By Richard Bell
In the winter of 2013, Patricia Egli and her husband sailed into Bay of Feret, a harbour on the small island of Île-à-Vache, 6 miles off the southern shore of Haiti, a stop that changed her life and the life of Edisson, a young Haitian who guided them around the island. The inhabitants have a traditional way of life on an island with no electricity, no roads, and no cars. (There's a Bluenose connection too: the original Bluenose broke up after snagging on a reef near Île-à-Vache on January 29, 1946.)
“We were walking back when two young people said hello to Edisson,” Egli said. “He turned to us, and said, ‘These are my friends, I wish I could go with them.’ He wanted to go back to junior high school with his friends, but lacked the money to pay tuition. When I found out that all he needed to finish the school year was $25, I offered to pay.”
Egli was impressed by Edisson’s deep desire to learn, and decided to help him continue his studies. For the next four years, she paid the small tuition for Edisson to attend the nearest upper secondary school, in the city of Les Cayes on the southern mainland coast of Haiti opposite the island.
“From Les Cayes, Edisson kept up his email communications with me,” Egli said, “sending me every report card. He spent the school term in Les Cayes because he could not afford week-end round trips to his mother’s house. I was impressed by his remarkable perseverance, determination, and courage in getting his education, and even more so in the face of the devastation of the area by hurricane Matthew last October.”
In the fall of 2016, Edisson wrote to tell Egli about an opportunity to land a job on a cruise ship, a career that would allow him to take care of his mother and his two brothers and four sisters. A company called Oceanlink Maritime Training Institute (OMTI) had opened a special 12-month training program in Les Cayes. Students take classes in English and hospitality management, plus the mandatory Basic Safety Training certificates. And at the end of their training, students get a 6- to 8-month first placement on a cruise ship that can lead to permanent employment.
After verifying that OMTI was a legitimate company and that its training was internationally recognized, Egli decided to help Edisson make this leap to a well-paying job. But the cost of the training, which includes tuition, room and board, and finishing at an international crew training facility in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, was far higher than his Haiti school tuition.
“So I decided to do something I’d never done in my life, raising money,” Egli explained. She set up an online fundraising campaign, using GoFundMe, and has already raised almost half (or 40% of??) the money for Edisson’s career training.
Egli will be sharing more information about her experiences in Île-à-Vache and her campaign to help Edisson on March 25th at the Musquodoboit Harbour Public Library at 12 noon. You can find out more about Edisson, or make a donation, by visiting the GoFundMe page, “Haiti: Help One, Help Many,” at https://www.gofundme.com/haitihelponehelpmany. You can also support Edisson by purchasing flower bulbs, seeds, and edibles (guaranteed by Vesey’s) until April 15. Please e-mail Egli at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the catalogue and place an order.