer-based games for the teaching of 4th grade math.  He has been working with the MCLC teachers this year, having made four visits to the site so far to brainstorm and plan a controlled experiment to evaluate the effects of such games.

You can see an excerpt that’s currently being translated (with voice-over) on plate tectonics, along with another video on photosynthesis at . The original videos are at and  Also in the works: subtitles for a calculus video from MIT’s OpenCourseWare:

Michel is still looking for more programmers with knowledge of Kreyòl and 4th grade math, further down the road we’ll need help from researchers familiar with Haiti, educational technology and experience in assessing educational interventions.


Chris Low, Executive Director

November Update

Dear Supporters,

A picture tells a thousand words.  With all the disheartening news one can get very discouraged and feel that contributing to Haiti is like throwing money into a hole in the ground.  The Matènwa community assures you that your contributions are making our land fertile and the growth of the children’s accomplishments in their social and  academic lives tangible. They are making holes in the ground to plant trees, fruits, and vegetables.

When you feel that Haiti is caught in an endless cycle of despair remember MCLC’s school cycle and discussion circles. Each annual cycle shows progress, their circles encourage critical thinking skills and self-determination.

The MCLC teachers’ work is vital to a successful collaborative model.

Please share these pictures to tell the positive story.






Preschoolers in the Garden






Whole School Weekly Meeting






Story Time in the Library


Every dollar counts. Thank you for remembering us each month.


Chris Low in behalf of MCLC

September Update

We will never stop thanking you for your huge support that allowed us to successfully finish the 2009-2010 academic year. Since August 1 we started preparing for October which is when the new school year will start. We are doing construction and repairs while the children are on vacation. Our Local Arts Center, a set of 5 one-room structures, is almost finished. One room has a cistern below its floor; the other four are round rooms awaiting grass roofs. We put a brand new gutter on the round building.

We are making headway with our efforts to promote the use of Creole books in other schools. The local government school inspector has asked the 50 schools he oversees to use books in Creole through the third grade. We already bought new Creole schoolbooks from KOPAVIT L’Action Sociale thanks to a grant from Rotary. In the garden we have eggplants and hot peppers ready for sale.


Secretary Millienne Angervil
Co-director Abner Sauveur

August Update

Hats off to you!

After the earthquake it was very difficult for a majority of schools to continue, but with your support we were able to run our programs and help the greater community.  School finished at the end of July.


Anes and Marsha

Marsha, a teacher from Vermont, is training Anes to insert pictures into his Mother Tongue Book template.

During July we had several visitors come and help us in our library. We thank teachers Dena and Sarah from Chicago. Dena catalogued and shelved many books and trained a couple new teachers on how to keep it organized. Sarah participated on all levels from administrative meetings to translating trainings sessions. We thank Marsha from Vermont and Ingleed from Fayerweather Street School in Cambridge for helping us in the computer lab to develop the Mother Tongue Books Project with our staff and for giving lessons to Anes who has moved from fourth grade to the computer lab. Anes is replacing Benaja Antoine who has moved on to a job with Haiti Partners. We will miss Benaja, but are happy to announce that in this new position he will be spreading some of the same educational methods that MCLC has been promoting for the past 15 years to other parts of Haiti.


Ingleed, Marsha and Juliette, travelling back to the Ansagale, Lagonav dock. Here they are having the classic common "flat tire experience". Never a dull moment!

With a grant from Rotary International, MCLC has started a year long project to train several teachers from MCLC and other schools in our network how to produce Mother Tongue Books with their students. The MCLC computer lab is the center for this activity.  Many schools will benefit, receiving locally authored stories in Creole.


Chris Low & Abner Sauveur, Co-directors
Millienne Angervil, Secretary

September Update

Dear Friends of MCLC,

The staff met the last week of August to prepare their classrooms and set their goals for the year. September is noclip_image002w here and students are returning to school. The grounds have opened with an exciting library addition going up. Some classrooms now have a cement roof, which is actually the second floor’s floor for three new spaces: one indoor and one outdoor classroom for book production and teacher training as well as a community bookstore.  So far the Commonwealth School Interact Clubs, Rotary Club of Skidaway Island and Rotary Club of San Juan have jointly raised $17,450 for this Library II Project. We will need approximately $20,000 more to complete all the rooms and make furniture.
Construction for an “Arts Village” on campus has also begun with funds from the estate of artist Jocelyn Ruth Edelston. The small cottages will house the Local Arts Initiative. Seed money for these cottage art industries came from the National Episcopal Church Women.

Owen Thomas, a Lesley College student, has returned to Cambridge, MA, after 3 months of living with a host family and volunteering at MCLC. He achieved his goal to become bilingual! He helped a group of youth learn to record their hip-hop songs using a program called Garage Band on our Library’s Mac laptops. Owen plans to continue working with the group during his vacations and collaborate with other youth to organize and develop other activities of their choice.


Chris and Abner, directors; Millienne Angervil, secretary
Contact Chris at if you would like to do your own fundraiser for the school.