Latest press coverage of Timkatec
December 29, 2015
In September Father Simon, Founder of Timkatec, was invited to a Vatican Symposium as one of those who has made "street children" their pastoral mission. Pope Francis, who championed the Symposium made a powerful expression of his and the Church's concern for children and women forced to live on the streets and personally met each attendee.
Father was unable to travel (his is 86 now) and Ms Rachelle Fleurimond, Coordinater for the three Timkatec Catholic schools and shelter was asked to attend in his place.
You can see her meeting Pope Francis in the above photo. The following video also shows his speech to the attendees expressing his grave concerns.
Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to Participants in the International Symposium on the Pastoral Care of the Street
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I offer you a warm welcome at the conclusion of the International Symposium on the Pastoral Care of the Street, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. I thank Cardinal Vegliò for his kind words, and in a particular way I thank him and his staff for their work in this sector. These days of study and reflection have sought to prepare an action plan in response to the phenomenon of children and women — and their families — who spend their lives for the most part on the street. I greatly appreciate your commitment to care for and promote the dignity of these women and children, and I encourage you to persevere in your work with confidence and apostolic zeal.
The often sad realities which you encounter are the result of indifference, poverty, family and social violence, and human trafficking. They involve the pain of marital separations and the birth of children out of wedlock, frequently doomed to a life of "vagrancy". Street children and street women are not numbers, or "packets" to be traded; they are human beings, each with his or her own name and face, each with a God-given identity.
No child chooses to live on the streets. Sadly, even in our modern, globalized world, any number of children continue to be robbed of their childhood, their rights and their future. Lack of legal protection and adequate structures only aggravates their state of deprivation: they have no real family or access to education or health care. Every child abandoned or forced to live on the streets, at the mercy of criminal organizations, is a cry rising up to God, who created man and woman in his own image. It is an indictment of a social system which we have criticized for decades, but which we find hard to change in conformity with criteria of justice.
It is troubling to see the increasing number of young girls and women forced to earn a living on the street by selling their own bodies, victims of exploitation by criminal organizations and at times by parents and family members. This is a shameful reality in our societies, which boast of being modern and possessed of high levels of culture and development. Widespread corruption and unrestrained greed are robbing the innocent and the vulnerable of the possibility of a dignified life, abetting the crime of trafficking and other injustices which they have to endure. No one can remain unmoved before the pressing need to safeguard the dignity of women, threatened by cultural and economic factors!
I ask you, please: do not be disheartened by the difficulties and the challenges which you encounter in your dedicated work, nourished as it is by your faith in Christ, who showed, even to death on the cross, the preferential love of God our Father for the weak and the outcast. The Church cannot remain silent, nor can her institutions turn a blind eye to the baneful reality of street children and street women. The Christian community in the various countries needs to be involved at all levels in working to eliminate everything which forces a child or a woman to live on the street or to earn a livelihood on the street. We can never refrain from bringing to all, and especially to the most vulnerable and underprivileged, the goodness and the tenderness of God our merciful Father. Mercy is the supreme act by which God comes to meet us; it is the way which opens our hearts to the hope of an everlasting love.
Dear brothers and sisters, I offer prayerful good wishes for the fruitfulness of your efforts, in your various countries, to offer pastoral and spiritual care, and liberation, to those who are most frail and exploited; I likewise pray for the fruitfulness of your mission to advance and protect their personhood and dignity. I entrust you and your service to Mary, Mother of Mercy. May the sweetness of her gaze accompany the efforts and the firm purpose of all those who care for street children and street women. Upon each of you I cordially invoke the Lord's blessing.
Haitian school looks to Sanford for help Timkatec feels the effect of Hurricane Sandy with increased costs
January 3, 2013 | Sanford Herald
The Friends of Timkaec are looking for donations this Christmas as their school in Haiti has been greatly affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Timkatec houses and gives orphaned and abandoned children an education. The education is a much-needed tool for the children of Haiti, as most would not have the opportunity to receive one otherwise.
Additionally, the children are taught in certain trades, such as electricians, metal workers, plumbers and beauticians, to increase the likelihood of them entering the workplace in Haiti once their time at Timkatec is done.
Sanford resident Patrick O'Shea has worked closely with the school over the past eight years and is now asking for donations as the school is still feeling the impact of Hurricane Sanford.
After Hurricane Sandy hit Haiti more than 34,000 families lost their homes and 70 percent of the food crops were destroyed by wind and flooding. The hurricane also left 80 people dead or missing and there have been 9,000 new cases of cholera in the country.
"As we look forward to Christmas and the New Year with our friends and family, I ask you, the true Friends of Timkatec, to remember the kids of Timkatec in particular and Haiti in general," said O'Shea.
"Our kids are not able to look forward to Christmas feast, gifts of toys or games as we do. Their wish for Christmas is simply to have one meal daily during the year, to have the strength to attend classes that can lift them out of their impossible situation. Your donation gives them not just support, but the knowledge that their plight is not ignored. It offers some hope for the future and I believe it is the true message of Christmas."
