mercredi 26 février 2014

Rutgers director of football recruiting persuades players to join his Haiti rebuilding team

By Tom Luicci/The Star-Ledger

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on February 26, 2014 at 7:00 AM, updated February 26, 2014 at 7:29 AM
Tariq Ahmad makes his pitch and immediately breaks his first rule of business: Make no promises.
The director of recruiting operations for the Rutgers football program starts talking to players about an opportunity to visit an exotic locale where they can make a difference. They’ll live in primitive conditions and spend all day doing physically demanding work.
And — here’s the promise — it will be a “life-changing experience.”
“You come back a different person,” says Chris Muller, a starting offensive lineman on the Rutgers football team. “I know I did. You hear a lot of the guys say the same thing.”
Every time Tariq (pronounced Tark) Ahmad hears that, he smiles.
So this month, for the third straight year, Ahmad will head to Haiti with about a dozen Rutgers players to help with the continuing effort to rebuild the country following the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked the island on Jan. 12, 2010.
“One of the goals is to assist in the recovery efforts, to help people who desperately need help,” he says. “The other goal is to provide an opportunity for our players to see what another part of the world is like, a part of the world where they can have an impact.”
So far, 18 Rutgers players have participated in the project, with each player raising the $1,700 cost for the trip through donations.
"One of the goals is to assist in the recovery efforts . . . The other goal is to provide an opportunity for our players to see . . . where they can have an impact."
TARIQ AHMAD, director of recruiting operations for the Rutgers football program, on bringing players to Haiti to help with the rebuilding effort following the 2010 earthquake
Shortly after the Haiti disaster, which resulted in an estimated 272,000 deaths and $7.8 billion in damage, according to International Red Cross accounts, Ahmad knew he had to get involved in the recovery efforts.
His mother, Kathleen Ahmad, provided the impetus, having gone to Haiti on a humanitarian mission in 2008 after Hurricane Gustav caused widespread destruction to one of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest countries. At the time, she tried to persuade her son to go with her, but Ahmad’s Rutgers schedule didn’t offer extended breaks.
Soon after the 2010 earthquake, however, he says, he had to somehow find time. So Ahmad came up with the idea of making the trip during spring break, accompanied by as many Rutgers football players as he could round up.
It was probably the best recruiting pitch he’s ever made, because there’s usually only two things on players’ minds when break time comes — fun and relaxation. “As a football player, spring break is a big deal. We really don’t get much time off all year, so it’s a big sacrifice,” says Brandon Coleman, a star wide receiver for the Scarlet Knights. “The little time you do get off, you want to take advantage of it and have some fun. “But I saw this as an opportunity I might never get again. And when I was there, I knew I made the right decision because it felt to me that this is what I was supposed to be doing.”
The players spent most of their first two trips knee-deep in masonry work, rebuilding churches and schools in the towns of Mellier and Petit-Goave, while living modestly, as the locals do, with only the bare essentials.
“Growing up in Hunterdon County, I never saw anything like the conditions I saw in Haiti,” says Bryan Leoni, an offensive lineman from Flemington who is making his third trip to Haiti with Ahmad. “Just the lack of basics — clothing, food, bathrooms. They still don’t have a lot of the things we take for granted.”
Muller, from Perkiomenville, Pa., says it was culture shock at first.
“Seeing what is considered normal living for Haitians is very eye-opening. They were just so happy to have people around who cared and were willing to help,” he says. “My first reaction when I saw the devastation was that there was nothing we could possibly do that could help. It was overwhelming. But the people were so grateful just to have us there. I came back and I remember thinking, they helped us much more than we helped them. That’s how much the experience meant to me.”
Ahmad stays in touch with several people he has come to know in Haiti, having made eight other trips there by himself. He says he doesn’t try to prepare the players for what they will see when they arrive. He believes it’s better to let them experience it first-hand.
“Essentially, it was like seeing a war-torn country,” Ahmad says of the first two player-accompanied trips. “The magnitude of the destruction and the need is just overwhelming. You can’t believe anything can be fixed. But after going back several times now, after four or five months between trips, I can see there is progress being made.”
Ahmad, 32, says he can’t remember his life without being involved in some sort of volunteer project. From an early age, his parents instilled in him the need to lend a hand to others.
“My mother is a farmer from upstate New York. She’s Christian. My father is a Muslim from Pakistan,” says Ahmad, who grew up in Holmdel and was a three-sport standout (football, basketball and track) at Ithaca College. “They’re very different people from very different backgrounds, but they share the value of helping others and trying to help people in need.
“As a child, I remember my family working for Habit for Humanity in Trenton. We did a trip every year where we would help build a home somewhere in the United States. We did a lot of local volunteer work. So the need to help others has always been part of my life. It’s something that was ingrained in me. That’s my parents’ influence.”
Both of Ahmad’s parents have doctoral degrees — his mother’s is in mathematics, his father (Zafar) has one in sociology. Ahmad already has a master's degree in sports psychology; he is working toward a second one, in education administration.
At some point, perhaps in the next few years, Ahmad says, his goal is to be an administrator at an inner city school. But it’s likely Rutgers will do all it can to persuade him to stay. He also happens to be very good at his job.
“Since he became the director of recruiting, Rutgers has had a couple of the best recruiting classes in school history,” says Brian Dohn, the national recruiting analyst for Scout.com. “People — recruits, their families, high school coaches — always say he’s an easy guy to talk to, and that’s because he can relate to them regardless of their background or upbringing.”
Ahmad is as surprised as anyone that he has adapted so well to a college football recruiting job.
“I did not think I would fit in this role from the standpoint that I do not see myself as a salesman,” he says. “I really enjoy the relationships that we develop during the recruiting process. That’s my favorite part of the job. I love the process of meeting different people, learning about people and sharing what I love about Rutgers and why I am in graduate school here.”
His ability to relate apparently has no boundaries. Ahmad also speaks Haitian Creole, one of the two official languages (French is the other) of a country he has spent so much time in that it has almost become a second home.
But it wasn’t easy, initially, for Ahmad to convince the people he deals with every day — Rutgers football players — to join him in the relief effort. Then, as word spread throughout the team, with players relating their experiences following the first trip, there suddenly was no shortage of volunteers. He now has more volunteers than spaces for them.
“I was nervous about going at first,” says Coleman. “Now I think about the people I met there and what that experience was like all of the time. It’s been over a year since I was there. Our project was to build the foundation of a church. There wasn’t much there, even after we left.
“But Tariq showed me a picture of the finished product not long ago and I remember thinking `Wow, I helped build that.’ It’s a great feeling to know you helped.”
Because they are unskilled laborers, the players usually take on jobs such as digging foundations and similar work.
The volunteers slept in temporary huts covered by mosquito nets, rising early to work on their rebuilding projects.
The bathroom and water situation? That was another story.
“Water came from a well we had to pump from,” Coleman says. “The bathroom was an outhouse. But we only had to live that way for a week. The people there live that way all of the time. It really makes you appreciate what you have.”
Muller says he still has a vivid image of the children, giddy and squealing, laughing and enjoying themselves around the oversized strangers from America. “We played with the kids for hours after we were done working,” he says. “We had so much fun with them. They didn’t want anything except for people to give them a little attention. I can’t begin to tell you how much that impacted me. To help someone so much in need was the ultimate gratification for me.”
Ahmad says he doesn’t try to sell the players on the value of volunteer work. He just wants them to experience it — and then decide.
“I’ve found that it’s an amazing experience to have that kind of impact on people’s lives. I think the players feel the same way when they go to Haiti and then come back. It’s as rewarding as anything you can do in life.”
And that’s a promise.

