"It is fundamental to show children that one loves them and that one really wants to help them. The rest goes automatically. It is also a work of justice towards these children whose physical, intellectual and moral development is jeopardized by a life without affection, without guidance, without constraint, without obligation. The street cannot be educative in any way." Father Simon of Timkatec.
|Timkatec 3 for girls is complete and the interior is being built out|
Father Joseph Simon, is the Founder and Director of Timkatec Schools. He is Haitian, and was ordained a Salesian priest 53 years ago and retired in 1994 after a career as a High School teacher. He had started a weekend educational program 20 years ago in 1992. Two years later, he asked his family to raise funds to purchase a small house to start a Primary school which he named Timkatec "Timoun k'ap teke chans" ("Children who try their luck to survive") in Petion-Ville, just outside Port au Prince.
With the help of close collaborators Marie Manigat, her daughter and daughter-in-law, they scoured the teeming streets of Port au Prince for homeless and abandoned children, some as young as 5 years old. Others made their own way to Timkatec and he will not turn them away.
Timkatec started with classes were for about 20 kids because of the size of the house.
In 1995 his family again raised funds to increase the size of the school by adding 2 additional stories that would enable him to add dormitories. By 2000 Timkatec had grown to 40 residents and another 50 or so day students who took 5 years of guidance, food, shelter and Primary education. Sadly, some of these youngsters, after this effort then had to return to the streets. Some participated in a vocational training program established with businesses in the community and learned skills as mechanics or sewing. Other achievements, including improvements in their health, literacy skills and self-esteem. This garnered Timkatec kids reputations as hard working and responsible and even decreased petty crimes in the area. A few children have even been reunited with their families. Others, after obtaining their Primary certificate, were sent to the Salesian Brothers in downtown Port-au-Prince. Sadly, that school, ENAM was totally destroyed in the 2009 earthquake, killing almost 300 students. Marie and Sabine Manigat are closely involved to this day with the Primary school we now Timkatec 1.
Father Simon’s dream was to find steady funding to enable these and other deserving kids to get the training needed for them to be able to earn a living. Timkatec had some supporters in Haiti, and from France and Belgium since the millennium but little support from the USA. In 2004, having read about Timkatec, the O’Shea family decided to make effort to raise funds to build a Training School. They named this group, The Friends of Timkatec in America. By yearend those funds, some matched by CRS, had been raised and in 2005, construction started. It was completed in 2006 with the first 80 students commencing Trade Training in September at what was named Timkatec 2.
Two years later, in 2008 the first graduation took place, with 15 graduates. By this time, the school had grown to 150 students. 57 graduated in 2009 a great success. In September, the third school for girls was opened; a school paid for by Canadian supporters who support Timkatec to this day. We now call this Timkatec 3.
In January 2010, Haiti was devastated by the worst natural disaster in the Western Hemisphere in history. It caused the deaths of over 230,000, and sickness and injury of another 250,000. Over a million were homeless as 50% of buildings were collapsed.
Tragically, over 100 students and teachers were lost to the earthquake. Timkatec building were not spared, although damage was fairly light. Kids were to live in tents for months afterwards. Father Simon was in the USA recovering from eye surgery that Sunday. Patrick O’Shea immediately raided his ATM and with further cash support drove to Miami so that Father Simon could return a few days via Santa Domingo with some immediate cash as all functions in Haiti ceased that day. For months the banks and markets ceased to function. Fortunately, the relationship with CRS was very helpful in ensuring that some funds could get through and food supplies were delivered.
That year, 2010, Patrick was able to attend a graduation for 61 lads; all trained to be able to assist in Haiti’s recovery. Tommy Stinson, well know musician, touched by the tragedy in Haiti had contacted the Friends to offer his support and raised sufficient funds with a Celebrity Auction to pay for a further expansion of Timkatec 2. A similar pledge to expand Timkatec 3 was made by Ben and Diane Plett in Canada. By September 2011 both schools had been expanded by 25%, although sufficient funding for the added students, materials and teachers is still a challenge. Timkatec 3 had also been designed as a dual use building and at night is able to operate as a Shelter offering a clean bed and evening and morning meals with 80 available places.
- In 2012 Timkatec 1 marks its 20th Anniversary with 110 students.
- Timkatec 2 marks its 7 Th year and will graduate its 5th class of over 60 trained apprentices and has almost 180 students
- Timkatec 3 will soon graduate its first trainees and currently has 155 students in both Primary and Secondary courses
- The Timkatec 3 shelter now has 30 nightly guests.
The challenge in 2012 and 2013 is to raise sufficient additional funds to bring the total student counts to 240 in Timkatec 2, 180 in Timkatec 3 and 80 in the shelter. This will require funds to hire 7 additional teachers, 2 overnight supervisors and 3-4 added cooks to be offer daily meals to the students. Also, all schools require additional furniture, equipment and materials.
A major challenge indeed. Father Simon has planned every step of the way as he has responded to the major challenges of riots, catastrophic hurricanes, floods, food shortages and the massive earthquake.
He deserves our support as his efforts offer hope to the hopeless in this most difficult environment.
"Timkatec receives many admission requests, however they do not have room to accept them all. It is difficult to refuse a child who comes at night, in the rain, asking for a small place to sleep. In those instances, children sleep on the floor, sometimes with only a blanket, sometimes without even that. A rotation system was established, in order to allow children to sleep in beds on a schedule." Father Joseph Simon of Timkatec