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Published: Tuesday, 1/21/2014 - Updated: 8 months ago

Speaker from Haiti helps Perrysburg students understand

BY MATT THOMPSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Missions International of America spokesman Thiogene Ismaille described the living and educational conditions in his home country of Haiti during a presentation to Woodland Elementary students. Missions International of America spokesman Thiogene Ismaille described the living and educational conditions in his home country of Haiti during a presentation to Woodland Elementary students.
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Thiogene Ismaille walked on Tuesday into a Perrysburg school, facing single-digit temperatures rather than the 70 to 90 degree days in Haiti for the first few weeks of 2014. 

PHOTO GALLERY: Haitian speaks of home

Mr. Ismaille, also known as "Smiley," made his first trip to the United States to stay with Perrysburg residents Jay Nielsen and his wife Jan Meier-Nielsen. He is speaking to local churches and elementary schools about the differences of culture and education in Haiti.

"I'm telling people about my Haitian people (who) are suffering," he said to second-grade students at Woodland Elementary on Tuesday.

Washing machines, snow, large stores, and dishwashers are some things Mr. Ismaille saw in Perrysburg for the first time. Add to that, a warm shower.

Mr. Ismaille tried to help children realize how blessed they are, pointing out they get a ride to school instead of having to walk three to four miles and they have bathrooms in their houses instead of having to go outside.

Ms. Meier-Nielsen and her husband started Missions International of America, a non-profit dedicated to provide medical care, education, and basic supplies to the people of Haiti. That work included building a school called Brad Reddick School in Savanette, Haiti in 2006. It started with 170 students and now has 320.

Annie Mauk, 8, center, rested her chin on her fist as she listened to Thiogene Ismaille describe living and education in Haiti at Woodland. Annie Mauk, 8, center, rested her chin on her fist as she listened to Thiogene Ismaille describe living and education in Haiti at Woodland.
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"Perrysburg and Superintendent Tom Hosler have been so incredibly supportive," Ms. Meier-Nielsen said. 

She and Mr. Ismaille will go to today to Fort Meigs Elementary and Toth Elementary in Perrysburg for more talks with students about the Haitian culture. Some of the Perrysburg support has been numerous teachers at different Perrysburg schools visiting Haiti, donating their time, money, and efforts with the school there.

Second grade teacher at Woodland, Jennifer Smith, has gone twice. She said it is great for her students to hear about the culture and difference directly from the source. She was also happy to see Mr. Ismaille, after having visited him twice in Haiti.

"It is nice helping them understand they have to praise God," Mr. Ismaille said about his speeches.

He won't miss the below-freezing temperatures of northwest Ohio once he leaves. He is excited to get back to the nearly 80 degrees in Haiti this time of year.

"Do you have Xbox or video games in Haiti?" one student asked Tuesday. 

"No, we don't have electricity," Mr. Ismaille said. 

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.



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