On October 27, 2016, we were able to to a live interview with Jean Philippe Sauveur, director of the J Nissi School in Cité Soleil, Haiti. An 2-minute version of the video is available at J Nissi School Update-Meet Jean Philippe Sauveur.
This post contains the full 35-minute video along with the translation that you can hear Hubermann Alcean providing during this interview with some adjustments made to get it in a more readable format.
I am Jean Phillipe Suavier and I am a teacher. I grew up in Cite Soleil and have lived in Cite Soleil for about 35 years. I’ve seen the best parts of Cite Soleil but also the worst parts, as well.
And thank God, that after 2010 when Haiti had the big earthquake, our school in Cite Soleil was born when some disaster relief volunteers from our community met Jeff Clark and Hubermann Alcean.
When we started, a lot of people didn’t think that the school could become what it is right now.
I can tell you that we have about 70 kids in the J Nissi School. We started with a first grade class and now go all the way through sixth grade.
We have about 16 members of our staff. Our teachers are:
- Mrs. Azzis who teaches first grade.
- We have Mr. Devenson who teaches second grade.
- We have Frere William who teaches third grade.
- We have Mr. Dominique who teaches fourth grade.
- We have Professor Jodea who teaches fifth grade.
- We have Mr. Matthaus who teaches sixth grade.
- We have 1 secretary, 1 disciplinary specialist, 1 assistant director, two cooks, and one housekeeper.
That is the staff we have at J Nissi School right now.
We teach first through sixth grade in the school. As director, my job is to watch over all of the students and teachers for these classes. It is also my obligation to teach the bible to the kids and also teach them about how to act civil and social in life.
Each teacher works from 7am to 1pm during the day.
When people in Haiti hear that a person is from Cite Soleil, they assume that the person usually won’t grow into a person who is social, is knowledgeable, or will have a good future, because it is a dangerous area. But these kids at J Nissi School are seen differently. The fact that they’ve had the opportunity to receive an education means that they behave differently, they talk differently, and they speak differently. Thanks to their education, these kids will not be judged in the same way as others in the community and might have a better future.
Cite Soleil is in desperate need of more schools. From my perspective, there should be at least ten schools in the area so that anybody can have access to good education.
I want to take a moment to say thank you to Mr. Jeff Clark and his wife Terry. And also to Jackson who is a part of the AFF team, to Hubermann, and to Rodney Leveille who used to be a part of the team, for helping the kids in Cite Soleil. And also, thank you to you all the brothers and sisters who are willing to come down to Haiti, volunteer to work beside us, and have the chance to see first hand the progress that we are making in Cite Soleil.
As the director, I can tell you that there are many challenges when it comes to managing a school in Cite Soleil. One of the biggest challenges is that when there are shootings or bad things happening in the city, and the kids are not feeling safe, I have to find a way for them to keep coming to school. Right now, things in Cite Soleil are calmer and I have been praying that they will stay peaceful so the kids can come to school and continue their work. No matter what, it is always a challenge.
Awhile back, anyone who heard of Cite Soleil had no doubt that it is a dangerous place and that it has some bad people. As of right now there are some real improvements in terms of how people live and how they treat one another. I am hopeful that things will keep going that way so that we can project a better image of Cite Soleil along with the importance of a good education.
For example, let’s say that one of our teachers is ready to come to work but there is some trouble going on in Cite Soleil, sometimes they just have to say “let’s do this”, and come in to the school. This takes a lot of courage.
After six and half years, I know that there are good things happening in the school and community but I also know there are still going to be some challenges. Sometimes we’ll have teachers that leave and it takes me time to get a new teacher up to speed. It is just part of the work that we need to do to keep pressing on.
Some of the challenges that our kids face in school is that some of our teachers don’t have enough resources in their classrooms. If kids don’t have notebooks and the books for their lessons, it is a challenge for them to get their homework done.
Some other challenges are that we don’t have a lot of chalkboards and that there are not enough benches for all of the kids to sit down. We also need storage space for the teachers to store their books and other resources. The challenges are enormous in terms of what we do in our work.
Tomorrow, the AFF team will be meeting with the kids in the church where we have a few of our classes. There are already a few classes that meet in that room, and as the school expands we’ll need to fit more people in that space. It would be awesome to have a separate room for each class. It is a big challenge for me this year.