The effect of the hurricane on Timkatec resulted in higher food costs and experts expect that situation to worsen as rice stocks, their basic crop, diminish with no new supplies from the failed harvest.
O'Shea said kids cannot attend Timkatec without the daily meal that it provides.
The 3 Timkatec schools had over 100 graduates last year and the group hopes to graduate even more next year.
To donate to the Timkatec schools visit their website at www.Timkatec.org and click the donate button.
Tommy Stinson's new CD proceeds to help Haiti kids
August 24, 2011 | By Joann Loviglio, Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA -- A year after Tommy Stinson's online auction raised nearly $50,000 for children ravaged by last year's earthquake in Haiti, the Replacements bassist is getting ready to help out again.
"One Man Mutiny," his second solo effort, comes out Aug. 30 on Stinson's own label, Done to Death Music. He plans to donate half of the proceeds to Timkatec, a nonprofit that houses and educates homeless children in the Port-au-Prince area.
"It could be a little, it could be a lot, depending on how the record does," he told The Associated Press from his home in upstate New York, where he recently moved from suburban Philadelphia.
Timkatec was able to enlarge one of its main buildings and increase enrollment by around 200 children after last year's auction, Stinson said. He put some of his guitars and trademark custom-made plaid suits on the auction block last summer, along with concert passes and other items, after visiting Haiti to attend a graduation ceremony for 60 young men from Timkatec who earned trade degrees.
The school, founded in 1994 by a Roman Catholic priest, trains destitute boys to work as plumbers, electricians, tailors, shoemakers and construction workers; its sister school trains teenage girls as cooks, hairdressers, seamstresses and child care workers.
Haiti has been painfully slow to rebound, and its place in the international spotlight has dimmed, since the magnitude-7 quake pulverized the capital on Jan. 12, 2010. Rubble from thousands of collapsed buildings remain where they fell and The International Organization for Migration estimates about 630,000 Haitians are still without homes.
"I'm probably not going to get to do another auction this year because I don't have enough items for it," he said with a laugh. In the meantime, he is encouraging his friends in the music world to help the organization and hopes that the new record will create additional awareness of Timkatec and its mission, as well as more funding.
Stinson, who is also finishing up a new record with fellow Minneapolis natives Soul Asylum and hitting the road with Guns N' Roses in October, hopes to find time in his crammed schedule to return to Haiti in the fall.
"There still might be a small window of opportunity for me to do that in September ... for the start of the new school season," he said, "to see the new building and especially to see the kids. The kids are what it's all about."
Haitian schools give hope with Sanford's help
November 17 2010 by Herald Staff | The Sanford Herald
Father Joseph Simon, who directs three schools for hundreds of abandoned and orphaned children in Haiti, visited Sanford this weekend to thank some of his benefactors and beseech them to continue their help.
In a country that is already the poorest in the western hemisphere, the population this year has been devastated by earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding and cholera. But Simon's Timkatec schools have survived and taken on more students for education and shelter.
"Sanford is a part of the source of our life. It all started in Sanford," Simon, 81, said Monday, the day he headed back to his personal mission in Haiti. He "retired" 16 years ago, but still runs the much-needed oases with a mission of revitalizing the young generation of Haitians.
In the past six years, All Souls Catholic Church in Sanford has contributed about $60,000 toward Simon's cause. All Souls parishioner Patrick O'Shea, who recalls life as a young orphan in England, created Friends of Timkatec in America in 2004 and has funneled another $290,000 in donations.
"Sometimes you may have the impression that you have done little, but what you call little is huge," Simon told members of All Souls during a Sunday Mass. "You allow these people to sleep, to walk, to laugh, because you send to them their daily bread and the bread of knowledge."
Many of the impoverished, abandoned and orphaned children in Port-au-Prince have no other place to go, so have sought out a new life at the Timkatec campuses, which loosely translates as "Kids taking their chance in life."
Marie Manigat, 84, a volunteer who oversees the orphanage, says she hopes they can double the capacity in the next two to three years.
While many of the children on the streets are not officially orphaned, often they have been abandoned by parents or escaped slavery situations.
"That's one of the real tragedies of Haiti," O'Shea said, adding that the children often need psychological and gynecological help.
"Many of the children have PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], the same thing that happens to veterans. They keep reliving their experience."
With the help of other groups from around the world – in Canada, France, Belgium and elsewhere – Simon has more plans that he explained to his Sanford benefactors. He next primary focus is to add another floor to his trade school to make room for more students. He also has some donated beachfront property that he wants to convert into a summer camp for homeless children.
"You have people like Father Simon who make it work, expand and create new opportunities," O'Shea said.
O'Shea's wife, Judy, said the Timkatec students are literate in a country where the literacy rate is under 50 percent.
"As the country develops, they will be the first ones hired," she said. "This [Timkatec] provides the opportunity for them to become entrepreneurs to build Haiti."
