Written by Nathalie Pratt.
Suzanne Schmidt teaches second grade at Boulder Community School of Integrated Studies in Boulder, Colorado. About seven years ago, Suzanne began her path to adopting a child from Haiti. She had visited the country and her soon-to-be son in 2009, knowing it could be two or more years before she would bring him home.
In January 2010, a massive earthquake shook Haiti displacing over 1.5 million people and taking the lives of more than 250,000. Her little boy survived the collapse of his orphanage, and, thanks to the joint work of both countries, was granted refugee status to come to the United States immediately, along with over fifty other children in his group.
Suzanne’s life changed forever in January of 2010. So did the life of millions of Haitians, including Gavin, her son. With his transition to Colorado and her transition to motherhood came lots of growth, learning and love.
Suzanne has kept her connection with Haiti and is committed to giving back to the country that gave her the son who has changed her life. The unexpected death of a beloved family member last year left her with mounds of coins. Suzanne decided to take those coins, have her second grade class count them, and donate them to Pure Water for the World to help save lives in Haiti.
I am very fortunate to be a parent at BCSIS and to work with PWW. I gave a presentation to Suzanne’s second grade students prior to their coin counting commencement. Sharing photos of students, families, schools, homes and water, we talked about similarities and differences. The second graders amazed me with their varied and insightful questions, including: Why do they all wear the same clothes at school? Why does the water make them sick? How long does it take the good bacteria to grow in the filter and eat the bad bacteria? A judicious question indeed! And, I can’t leave out the one that truly stumped me: How do they make nail polish in Haiti?
After beginning the project, the children wanted to take it further, asking Suzanne if they could write letters home and ask their families for extra coins to contribute. They then spent hours counting and collecting coins. Once completed, they asked me to come in so they could present the money to give to PWW.
A large punch bowl sat on a stool, covered with a beautiful silk and filled almost to the rim with coins and dollar bills.
“How much do you think we gathered?” the children eagerly quizzed me.
“Maybe $250?” I replied.
“Noooooo!!” the children responded, giggling. “MORE!”
“$300?” I asked.
“Nooooo! MORE!!” the children shouted.
One child couldn’t contain herself any longer, “$422.40!” she shared.
“Wait, but I have 50 cents more,” another student exclaimed.
I sat quietly, tears filling my eyes. “Nathalie, you don’t have to cry,” said one concerned child with her hand on my knee.
“Oh, these are tears of joy,” I confirmed. “You all are unbelievable. The work you have done, and the money you have raised will be matched. It will save lives and change the future for so many children and their families!”
Yes, they may be small, but they are mighty. And this group of second graders saved lives by opening their minds and their hearts and giving of their time and extra change.
Suzanne Schmidt has not only provided a wonderful life for her Haitian son, but she has so beautifully honored her deceased loved one by being a vessel for life with the gift of safe water.
Six years have passed since the earthquake in Haiti. And while much of the rubble has cleared, families are still feeling the impact, particularly from the deadly cholera bacteria that was introduced after the disaster. Help for the resilient people of this island nation is still deeply needed.
The compassionate young people here in Boulder are responding to that call. Suzanne and her students are living proof that you’re never too young to make a life-saving difference!