Douglaston students raise money for poor Haitian pupils

Students at Divine Catholic Academy in Douglaston collected money and school supplies for a school in Haiti. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Anna Gustafson

Students at the Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy in Douglaston dedicated much of their holiday season to collecting money and supplies for impoverished Haitian students, hundreds of whom will be able to go to school, thanks to the Queens children.

The Douglaston students raised about $1,000 in December, which they used to purchase school supplies for children in Mapou, Haiti, an area of the country that is about 45 minutes off the main island. While it was not hit hard by the earthquake last January that killed an estimated 200,000 people and left about 1 million Haitians homeless, it is one of the country’s poorest regions and was hit hard financially after the quake because residents of Mapou rely on goods from the mainland and prices skyrocketed after the disaster.

When the Douglaston students heard residents were trying to build their first school in Mapou, it did not take long for them to decide they wanted to help, and they began collecting money and other goods for Haiti beginning in December.

On Dec. 29 the students spent the day at the school, at 45-11 245th St., loading the supplies, as well as 200 student desks and chairs, nine desks for teachers, 20 bookcases and several cartons of books into a truck that will bring the items to a ship bound for the Caribbean nation.

“Right now they’re going to school among trees, so we’re happy to be able to help them,” said Christopher DePasquale, 8, of Douglaston.

The school in Haiti has 70 students, all of whom attend classes in tents and under trees, and the donations from Queens will allow an estimated 200 more children to attend the school, officials from the Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy said.

The Douglaston students wrote letters to their Haitian peers and Divine Wisdom officials said the two schools will remain in contact. The Haitian children are expected to write letters back, which they will send after the shipment arrives.

“Everybody has been trying to help,” said Mary O’Byrne, 12, of Little Neck. “It shows that everybody really cares.”

Natalie Minarik, 10, of Little Neck, said she and her colleagues recognized how important it was to continue to support the Caribbean nation as it attempts to rebuild itself after the earthquake.

“We have homes, churches and schools,” she said. “They don’t have a lot.”

Miriam Benici, the librarian at Divine Wisdom and the mother of a boy at the school, said learning about Haiti was an eye-opening experience for many of the students.

“They realize how fortunate they are,” Benici said. “Their biggest problem is so minor compared to the students in Haiti.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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