One of the biggest concerns at Timkatec is access to water, both for drinking and hygiene. Simon pays for tanker trucks to deliver fresh water so they don't have to use the Port-au-Prince water system.
"I understand what it's like," O'Shea said. "It's lonely. I've been totally broke with no family to fall back on – and somebody helps you, somone you don't even know. I feel that when we help these kids in Haiti, we're just repaying a debt."
Haitian priest rescues street kids from disaster
November 14, 2010 | By Jeff Kunerth, Orlando Sentinel
SANFORD — Haiti remains a nation in ruins.
But amid the rubble of the January earthquake, the after-effects of a recent hurricane and growing fears of a cholera epidemic, a Catholic priest has found success in salvaging the lives of homeless, orphaned and abused children.
The Rev. Joseph Simon has found the support and resources to expand his schools for the lost children of Haiti, he said Sunday during a visit to the All Souls Catholic Church in Sanford.
"Sometimes you may have the impression that you have done little, but what you call little is huge," he told All Souls parishioners during Sunday Mass. "You allow these people to sleep, to walk, to laugh, because you send to them their daily bread and the bread of knowledge."
All Souls has contributed about $60,000 toward Simon's Haitian schools during the past six years. Another $290,000 has been donated through the Friends of Timkatec in America, created in 2004 by All Souls parishioner Patrick O'Shea. The organization's website is www.timkatec.org .
In September 2009, just four months before the earthquake that flattened much of the capital city of Port-au-Prince, Simon opened his first primary and trade school for girls. Just like the primary school opened in 1994 and the trade school in 2004 for boys, the Timkatec school for girls was aimed at orphaned children.
But soon after the earthquake, the school was overwhelmed with "restaveks'': girls who had been sold into slavery by their desperate, impoverished parents. The earthquake destroyed the homes of their captors, freeing them from enslavement, but leaving the girls lost and homeless. Word of mouth led them to the doors of the Timkatec school.
"They had no place to go, and they heard from the street grapevine that this place would help you," said O'Shea, 71.
The school for 70 girls now has 185.
The arrival of the restavek girls forced Simon to change his emphasis in the girls' school from basic instruction to medical and psychological care. Many of the girls suffered from the trauma of the earthquake on top of physical, sexual and emotional abuse by their enslavers.
"The mission had to change," O'Shea said. "He's a good manager. He changes his plans as required."
"From their faces, you see they have nothing. They are dirty, they are barefoot, some of them are really hungry," said Marie Manigat, 84, who worked with Simon for 10 years. "After one month, you can see the difference on their faces. They sleep well, they eat well, and they are in school."
Simon has more plans. He arrived in Sanford with a spreadsheet of costs for adding another floor onto his trade school, which would allow him to expand enrollment form 190 to 240 kids. He has beachfront land donated by a benefactor that he wants to turn into a summer camp for homeless Haitian children.
"Children need a place to play, to eat, to make music, to swim, to be free," said Simon, a tall, lean man who turned 81 on Saturday.
In one of the poorest nations on earth, where disease and natural disasters keep piling on the misery, Father Joseph Simon envisions a little piece of paradise for homeless kids.
Jeff Kunerth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5392.
A Million Miles From Paradise City: Tommy Stinson Goes to Haiti
September 27, 2010 | By Tommy Stinson
Like many musicians, Tommy Stinson—bassist for The Replacements and Guns N’ Roses—gave some money to Red Cross in the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquake earlier this year. But for him, it didn’t seem like enough. He wanted to find a way to get directly involved—no strings, no bureaucracy. He heard about the Timkatec Schools, which provide vocational training and shelter to homeless children near Port-au-Prince, and auctioned off some memorabilia to help raise money for the schools. After visiting the children, a little fundraiser turned into a newfound purpose. Here’s his diary from the trip.
DAY ONE – JULY 29, 2010
Flying into Haiti, I have to admit I’m a little nervous. I have no idea what to expect. We drive from the crumbling airport through the rubble-covered streets of Port-au-Prince to our hotel. I was in Los Angeles for the Northridge earthquake back in 1994, but there’s simply no way to compare that to what I’m witnessing here.
Amongst all the rubble and countless tent cities are over a million people walking, running and riding in the backs of Tap-Taps. These pickup-trucks-turned-buses are beautifully painted with colorful religious overtones, and are more often than not overflowing with people hanging from the bumpers. They’re called Tap-Taps because when a rider wants to be let off he taps his coin on the outside of the truck to signal his stop.
I’m immediately struck that the “disaster in Haiti” was most likely a disaster long before the earthquake and the media coverage that finally came with it. I guess there just isn’t much of a market for reporting on one of the most poverty-stricken countries in the world until it has a major disaster. Even then, the attention is fleeting.
DAY TWO – JULY 30, 2010
This morning, we’re introduced to the director of the Timkatec Schools and our host, Father Joseph Simon. You can tell immediately from his handshake that he’s possessed with kindness and love—he’s instantly inspirational.