State Dept Again Announces $95K Grant to Teach Haitian Inmates How to Sew

(CNSNews.com) – The State Department did not have success finding a grant recipient last year, so it decided to again announce a $95,000 grant opportunity for a pilot program to train Haitian inmates in textile production and assembly so that they can sew uniforms for other inmates.
“The objective of the program is to provide training to inmates that will provide them with valuable skills for employment in textile production and assembly, which they will then use to create standardized uniforms for Haiti’s inmate population,” the grant announcement said.
“The grantee will need to work closely with the Haitian Department of Prison Administration (DAP) to hold trainings within DAP facilities, involve DAP personnel through a ‘train the trainer’ model, and coordinate details on inmates’ uniform production,” the announcement said.
“Having standardized uniforms is important for DAP, because corrections officers cannot differentiate between inmates and civilians. Differences in inmates’ street clothes can prompt discrimination in how they are treated by corrections officers, or can incite theft from other inmates,” the grant said.
The grant recipient “should aim to train at least 100 DAP inmates in textile production skills, and at least one DAP personnel in each participating prison.” The training is expected to be delivered to “at least four prison facilities in Haiti’s Ouest Department, including the Youth Offenders’ facility in Delmas 33 and the PetionVille Women’s facility.”
Applicants are expected to propose “key personnel and trainers who are fluent in French and/or Haitian Creole, and all course materials must be delivered in French and/or Haitian Creole (not through interpretation).”
Haiti’s prisons are severely overcrowded with the current prison population exceeding the intended capacity by 5,487 inmates. “Women, men, juveniles, and serious/petty offenders are not separated consistently across the system,” the grant announcement said.
Not only is the program an effort to alleviate “severe overcrowding and improve humane conditions” within Haiti’s prison system, but it is expected to provide inmates with skills they can use to re-enter society and reduce recidivism. Inmates can use these skills to “facilitate their entry into the job market.”
“Inmates targeted for participation should be convicted prisoners with remaining sentences between 2-5 years, with higher priority on those with less time remaining.”
The grant is being issued by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. One grant is expected to be awarded with an award floor of $40,000 and an award ceiling of $95,000.
“The award may be extended up to two years based on INL’s program priorities, good performance on the award, and pending funding availability,” the State Department said.
CNSNews.com previously reported on the grant on July 16, 2013, but the grant was never awarded, according to a State Department spokesman, who told CNSNews.com Tuesday that the grant opportunity posted on Feb. 3, 2014 is a continuation of the grant announced on June 3, 2013. Since that grant was never awarded, the grant opportunity was announced again.
- See more at: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/melanie-hunter/state-dept-again-announces-95k-grant-teach-haitian-inmates-how-sew-0#sthash.0g1HGREy.dpuf

'A Night in Haiti' offers guests a glimpse of daily life at sister parish in Haiti

For the second year in a row, a Mary, Queen of Peace party will give guests a glimpse of daily life at St. Benoît Dessources, the Mandeville church’s sister parish in Haiti. “A Night in Haiti,” being presented by the church’s Haiti Solidarity Partnership Ministry, will take place March 15. The goal is to increase awareness of the ministry’s efforts to transform St. Benoît and help its people ultimately become self-sustaining.
Since 2011, Mary, Queen of Peace has partnered with St. Benoit Dessources in Haiti. Funds contributed by parishioners and community members have gone toward construction projects at the church, seen here before its reconstruction.
“We offer this as a thank you to all of the people for their generosity throughout the years,” said Muguet Bolotte, the ministry’s leader. “The people of St. Benoît are very grateful to them for changing the face of Dessources.”
Since 2011, the Mandeville church has partnered with the Haitian parish, located in the impoverished nation’s rural mountains. St. Benoît serves more than 5,000 families, who live without electricity, running water or healthcare and walk an hour or more to celebrate Mass at either its main church or one of its six outlying chapels.
The buildings were significantly damaged during the January 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, and the many of the donations collected by the ministry have gone toward construction projects.
