Pitch No. 2 – Americans’ Views on the Voodou Religion

For my second article I want to write an article on a religion that originated in Haiti that some Haitians call a disgrace to their culture: Voodou.

In American media, Voodou is highly stigmatized, but what some may not know is that it is also highly stigmatized in Haiti as well, especially among the Protestant faiths in Haiti. Many Haitians even blame Voodou-ism for the state Haiti is in now with disasters hitting the country every year.

In fact, Voodou is a combination of the religion the slaves brought back from Africa (will look up more on what country in Africa produced the most future-Haitian slaves) and also Roman Catholicism. Many people believe that Voodou is devil worshipping, but in fact, those who believe in Voodou are devout Catholics who believe in God. You are not even allowed to join the Voodou faith if you are not a Catholic.

I plan to not only be interviewing American born people on their view of Voodou, but Haitians who moved from Haiti to America (Haitian-Americans) as well. I want to know what their knowledge of the Voodou religion is and where and how they gained this view of the Voodou religion. I will then explain to them the background of Voodou (if they don’t know) and ask if their opinion on the religion changes.

 

http://religiondispatches.org/spiritual-mapping-evangelicals-battle-vodou-in-haiti/

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/17/opinions/believer-haiti-vodou-polyne-mcalister/index.html

 

Haiti’s Ignored Problem: Education – Final Draft

There are families living tents in Haiti, struggling to build their lives back together, hurricane after hurricane and earthquake after earthquake, but in the rural towns of Haiti the view is different. The sun is unbearably hot, but children still willingly pack themselves in non-airconditioned rooms with books in their hands. Their faces are drawn wide in smiles, proud of the blue uniform they are wearing. Nearly 50 of these children pack themselves into this room, while some are in other “classrooms” made up of benches and tarp to shield them from the sun. Although this may seem like terrible conditions for students, it is the reality that some children in Haiti have to face.  

The educational environment in Haiti is very broad, ranging from the best government run schools in the city, to tent schools run by nonprofit organizations.

Haitian children smiling in their temporary tent school

For Pastor Mario Augustave, running his own non-profit organization, tent schools are not an uncommon sight. With his American based non-profit organization, Voices For Haiti, Augustave and his team have gone into his home country and assist it as best as they can, especially when it comes to education in rural communities.

Others running non-profit organizations like Augustave recognize that education is one of the most important issues in Haiti to tackle. “Without the proper education of Haitian children, the country is continually left vulnerable,” Augustave tells me at his pastor’s office at Emmaus Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The church is located in Flatbush, a Brooklyn neighboorhood, with a dense population of Haitian-Americans.  “The children are the future, and an illiterate future is almost guaranteed to go nowhere.”

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, the total percentage of people who can read and write in Haiti above 15 years of age is 60.7 percent which is a far cry from other Caribbean countries which are 90 percent and above. These literacy rates are due to a limited amount of schools in the country.

And yet, it seems the Haitian government is not interested in the future of their nation.

According to Sionfonds for Haiti, the government is only responsible for 10 percent of schools in Haiti. Haiti as a whole has only 15, 200 primary schools, of which 90 percent of these schools are non-public and are managed by communities, religious organizations, or NGOs.

“When I was growing up in Haiti, every school I knew was private. I didn’t think there were public schools in our country. I can imagine that it’s worse,” said Adeline Francois, age 46, a current New York resident who lived in Haiti until 1994. “The amount of public schools are probably lower than before.”

Community, religious organization, or NGO – run schools, need constant funding from outside sources – usually United States and Canadian residents – to keep their schools running since they are non-profit organizations. Because they are so reliant from funding from the outside it is difficult for these schools to properly function. Necessities like bathrooms and plumbing are rare. School supplies like textbooks, notebooks, and pencils are in limited supply, and sometimes teachers cannot be paid. Many are essentially doing volunteer work.

The school that Voices For Haiti runs in a state of disrepair

And while these teachers may be teaching students for free, many teachers are not even properly trained to handle a class. According to the World Bank, many teachers are not the most effective at handling a class.  