We share ideas among our traveling party and local hosts about how we can best help Timkatec—and Haiti in general. We address Father Simon’s wish list, and make some short-term goals. I’d like to help to get at least 50 more students into the Timkatec program as soon as possible. Long-term, I’d like to help get a third floor on one of the Timkatec buildings that could provide schooling and shelter for many more of these wonderful kids.
Later, we drive through a torrential downpour to tour the Timkatec schools. The energetic Father Simon, who at 81 is surprisingly hard to keep up with, takes us through all of the classrooms and boarding facilities. It’s great to see how the kids are actually learning their trades through the use of old shoe-making equipment, sewing machines and the like.
We’re then treated to a show by a small group of young girls performing folk dances with the accompaniment of two young men. One is a Timkatec graduate named Stevenson, who plays the recorder while a current student drums along on a large bucket. A younger boy does an awesome pop-and-lock dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
Then we all sit down together to eat a fabulous home-cooked meal with Father Simon, his staff and a few students. It’s a beautiful moment—one I’ll never forget. For as much as these kids have been through in their short lives, they seem proud, wise beyond their years, happy and hopeful.
DAY THREE – JULY 31, 2010
At the Timkatec graduation ceremony, the students, along with a small handful of parents, family members and some press, were greeted by the very proud Father Simon and his staff. I can hardly put into words how incredible it is to be a part of such a momentous event.
As one of the guests of honor, I hand out diplomas to 10 or so students. Having not graduated high school myself, this is a particularly nerve-wracking moment until I deliver the first one. The young man gives me a pleasant smile and a firm, appreciative handshake. My nerves quickly vanish and are replaced by an unbelievable feeling of gratitude.
Later on in the evening, I’m outside where the students are running around trying to find a bit of shelter from a sudden storm, and one of the boys comes by to speak to me. The language barrier prevents any real conversation, but he shows me his diploma and gives me a friendly bear hug. I’ve never felt more empowered than at that moment, like suddenly my life has another unsuspected purpose, and he was the proof. I want to thank Father Simon, Patrick O’ Shea (founder of the friends of Timkatec in America) and Ben Perlstein (one of my managers and good friends and my travel companion) for helping my find this purpose.
Example of success during times of desperation
by Patrick O'Shea, Special to the Herald | August 16 2010 at 0842
Editor's note: In 2004, Sanford resident Patrick O'Shea set up the Friends of Timkatec in America, a foundation to establish funding for a mission school in Petion-Ville, Haiti, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. Before the January earthquakes in Haiti, Timkatec blossomed into a safe haven for children who were living on the streets.
I have just returned from Haiti after attending the July 31 graduation of 61 kids at Timkatec, our trade school in Haiti. Amidst the total devastation of the earthquake, Timkatec is a shining example of the success that can occur in these desperate times. I was accompanied by Tommy Stinson, current bass player for Guns'n Roses and Soul Asylum, and a founder of the Replacements. Tommy contacted me a few months ago to assist us in raising funds for our schools for our "street children."
This trip, in the midst of the rubble was a great success and we saw what can be done by private means, as government organizations seem to crawl towards solutions. On July 31 the 61 graduates of Timkatec 2 started a new life.
I have been to Haiti many times, but even I was unprepared for the sights that I saw on arrival. The shock started when we went through the arrival procedures, which were in total chaos. For security reasons, we traveled in a convoy of two jeeps, a requirement of the U.N. and our partners at Catholic Relief Services.
The shock deepened as we saw the dreadful destruction all around us. The airport area has a refugee camp for more than 20,000, and near the Timkatec schools, another for 50,000.
Then on arrival at the hotel we saw that half of it was a pile of rubble. The Montana, where I last stayed, was destroyed with the loss of 200 lives. There are falling buildings and piles of rubble on every street, many of which are still impassible.
Since 2004 Haiti has battled disastrous floods, hurricanes and the January earthquake, which killed 230,000 people in Port-Au-Prince, a city of 2 million (about like metropolitan Orlando).
A similar number suffered serious injury and a million lost their homes. Although Timkatec received only minor damage, 140 students and staff remain unaccounted for out of 550. We hope they fled or are in refugee camps. They have been quickly replaced and in fact, we have just committed to increase the total students to 600 for 2010-2011.
In September 2009, with funding from a Canadian Mennonite foundation, Timkatec opened a girls school, Timkatec 3, for 70 girls, offering primary education and training as cooks, seamstresses and beauticians. At night, the school converts to a shelter for the homeless.
Sadly, we have increased the number of girls to 185. One terrible fact is that Haiti, a republic created by a slave revolt, has a dirty secret. According to the U.N.'s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, an estimated 400,000 children, 10 percent of the population of children, are abandoned or sent to live as unpaid virtual child slaves known as "restaveks" by parents who cannot afford to feed them. In the aftermath of the quake many "restavek" families lost their homes and the tie was broken. They became equals in the camps and 185 of these girls came to Timkatec. Many were abused sexually and needed gynecological treatments. We also added a child psychologist to deal with the many children suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after seeing family and friends die or suffer terrible injuries, and the trauma of the many aftershocks.