Mary, Queen of Peace first funded a new roof for St. Benoît’s main church, which has now been transformed with plaster, paint, a new fence and more. They also have contributed to the construction of new classrooms, a kitchen and cafeteria, and toilets for St. Benoit’s elementary school, along with other projects.
Proceeds from last year’s “A Night in Haiti” went toward digging a water well in Dessources. It is now operational, meaning that St. Benoît’s students do not have to carry heavy jugs of water during their long journey to school each day.
"“All donations, large and small, make an impact in the lives of the people of St. Benoit," said Muguet Bolotte, ministry leader. But the impact of the partnership goes beyond construction projects. Ministry funds also have paid for a hot school lunch program, the creation of a pre-K program with a certified teacher, the hiring of additional teachers, and the consistent payment of those teachers’ $100 to $125 per month salary.
Last year, the ministry received a grant from the nonprofit Vitamin Angels to distribute vitamins to children ages 5 and under for five years. It also has established funding pages through the nonprofit Food for the Poor for the remainder of its water well costs and for a program to buy goats for St. Benoît’s families.
In return for Mary, Queen of Peace’s efforts, St. Benoît’s parishioners continually offer prayers and gratitude. The partnership has grown into a deep kinship – St. Benoît’s pastor, Mgsr. Wildor Pierre, has traveled to Mandeville four times. Mission teams from Mary, Queen of Peace have visited Haiti twice; a third mission team will travel there April 24 to 30.
Since everyone can’t see St. Benoît’s dramatic transformation firsthand, the main goal of “A Night in Haiti” is give people a sense of daily life in Dessources through pictures and displays, Bolotte said. It also will show a progression of the work accomplished with donations from Mary, Queen of Peach parishioners and community members.
“All donations, large and small, make an impact in the lives of the people of St. Benoît, especially the students who are able to attend school for the first time,” Bolotte said.
The event will feature a menu of Caribbean fare – pulled pork, black beans and rice, and tres leches cake – along with beer, wine and a special rum drink. Guests also will have a chance to dance to Haitian music and purchase Haitian crafts such as masks, jewelry, paintings, and decorative items.
Guests will be able to contribute directly to the fund during the party or sponsor one or more backpacks – at $10 each – to be sent to St. Benoît’s elementary school students.
All proceeds from the night will go into a scholarship fund to pay for educating St. Benoit's children. Although Catholic elementary school education is free, the church’s yearly costs of providing lunch, uniforms and supplies totals $90 per child, Bolotte said.
“They are just thrilled because they have an elementary school to go to. There are all different ages in all the grades because many have never had the opportunity to go,” Bolotte said.
The cost for middle school tuition jumps significantly, and Bolotte said she’s not sure why. Attending 7th grade is $500; 8th grade is $600; and 9th grade is $700.
Currently, middle school is taught at the church in the afternoons, although a building constructed by a Canadian and Mexican consortium is ready for middle school students once it has power and water and qualified teachers are found.
Last school year, donations from St. Scholastica Academy paid the tuition for Nerline Chapotain, the first St. Benoît student to attend middle school. Now, they are once again paying Chapotain’s tuition and are sponsoring a second middle school student.
“Our longer-term strategy … is to move into microfinance area to stimulate the local economy, so people can launch businesses, produce more, sell more and save more to send their children to school. Once the money begins to circulate within the community, all will benefit,” Bolotte said.
"A Night in Haiti" will take place March 15 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the Mary, Queen of Peace School cafeteria, 1501 W. Causeway Approach, Mandeville. Cost for the event is $25 person, and the public is welcome to attend.
Reservations for the night can be made at any time in the church's Parish Center, after all Masses March 8-9, and after the church's mission March 10-12.
For more information on the night, call ministry leader Muguet Bolotte at 985.705.1846 or e-mail mqphaiti@gmail.com. For more information on Mary, Queen of Peace, call 985.626.6977 or visit www.maryqueenofpeace.org.
To see the ministry’s Food for the Poor funding pages, go to www.foodforthepoor.org/stbenoit for the water well or http://support.foodforthepoor.org/site/TR/Events/Champions?pxfid=10090&fr_id=2091&pg=fund for the goat program.

