Local mothers and fathers aren’t the only ones focused on “kids back to school.” This is also the time when Haitian-American and Queens resident Dayanne Danier and the organization Fleur de Vie, Flower of Life, concentrates on children in Haiti starting their new school year.
Danier comes from a community-minded family and she says, “We were always reminded of our link to Haiti.”
Taking inspiration from Oprah’s work in Africa, this fashion designer thought, “I can’t start a school.” So, she began in her own way to help. For a few years, she sponsored some students and remembers, “Writing checks just didn’t seem enough, I wanted to be more connected.”
The 2010 earthquake ignited her, “We heard that the aid wasn’t getting to the people.”
Just four months later, she and colleague Jennie Batista traveled to Haiti and worked for two weeks with 115 students in a school in Carrefour, Port-au-Prince doing art activities to help relieve the students’ trauma. From that visit, the not-for-profit Fleur de Vie was conceived.
In 2012, the two returned with five Diaspora volunteers to do a Back-To-School recreation program promoting physical activity and health awareness with the Carrefour school as well as two more schools, for a total of 500 children. At day’s end, each student received a school supply-filled backpack. Each school also received a cache of teaching supplies.
Since then, Fleur de Vie returns every year to continue this work with an expanding program to include: Reading is Fundamental and Teacher Training using local professions.
“Additionally, we help establish a library with each partner, adding more books every year,“ Danier explained.
Transparency and respect to the life of children are the primary criteria for partnership with Fleur de Vie.
Four years ago, Fleur de Vie added an additional 140 students in Mirebelais, and through a partnership, 300 students in Anse de Veau in the Nippes Department where the United States organization is helping to rebuild their school, destroyed by Hurricane Mathew.
“We recognized the importance of working with the community,” states Danier, proud that in Haiti young adults ages 18-35 volunteer their time with the program. Many are members of the Rotaract — a sort of Rotary Junior club — who join the United States volunteers working with the kids. She emphasizes, “Returning volunteers show the students a genuine commitment and investment in their lives.”
“Young adults in Haiti want to see change,” said Danier, with her beaming smile “I see hope in the young adults. Through them, Haiti will be okay.”
Fleur de Vie also welcomes volunteers from the United States for their September or April programs.
An annual food tasting event, on-line fundraising campaigns (www.fleur
Fleur de Vie’s programming is directed by a diverse team of professionals on its board.
“By now, we’ve touched the lives of over 1000 children,” said Danier who will be heading out Sept. 18 for her next trip.