Half a million people still live in tents throughout the city, in the rainy season with humid 100-degree temperatures. There is adequate basic food now, but living conditions are awful. The pace of renewal crawls as stocks of food and supplies pile up in the ports and airports caused by the slow pace of Customs.
About 90 percent of these supplies come through Florida and most is from donations. It is essential that the U.S. government stress to the Haitian government that there must be a system of pre-clearance, perhaps in Florida, to expedite this desperately needed aid to the Haitian poor and dispossessed. I was able to discuss this problem with Sen. Bill Nelson in Haiti last year and with his office and Gov. Charlie Christ's chief of staff after the earthquake. However, we are still hopeful for results.
While there, I was able to meet with a number of the non-governmental organizations constructing temporary or permanent shelters in the area so that we can place some of our newly trained apprentices.
I had no ties to Haiti before 2004, but also had a traumatic start to life. My mother died in war-torn Britain when I was 3 and as my father was overseas in the Army. I was put in a boarding school. My father became 100 percent war disabled, and died when I was 15. Many days spent in the air-raid shelter and years surrounded by the rubble of the Blitz created a powerful memory. I was accepted for a Royal Air Force apprenticeship three weeks after my 16th birthday, and I know the value of that training and feel I can empathize with the Timkatec kids.
On leaving for the airport, and while passing the large 50,000-person refugee camp, Father Simon, Timkatec's founder commented, "It is an inferno on ear, a cavern of misery." How true indeed and another lasting impression six months after the greatest disaster in the past two centuries.
Patrick O'Shea can be reached through his website, timkatec.org.
Replacements Bassist Tommy Stinson Helps in Haiti
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: August 7, 2010
MEDIA, Pa. (AP) -- Since he picked up a bass guitar and dropped out of 10th grade to hit the road with underground legends The Replacements in 1983, Tommy Stinson has sold millions of records, performed all over the world and secured his place in the rock 'n' roll canon.
As he prepares to embark on a European tour with Guns N' Roses, Stinson, 43, is devoting his time and money to a new passion: helping children left homeless by the Haitian earthquake.
This summer, Stinson will hold an online fundraiser by auctioning personal and donated items that will be posted on his website, including an autographed bass guitar and two of his signature custom-made plaid suits.
"We've got some stuff to auction off that I think will span all three bands I've been in, from Soul Asylum, Replacements, Guns N' Roses," he told The Associated Press during a recent interview at his home and recording studio outside Philadelphia.
"We're just going to try to do our best to raise some money to help in our way, help the kids the best we can."
The mechanics are still being worked out, but the goal is to have it up and running before Stinson leaves for Europe to tour with Guns N' Roses at the end of August.
"It's not just people talking about it that's going to help the earthquake survivors get past this," he said. "It's going to be a lot of years. ... We're just trying to our little share of the work here with what we've got."
After he decided to donate the proceeds of the upcoming auction to charity, a friend suggested Timkatec, a nonprofit founded in 1994 by a Roman Catholic priest to house and educate more than 500 children in the Port-au-Prince area.
"They pay for education and food and supplies for these kids who basically have no families, no life, no nothing, out on the street, as young as 5, 6 years old," he said.
Rather than just writing a check, Stinson wanted to see firsthand where his money would be going and recently traveled to Haiti with the goal of "besides getting financially involved, getting emotionally involved."
In late July, attended a graduation ceremony for 60 young men from Timkatec who earned trade degrees. The school trains destitute boys for work as plumbers, electricians, tailors, shoe makers and construction workers; its sister school trains teenage girls as cooks, hairdressers, seamstresses and child care workers.
"You can see the pride in their faces. You can see the hope. You can see the gratitude," Stinson said a few days after returning from Haiti.
The experience was eye-opening, he said. Driving through Port-au-Prince, it was obvious that Haiti was in dire straits long before the earthquake, but he was inspired by the aid workers and the young graduates he met during his visit.
"These kids have to be able to focus on something other than their own misery," said Patrick O'Shea of Sanford, Fla., founder of Friends of Timkatec in America, which raises funds for the Haitian organization's relief efforts.
O'Shea, 70, was born outside London during World War 2 and understands the burden of growing up without parents: His mother was killed in an air raid and his father died of tuberculosis while fighting overseas.
"I'm not a rock fan personally, and I didn't know anything about Tommy," O'Shea said, "but I do know that this is a guy with his heart in the right place, flying down at his own expense to see what we do, coming here to help raise money to help these kids."
As the Jan. 12 earthquake falls off the radar screens of many Americans, conditions in Haiti remain dire: An estimated 1.6 million people continue living under tarps and tents on dangerous ground.