“Most instructional time is spent on lecturing or eliciting responses in unison from the class, and responses were often related to repetition and memorization. Teachers rarely acknowledged or corrected the many incorrect answers or lack of answers noted by observers. These methods have limited effectiveness in teaching children, especially young children, the foundational cognitive skills they need to succeed in school,” says Melissa Adelman and David Evans of the World Bank.

Even with low funds and ineffective teachers, Haiti is still trudging through. Thanks to organizations like Voices For Haiti, there is good work being done in Haiti when it comes to education. According to The World Bank, there is a happy side to this story. Enrollment rates have risen from 78 percent to 90 percent, and tuition fee waivers are being implemented in private schools around Haiti. There is also more engagement with the government and schools to train teachers to better help and engage the classes.

“It is hard,” Augustave says. “But we are doing God’s work in Haiti. Right now I am going around churches in New York to collect funds to build a well at the school. People don’t think they are doing much by putting in a dollar, but to the kids over there in Haiti, it means the world to them.”

 

Amberley Canegitta – Education In Haiti – Draft

For Pastor Mario Augustave it is not strange to see 50 children packed into a tiny classroom with chalkboards in hand and the hot sunlight streaming through the windows. In fact, he was the one who helped make it happen. Although this may seem like terrible conditions for students, being packed into a small room to learn math with 50 other children is the best these children can have in Haiti.

 

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, the total percentage of people who can read and write in Haiti above 15 years of age is 60.7% which is a far cry from other Caribbean countries which are 90% and above. These literacy rates are due to a limited amount of schools in the country.

 

For people like Augustave, education is one of the most important issues in Haiti to tackle. “Without the proper education of Haitian children, the country is continually left vulnerable,” Augustave says. “The children are the future, and an illiterate future is almost guaranteed to go nowhere.”

Children in the makeshift school in Haiti smiling for the camera.

And yet, it seems the Haitian government is not interested in the future of their nation.

 

“When I was growing up in Haiti, every school I knew was private. I didn’t think there were public schools in our country. I can imagine that it’s worse today,” said Adeline Francois, a current New York resident who lived in Haiti until 1994.

 

It is worse.

 

According to sionfondsforhaiti, the government is only responsible for 10% of schools in Haiti.  Haiti as a whole has only 15, 200 primary schools, of which 90% are non-public and managed by communities, religious organizations, or NGOs.

 

Community, religious organization, or NGO – run schools, need constant funding from those outside – usually United States and Canadian residents – to keep their schools running since they are non-profit organizations. Because they are so reliant from funding from the outside it is difficult for these schools to be properly functioning. Necessities like bathroom and plumbing is rare, school supplies like textbooks, notebooks, and pencils are of limited supply, and sometimes teachers cannot be paid; essentially doing volunteer work.

The state of the school that Mario Augustave and organization Voices For Haiti is managing.

“It is hard,” Augustave says. “But we are doing God’s work in Haiti. Right now I am going around churches in New York to collect funds to build a well at the school. People don’t think they are doing much by putting in a dollar, but to the kids over there in Haiti, it means the world to them.”

 

Amberley – Haiti – Masterpost

Pitch Story – Haiti

Hello Emily,

I am a student in your international reporting class and I want to cover a story on the education in Haiti and how it is sadly dwindling. Most of the news that comes out of Haiti is about the tragedy that hits the country year after year, but rarely does the news really focus on how it is hitting the people of the country. This is especially true for the youngest population of the country.

When most people envision the state of Haiti, the are brought back to that image of people living in tents and eating mudcakes, because after the 2010 earthquake, they had no means of survival. What many don’t know is that this is still the situation in Haiti, so when more calamities strike, the situation becomes drastically worse. And for the children growing up in such a state of disrepair, school is the only thing they look forward to. Unfortunately, there are barely any schools in Haiti for these children, much less schools that can properly hold all the students that they want to. Classes can be packed with more than 50 children of all ages, basic necessities like a bathroom and plumbing is rare, and teachers cannot be paid; essentially doing volunteer work.

