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Review for Mona Foundation, Kirkland, WA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

Education is a right for all children. In Haiti, only those who can afford the $35/month tuition can attend a school of some quality, one without 40-50 children in a classroom. Offering more children a chance to learn is what will bring Haiti to a place of self-sufficiency and develop the country in moral, social and economic ways.

I was introduced to Mona Foundation, an educational world-wide NGO, just after it became a viable organization in 1999. I began volunteering as office help because I had time in the evenings, believed in its mission, and knew the organization needed assistance. As a classroom teacher myself, I strongly believe that everyone has the right to learning, especially those in developing countries. I enjoyed the work and felt I was participating towards positive change.

I first visited Anis Zunuzi School in Haiti on a site visit several years before the 2010 earthquake. After the crowded, noisy, dirty and almost frantic streets of Port-au-Prince, I found the school to be an island of calm, on seven acres of shaded acreage. The staff was welcoming and capable, meeting with us on several occasions to share their vision and hopes for the future. At that time, flush toilets and showers were a priority, neither of which they had. Also, they were seeking more classroom space as the school was growing and more students wanted to enroll. Over time, Mona Foundation supporters generously funded these requests. After the massive earthquake in 2010 that devastated the country, I volunteered my services with an emergency medical team. The requested showers and toilets had just been constructed a month before! School was closed so we camped on the soccer field along with some of the staff while we held clinics in classrooms during the day. Those showers and toilets were the only ones working for miles around and were most welcome by us visitors! Many of the school staff served as volunteers to help their injured community during this time, and together with the doctors and others on the medical team, we attended about 450 people a day who came with various injuries. Members of this team returned to Haiti several times over the next few months until the need for emergency medical help had been reduced.

When medical attention was no longer needed and the school reopened, I asked what else I could do to further assist. Their answer was “an art program,” since there was no art training available. So I came home and wrote an art curriculum for kindergarten through fourth grade, and incorporated as much of the vibrant Haitian art mediums as possible. I returned several times after that, taking art supplies, conducting teacher training sessions, and sharing ways to incorporate art activities to support their existing curriculum. Many of the ideas were “hands-on” which they seemed to enjoy since most of the teaching/learning in Haiti is done by rote memory. Most teachers themselves did not understand what a color wheel was or had ever held a paintbrush!

Over time I saw changes in the classroom atmosphere, some new ideas being tried and this is exciting. One teacher even stepped in to offer classes in making paper mache animals so they could be sold in the US for scholarship money for other students. I realize that what is common in US classrooms may not be comfortable for those in Haitian classrooms, but the need for creative expression is universal. When given a chance, students anywhere will happily choose color and art materials to express themselves and their subjects. Sustaining a program like this is a personal challenge but well worth it to see the teachers’ and students’ growth. Each year I return with consumable art supplies and offer workshops with additional art ideas to support their curriculum.

I will continue to visit and support Anis Zunuzi Baha'i School as much as I can when they ask for help. I feel it’s important to wait for their direction to prioritize needs for the growth of their school. Anis Zunuzi provides a quality, loving and moral education for children living in insecure situations and true poverty. This education is their path to a brighter future than they would have otherwise and in my opinion should be made available to as many children as possible. Many of the students could not attend without scholarship help because their families truly can’t afford the $35/month.

I would encourage those who can to support Anis Zunuzi Baha'i School scholarship program. I have seen such positive change in students over the years I have been visiting Haiti, and how education makes the difference between opportunity in life and becoming a victim of poor environment and life circumstance. It is a child’s right to learn and sadly not every child in Haiti can exercise that right.

In communicating recently with a young man I met during my work as a volunteer in Haiti, I asked how his siblings were doing. He said school was no longer an option, because their mom could not make enough selling in the market to send all four children to school. He was on scholarship to university but the other three had to stay home. Quickly I connected with others who had worked in Haiti with me and soon we gathered scholarship support for these three children for the year, including books, uniforms and exam fees. But what of others? Many children in Haiti need financial support for their education. Thirty-five dollars a month will make a world of difference to those who have few options for school.

Role:  General Member of the Public

Review for Mona Foundation, Kirkland, WA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

This educational foundation is an amazing composite of hard-working volunteers, dedicated to supporting the mission and goals of its founding members. Thousands of children around the globe have been allowed educational opportunities where there were few available to them before. Hope for a better future has been given to those who had little. As a volunteer/staff member who had the privilege to travel to Mona supported projects both in Panama and Haiti, I can more fully understand and appreciate the impact of the project improvements in each country. By encouraging the directors of each project to outline their own development choices, the Mona Foundation builds capacity within each project, from the ground up. 100% of designated contributed funds go directly to the project and 97% of general fund contributions are sent to the projects. This foundation can be trusted to do what it says it will do--support and educate marginalized children and improve their life-long opportunities because of it.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

working with the donors and the staff for the last ten years. The staff is committed to improving and expanding their impact each year and Mona donors are generous, caring individuals who sincerely want their contributions to count toward positive change.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

the candid approach to everything they're involved with.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

amazing, dedicated individuals who truly believe in their work.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

make such an impact that other non-profits would just wonder how it was done! It's my feeling that the Mona model of social and economic development should be replicated over and over.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?


Role:  Former staff & Executive Assistant to the Board.