Little reconstruction has been done since the magnitude-7 quake pulverized the capital. Piles of rubble and thousands of collapsed buildings remain where they fell. Even transitional shelters are a rarity for most.
Stinson wants to keep Haiti in people's faces -- and he intends to enlist some of his rock 'n' roll friends in the effort.
"I don't really have the money to do this kind of thing, but I put aside the money because I think it's important," he said.
Though he'll be spending much of what remains of 2010 on the road with Guns N' Roses, Stinson suspects that his help for Haiti won't end with the upcoming auction.
"After ... spending 30 years of chasing the rock dream," he said with a laugh, "you know, there's a few more important things in life than that."------
July 21 2010 | by Glenn Judah, Herald Staff
Sanford man helps school find success amid the rubble
It has been a little more than 6 months since a series of devastating earthquakes rocked Haiti, and although Patrick O'Shea of Sanford was more than 700 miles away the aftershocks continue to rattle his mind.
In 2004, O'Shea set up the Friends of Timkatec in America, a foundation to establish funding for a mission school in Petion-Ville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. With his help, Timkatec quickly blossomed into a safe haven for children who were living on the streets.
Before the first 7.0 earthquake struck on Jan. 12, O'Shea's school housed and educated more than 400 children. The next day, Timkatec's three buildings remained intact, but the children and teachers were all gone.
Today, the school is up and running again as a shelter taking in more than 500 children. O'Shea said the school opened in May, five weeks ahead of schedule with more students than before, but he knows Timkatec and Haiti face a long uphill climb out of the earthquake's ruins. For example, the number of children Timkatec helps has grown with the rise in homeless children. Out of the original 400 students that were enrolled at the school, more than 150 are still missing.
"We still have former students not accounted for," O'Shea said. "They could be missing in action or never have come back. I have no idea where they are. Are they in refugee camps, dead or out of the country? We don't know."
O'Shea has hired a psychologist to meet with the children living at Timkatec to help them overcome the trauma from the earthquakes. Many children are afraid to sleep inside buildings because they think the structures could fall down at any moment. O'Shea understands this stress. He grew up in an English boarding school during World War 2 after becoming an orphan at a young age.
"I went through the blitz," O'Shea said. "I know that as a kid, you never know when things are going to happen. There are a lot of deep psychological problems and post-traumatic stress these kids are dealing with from the death and destruction they have been surrounded with."
From his office at his Sanford home, O'Shea works the phones and his e-mail all day reaching out to organizations that are rebuilding Haiti. O'Shea said Catholic Relief Services has done a wonderful job helping his school recover quickly. But what were once difficult tasks to begin with – securing clean water, money from local banks and medical supplies – are now even more complicated because of the earthquakes.
"The simplest things are harder," O'Shea said. "We need things to be precleared before customs. That would speed up the process. It's just the shear difficulty of the logistics because so much debris needs to be removed."
Despite the county's current situation, O'Shea is scheduled to fly from Fort Lauderdale to Haiti and visit the school at the end of this month. He will hand out certificates of completion to students who have passed a two-year national certification process in either plumbing, masonry or electrical work.
"In the middle of all the problems, we have successes," he said.
O'Shea will be joined by a special guest on his trip, Tommy Stinson, current bass player for the rock bands Guns N' Roses and Soul Asylum. Stinson and O'Shea met through a mutual friend that is also providing relief to Haiti.
"I was looking for some connection and know that the money I give is going to the people that need it," Stinson said. The only way to make sure this happens, he said, is for him to see it firsthand.
Besides donating money to O'Shea's school, Stinson is spreading the word about Timkatec and his upcoming trip through his website and social networking sites. He hopes he can bring awareness to wounds that are still healing in Haiti.
Stinson is also planning to auction off a few of his bass guitars and outfits he has worn while playing with Gun N' Roses, and all the proceeds will go to Timkatec.
Sanford man fights obstacles in Haiti to reopen school
March 04 2010 | by Glenn Judah, Herald Staff | The Sanford Herald
A Haitian school supported by a Sanford man's foundation reopens today after the country's devastating earthquake 50 days ago, but may of the students and staff are still unaccounted for.
Timkatec, the school for orphans supported by Patrick O'Shea's Friends of Timkatec in America, still has 20 staffers and about half of the 400 students missing.
"I don't know what that means? Did they die? Did they go to the countryside or refugee camps? I just don't know," he said.
O'Shea has been working tirelessly since Jan. 11, establishing communications and funneling money to feed the school's staff and students, but it's a slow process when the entire country remains in ruins.
"Forty percent of the school's employees are uncounted for," O'Shea said.
O'Shea set up the foundation in 2004 to establish funding for a mission school in Petion-Ville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. His goal is to educate Haiti's youth to end the country's poverty-stricken cycle. But as his school reopens today, he is fearful "all the bad habits are coming back."
"Kids are having legs amputated because they can't get the simplest of antibiotics," he said. "This is an example of the day-to-day challenges."