According to sionfondsforhaiti, Haiti as a whole has only 15, 200 primary schools, of which 90% are non-public and managed by communities, religious organizations, or NGOs. The enrollment rate for primary school is 67%, and fewer than 30% reach 6th grade. Secondary schools enroll 20% of eligible-age children. The January earthquake was a major setback for education reform in Haiti. Literacy levels continue to hover around 50 percent. Haiti is one of the lowest-ranked countries in the world, 177th out of 186, for national spending on education.

I spoke to Pastor Mario Agustave, the founder of the Voices For Haiti Project who has started many projects within the country along with education reform like medical assistance, housing development, and evangelistic outreach. There he is helping the people of his country who need it the most. He spoke to me about his most recent trip to Haiti last summer and the state the country is in. He especially focused on a school that the Voices For Haiti Project had help build and fund along with the government. It is an elementary school that holds over 50 children in one building the size of a regular classroom. “It is a place where the children can forget about the struggles at home with their family, and have fun learning math, singing songs, playing in the field, and being able to have a meal everyday,”Agustave says. But of course, although the children are happy it is not the most ideal situation. There is no access to water, more classrooms are need and teachers need to be paid.

This is not just a problem for the school the Voices For Haiti Project has built up, but a problem for most schools in the country. Without education, the country’s future is still bleak, and more need to know just how much Haiti needs help, not just with clothes and food, but with education as well.

Beat Memo – Haiti

The history of Haiti is a long one, that starts with the original Native Americans that lived there. The island, which currently is Haiti and the Dominican Republic, was inhabited by the Taino or Arawak people before Christopher Columbus stumbled upon the island, and called the island Ayti. After struggling through slavery, fighting for independence from France, becoming their own country, and going through corrupt government after corrupt government, Haiti is now in a state of disrepair as the poorest nation in the Caribbean, where they need help from the outside.

Languages: French and Haitian Creole

Religion: Catholicism, Catholic Voodoo, and Protestantism

News Outlets: Le Nouvelliste , Haiti United Press, Haïti Progrès , Haiti Liberté

Some current events that are in Haiti are their recovery after the 2010 earthquake, the 2011 cholera outbreak, and the Hurricane that hit Haiti last year. It is as if they don’t receive a break in natural disasters.

The immigrant community in New York is a thriving one, with many of them owning their own businesses in areas like Flatbush. Because this neighborhood is so densely packed with Haitians, the language spoken in the street is more commonly Haitian Creole than it is English.

 

Voice Of America

Voice of America is a government run news organization that does radio, television, and internet outside of America in English and in other foreign languages. It was founded 75 years ago, on February 1, 1942, during World War 2. Much later, under the Ford administration, it received its own charter and is allocated funds every year by congress.

VOA has gone through three controversies over the years, one being an interview with Taliban leader Mullah Omar Mohammad, which angered some, stating that it was giving terrorists the right to express their views. Either way, the report received the Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism.

In February 2013, a documentary released by China Central Television interviewed a Tibetan self-immolator who failed to kill himself. The man said  Voice of America’s broadcasts of commemorations of people who committed suicide in political self-immolation encouraged him, but VOA denied the allegations.

 

Haiti

The country I would love to cover is Haiti as I already have connections to this community. Being half-Haitian, I am quickly aware of the many of the stories that are happening in Haiti and the struggles that not only the people in the country are facing, but also the struggles the immigrant population in New York is facing.

Some good and possible stories that I can focus on is the natural disasters that have hit Haiti almost every year; how they are affected, and how they are trying to build themselves back up. Another story that I can focus on is the Clinton Foundation and the scandal that was brought up in regards to the money that was raised towards Haiti relief. I know that many Haitians did not vote this last election because they felt betrayed by the Clintons. Thirdly, a good story to talk about is the new government that is in place in Haiti now, after the election, and what Haitian New Yorkers think about the Haitian president now.