Imagine having three classes in one room and there isn’t any kind of divider in the room. It is easy for the kids to get distracted when one group talks louder than another group or is being noisy. When the kids can’t concentrate it is a challenge for them to learn.
Despite all of these challenges, I am always hopeful that things will continue to change “little by little” as Jeff Clark says. We will keep moving forward one step at a time to get where we’re going.
As I was mentioning to you earlier, as a person that has been there and knows what is going on, and Kris, maybe this is the first time you visited Cite Soleil, we are often protected. Sometimes when shootings happen in Cite Soleil you have all of the kids in one place and they are actually being targeted somewhat by the shooting. we would have lost a lot of lives. We are still moving forward and doing good. What a huge blessing.
As the director of J Nissi School, it is my passion, it is my goal, and it is my dream, that fifty years from now this school might be the greatest in Cite Soleil and that it can bring a lot of change and new resources to the community.
Most of our teachers are either from Cite Soleil or live in Cite Soleil, but some of the teachers come from different areas. The fact that they are actually willing to come in and teach the kids shows how passionate they are about what they do and shows you where their heart is.
If there were more help and we could have more classes we would certainly do it.
That’s a beautiful question. I have a lot of ideas. And I understand that all of those ideas can’t be realized in one day.
For example, you can look at the students who started in the lowest grade level six years ago and see how far they have come today.
If you were to look back at pictures of these kids when we started six years ago you can see that they look different now. In school they have learned good behavior and how to dress themselves. This personal pride makes a huge difference.
There are several ways that people can help support what we do in Cite Soleil. First of all, keep doing what you’re doing to help us out with food. It’s important that the kids get a hot meal every day to keep them motivated. And also there is a whole other thing that he said that we will talk about when we meet tomorrow.
It’s also important for the kids to learn about computers. A few years ago, I wasn’t able to do anything with computer and had to ask everyone for help to do anything. But now I’ve learned a little bit and can do some work.
I can coach people a bit but it’s a fast moving world and technology is getting bigger and bigger. In the future, it would be awesome to have some sort of program for the kids so they can work with computers, some basic Microsoft, and how to type.
One of my biggest goals is to introduce kids to the church and for them to learn the gospel. If I hadn’t had the opportunity to get to know God, I don’t know where I would be today. I could be anything other than what I am right now. But now it is my responsibility and my mission to share the bible with the students at the school.
My mission is not only to go to church, but it is also to make sure we teach our students about the bible and you can see the difference that it has made today. You can see the kids react to it. They learn to be humble and to know the difference between what is right and what is wrong, and that is a very good thing.
One big component that we might need to add to J Nissi School is some training for the kids to learn how to create things. During the Summer, we had some volunteers come and do art projects with the students and it was a very good thing. We would love to see more people come to teach them to create things.
I would also like to have a trade school for them someday to learn skills like sewing that will help them in the future.
And thank you to Mr. Jeff Clark and Madame Terry. And Mr. Kris that I just met for the first time. And Mr. Tom who is with us today. And Mr. Hubermann. You leave your family and work behind to come down here to CITE SOLEIL. As Jeff says we want small steps to keep pushing forward with the school.
This is one of the things that keeps me healthy. I have met with many different people who have traveled to Haiti with Jeff Clark. And I usually talk to them like I am talking to you now. The message that we will continue to send out is that people should just come down and visit the school because it is the best way to see what we are doing and to be a part of the story.
When you come down and work for the kids in Cite Soleil it is a considered a blessing. We know that more and more people are starting to realize that we need help in Cite Soleil. These people need help. We need big changes down here. Come down and help us.
When you come down to help and do the work with the kids you can see their world. You can see their personalities. You can love them. You can be conscious that they are human like anyone else.
One day these kids might have an opportunity to be somebody like myself, Hubermann, Jeff, or Kris. They can be a new person. Someone who wants knowledge is able to do some good.
Thank you for your help now and in the future.
In general, I want to thank not just those who come to help our kids in Cite Soleil, but who help the kids anywhere in Haiti. Especially in the south where they were just hit by a huge hurricane. Or in the hospitals where kids are sick.
But I want to make sure that you know that we are grateful. Our kids and the kids with Pastor Silar, and kids all around the world, need help from people like you who are willing to learn about us, listen, and open your heart for something good.
Whatever God has told you to do, He has a reason for it. There is a blessing with that. Wherever God sends you, just go. It is very important to be faithful and follow your heart. Thank you.