O'Shea's contact in Haiti is the Rev. Joseph Simon, an 80-year-old Salesian priest who began the mission more than 15 years ago. Simon was in the United States when the earthquake struck. O'Shea helped Simon secure a flight back to Haiti out of Miami a few days later. Since Simon's return, the priest has focused on securing Timkatec's staff and students and re-establishing a sense of normalcy. O'Shea said that without Simon's presence, the school would be in chaos.
"He's a planner," O'Shea said. "I've never met someone who is so effective and efficient."
Simon has gone to great lengths to keep the school running. He traded in his car for food and worked the black market for other needed supplies. O'Shea said Haiti's economy is purely a barter system because the banks are slow to hand out funds.
"You can't get money out of the bank. It just sits there," O'Shea said. "It's only a matter of time until there is a run on the banks. There is very little to buy, which is creating a thriving back market."
O'Shea knows that as the school regroups there will be a greater demand on water, food and shelter. He is fearful that Timkatec could be overrun. Simon is now using police to stop riots from breaking out when trucks unload supplies.
"It's very, very sad," O'Shea said. "You have to be pragmatic. Lots of other organizations are facing the same issues."
O'Shea's focus from Sanford is helping Simon connect with relief organizations, find ways to send him cash and continue to collect donations. But like Simon in Haiti, O'Shea is running into roadblocks from the outside. It took a month for a generator O'Shea purchased to travel from the Dominican Republic to Timkatec.
"Distribution is my biggest problem," he said. "The port, airports, it all bottlenecks. I wish the U.S. or Florida would step up to streamline the system so goods can make it in at a timely rate. We must work with the Haitian counterparts. Right now there is no government. The country is at the risk of becoming a failed state."
O'Shea's church, All Souls Catholic, has helped Timkatec through donations since the earthquake. He collects funds through his foundation and sends them to Catholic Relief Services. The organization has provided engineers for the school, food, tents and clothing.
"Our church has been very, very good, and Catholic Relief Services has done an amazing job," O'Shea said.
O'Shea is both grateful for the amount of civilian donations from the United States. So far, American citizens have donated more than $700 million for relief efforts in Haiti. He is hopeful to make a trip to Timkatec in August, when there will be a school graduation. Until then, O'Shea will continue to let the school "know people on the outside care."
Sanford man seeks help to save Haitian students
January 24 2010 by Glenn Judah, Herald Staff | The Sanford Herald
Patrick O'Shea's mission since 2004 has been to provide a safe haven for orphans living in Haiti. The Sanford resident's goal has been to take children off the street, give them an opportunity to learn a skill and to make Haiti a better place.
But after the recent devastating earthquakes on the island, what he is trying to do now is just find the students and staff that have been missing from his school.
"We still have no information on 30 of the staff and over 400 students," he said. "We know that one teacher died, another's daughter was a victim and three lost their homes."
O'Shea set up the Friends of Timkatec in America foundation to establish funding for a mission school in Petion-Ville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
O'Shea said he has helped raise more than $30,000 for the school, which started with just a few children and has grown into three buildings that house and educate more than 400 children. The school called Timkatec is run by the Rev. Joseph Simon, an 80-year-old Salesian priest who began the mission more than 15 years ago. O'Shea, who operates a mergers and acquisitions business, has a personal connection to the 60 students he handed diplomas to in July for completing a two-year national certification process in either plumbing, masonry or electrical work. O'Shea grew up in an English boarding school during World War 2 after becoming an orphan at a young age. The school taught him discipline and a skill to improve his life, which are the same skills he wants to pass on to Timkatec's students.
"Simon's dream was to build a workshop to train children to be self-sufficient," O'Shea said. "I wanted to raise the money to do that. These kids are not getting just handouts. They are being made better people who can help Haiti's future."
Tracking down the school's students will be an almost impossible task in Haiti's current situation. O'Shea said Simon's plan is to reach out to boys living on the street near the school to find the missing children. He is hopeful, yet realistic at the same time.
"We must assume further student and staff casualties as many live in very sub-par situations," he said.
The three Timkatec buildings are still standing, but Timkatec 1, the main building that is home to 43 boys, has giant cracks running through the walls. O'Shea said the schools withstood the earthquakes because they are fairly new and were built up to U.S. codes with reinforced concrete, unlike most of Haiti's buildings. Students and staff are not allowed back inside the Timkatec complexes for shelter until architects say it is safe.
"I need to find out if the cracks are dangerous or merely cosmetic," he said. "I've been told by contacts in Haiti that children feel safer living on the streets because 'streets don't kill, buildings do.' "
O'Shea is trying to organize and coordinate relief for the school from his home office in Sanford, but is hitting roadblocks with Haiti's limited communication and access. He is in contact with the Catholic Relief Services, which handles Timkatec's donations and provides services to missions throughout Haiti. O'Shea said he has been told by a missionary worker that organizations are transporting food and water trucks for Haitians living in Petion-Ville.
