There are only a couple of public schools in all of Haiti; many Haitian children cannot afford uniforms to go to school, and many of the teachers are uneducated.
Mahtomedi resident Pam Thompson, an early childhood teacher, was determined to visit the country herself after her son returned from a high school mission trip to Haiti in 2012. In 2013, that became a reality. After returning from the country, she asked herself, “What can I do?”
“I fell in love with the country and the people,” she said. “When I came back from Haiti, I was messed up — it wrecked me in a really good way. The way that I view life is totally different.”
Thompson has visited Haiti five times — six in June. On her first trip to the country, she found out about Papillon Marketplace, an organization that was started by a woman who wanted to adopt a child from Haiti. While in Haiti, she found out a lot of the children who were up for adoption had parents who were alive but could not afford to care for them. Her mission became to provide jobs for at-risk mothers and fathers so they could keep their children. Artisans make jewelry, bags, apparel, books, mugs and more.
The Apparent Project
Papillon Marketplace also has a sister company, a nonprofit organization called the Apparent Project, in which Thompson is very involved. The Apparent Project’s mission is “to make the needs of Haiti known” and offer opportunities for Haitians so they can provide for themselves and their families. This can empower them to rise out of poverty and keep their families intact.
The Apparent Project staff members work alongside the Haitian company that employs artisans. The organization distributes and sells homemade products that are created from discarded materials such as cereal boxes and oil drums. The items are then sent to the U.S. to be sold through party boxes and fundraisers; the artisans are thus provided with steady employment and a living wage. Thompson has helped with both.
In 2014, the organization began offering child care for the artisans’ children through AP Childcare. The AP Institute was also established that year to teach adults English and computer skills. In 2016, the organization created a preschool, AP School; AP Kindergarten followed in 2017. Future plans include adding more grades each year.
“Most of the schools, even if they are privately funded, are not good schools in Haiti,” Thompson explained. “The teachers may not have an education; most teachers are not trained and many do not go to high school. What (the Apparent Project) found is they could afford the child care and the AP Institute but they could not afford to fund the school, because paying teachers was too much money so they needed to get donors.”
Thompson wanted to get involved. “I am a teacher, I love kids and I am passionate about Haiti,” she said. “Teachers and families care about schools. I thought about what I could do that will impact (and) influence people here and tell them a little more about Haiti and get them interested in Haiti.”
Books and teacher kits
In addition to writing two books, “Marcus: My Life in Haiti” and “Fransley and Francia, Our Haitian Life” based on real people she met in Haiti, Thompson created teacher kits, which she sells to interested teachers. The kits include digital copies of her books, Haitian money, activities, songs and ideas of how to teach students about Haiti.
Thompson visited students at Hugo Elementary May 17 to talk about Haiti, read her books and help the students make bookmarks using their own handmade bead as well as a bead from Haiti. The visit was a part of the school’s Hugo Story Series program. Each month, students all read a book together. In addition to reading the book, there is also a service learning project.
With Thompson’s book, the objective of the service learning project was “to raise and create awareness about the Apparent Project,” kindergarten teacher Hilary Farrington said. “It is important for them to know they can make a difference in our own community but also help the world.”
Sue Olsen, administrative assistant, added, “It is good to expose our kids to more cultures. We kind of live in an area where there is not a lot of diversity, so that little bit of exposure is huge, especially for those kids who do come from a more diverse culture.”
Trades of Hope
Trades of Hope is a direct sales company that was started in 2010 by two moms and their teenage daughters. The purpose is to empower people out of slavery, trafficking and extreme poverty and allow them to provide for themselves and their families. Thompson became an entrepreneur with the company in 2016.
“I decided that it fit with what I was doing with Papillon — now I would be able to partner with artisans from 16 countries (including Haiti), and Papillon is one of the artisan organizations that Trades of Hope purchases from,” she explained. “I get to wear beautiful, handmade jewelry, scarves and purses and have beautiful things in my home.”
She sells the items to people through parties, word of mouth and online. Up until the end of May, everything Thompson has done for Haiti was on a volunteer basis. Recently, she was offered (and accepted) a part-time position with the Apparent Project.
Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or email@example.com.