Dance party benefit to help Eben Ezer School in Haiti

February 26, 2014 2:00 AM
PORTSMOUTH — The fifth annual Caribbean Nights Dance Party to benefit the Eben Ezer School in Haiti will take place Saturday, March 22, at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 168 in the city.
Money raised will be used to pay teachers, buy uniforms and educate children at the school in the rural town of Milot, Haiti.
Latin and reggae tunes will be provided by Combo Sabroso, a Boston band that plays the event each year.
"We love playing this gig because not only are the people who come ready for an awesome dance party, but also because we are all learning about and helping kids in Haiti who might not ever learn to read or write without our help," said Matt Jenson of Arlington, Mass., band leader and University of New Hampshire alumnus who is currently on the piano faculty at Berklee College of Music.
Local restaurants will contribute Indian and Mexican food, as well as chowder, baked goods, meatballs and flatbread pizza.
A Latin dance instructor will be available to teach a few steps early in the evening for those who want to pick up the basics.
This year's dance will also include a video production by local high school student Georgia Barlow of South Berwick, Maine, who traveled during a recent school vacation week to the Eben Ezer School.
The dance party begins at 7 p.m. with the video and a short update on the progress made thanks to the hundreds of Seacoast residents who have been involved, including about a dozen who have been to the school.
Dancing starts at 8 p.m.
The first Caribbean Nights Dance Party was held in 2010, when the Eben Ezer School had only 100 students and four classrooms. Since then it has grown threefold. Dozens of families in the Seacoast and beyond have signed up to sponsor students at the school, and through the dance provide the operating funds that allow the school to continue.
The video and slide presentation will include an update on efforts to build a guesthouse to help the school create its own income and train vocational students. York Rotarian Paul Salacain, who was in Milot in February, met with Rotarians there and investigated options for building a water tank and buying materials.
The guesthouse is being designed by Mike Lassel of Lassel Architects in South Berwick.
Tickets are being sold at Black Bean in Rollinsford, Ceres Bakery in Portsmouth, Nature's Way in South Berwick, Full Circle Community Thrift Store in Eliot, Maine, G. Willikers! in Portsmouth and RiverRun Books/Lils in Kittery, Maine.
Checks made out to Life and Hope Haiti can be mailed to 37 Highland Ave., South Berwick, ME 03908. Tickets cost $20.