"These small groups and volunteers who have previously had missions in Haiti, they are what makes the country work," O'Shea said. "The guys that stay for the long haul are going to make these things work, and they are supported by small groups like ours."
As O'Shea watches the news and waits on the other line for the school's architect, he sees the Air Force's 82nd Airborne has landed in Petion-Ville. He quickly shifts his focus on making contact with the Air Force. O'Shea believes that over time, aid and order will be established, but knows that no matter what, the quake will make Haiti's previous problems of poverty grow even larger.
"The number of 'street children' seeking help will multiply several fold," O'Shea said, adding that his school's mission will be even more important.
"School staff will have major staffing problems with employees and their families deceased, missing or homeless, making it difficult for the survivors to concentrate on Timkatec. The cost of all supplies has escalated sharply and is liable to stay high for some time."
O'Shea's church in Sanford, All Souls Catholic, has raised more than $7,000 this week for his school. Since most of the banks were destroyed during the earthquake, O'Shea took the money to Miami, where he handed it off to Simon to take back to Haiti. Simon was set to leave for the Dominican Republic on Friday, then head to Haiti.
O'Shea is waiting to hear the latest status of his school and its students from Simon, but is also concerned for his safety as looting becomes more popular.
"You have to have a degree of patience in these situations," he said. "I'm not surrounded by the chaos so it makes it easier for me to deal with, but I'm worried and doing everything I can to help from here."
Donations can be made to Friends of Timkatec in America by going to the foundation's website, www.timkatec.org.
Reprinted from The Orlando Sentinel, July 11, 2004.
Haitian children stir Sanford man to help
`Blitz baby' Patrick O'Shea uses a Web site to bring together fund-raising efforts.
By Michelle R. Donahue
Posted July 11, 2004
SANFORD -- Patrick O'Shea was inspired after reading about the plight of abandoned children in Haiti and efforts by a foster home to help them.
He knew he couldn't just sit still. So, the Sanford resident started a fund-raising project.
|Patrick O'Shea of Sanford works on his Web site at home. The site focuses on the plight of abandoned children in Haiti.|
(DENNIS WALL/ORLANDO SENTINEL)
"I felt compelled to get involved because I could identify with the fact that these children have no family to turn to," O'Shea said.
O'Shea, a travel-industry businessman for more than 40 years, is focusing on a foster home called Timkatec and its founder, the Rev. Joseph Simon, a Salesian priest who began the mission more than a decade ago at age 65.
"This man is committed to making a real difference with his life for as long as he possibly can," O'Shea said, adding that the outreach assists more than 100 homeless children.
"And it doesn't stop with food, clothing and shelter, but goes beyond that to focus on general education and vocational training. The goal is not only to meet the immediate needs of the children, but also to provide these kids with a foundation for successful adulthood."
O'Shea created Friends of Timkatec in America to educate people about the needs of the children and to organize more support.
The group does not collect contributions. Rather, by networking with Catholic Relief Services and Salesian Missions, it acts as a conduit for financial help with the recently launched Web site timkatec.org. The site was designed and is maintained by O'Shea's daughter, Tara, a Web developer in Chicago.
The money goes directly to Simon's mission, with Catholic Relief Services agreeing to match up to $15,000 of the money generated.
"We welcomed Mr. O'Shea's desire to help the needy children of Haiti, specifically at Timkatec," said Jared Hoffman, regional director of Catholic Relief Services for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Hoffman said the funding will help Simon serve the children and create a vocational training center.
"Mr. O'Shea's charitable initiative will help make a lasting difference in Haiti. It is a marvelous expression of solidarity, concern and call to action," Hoffman said.
Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an average annual household income of $440, according to 2002 UNICEF statistics. Fewer than half of Haitians are literate, and the average life expectancy is 49 years. Infant mortality is high because of extreme poverty.
"These kids did not decide where they were born. They did not choose their circumstances," O'Shea said. "But they can change their future and become solid contributors to society if people like me will simply do what we can to help them."
O'Shea is a "Blitz baby," born just outside London during World War 2. He lost both parents when he was a boy. His mother died during an air raid in 1943. His father, who went to fight overseas shortly after O'Shea's birth, died in a tuberculosis epidemic, one of countless victims in post-war Europe.
"Their deaths had a profound impact on my life," O'Shea said. "I lost my childhood like many other children during that period in history."
Sent to boarding school, he credits his headmaster's calming kindness as one of the most important influences on his life.
"I don't know what I would have done without his outstanding example of a good balance between discipline and compassion," he said.
"I can't imagine being as young as 5 years old and having nowhere to go," O'Shea said. "I had a decent boarding school that looked after my needs. I was kept safe and sheltered. I just can't fathom how it must feel for [Haitian] children who have absolutely nothing to fall back on, and I want to help nurture hope for their futures."
He is off to a fair start. O'Shea said Friends of Timkatec has raised $6,500 so far.
"My entire family and my parish [All Souls Catholic Church in Sanford] have been very encouraging of this undertaking," he said.
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