It's the only free school in the town of Dame Marie, and children are not required to wear uniforms, but the school could use a roof and windows, said Linda Brooks
Linda Brooks is seen in the doorway of the school in Haiti.
A Port Coquitlam woman is hoping to drum up support for a school she is running on the west coast of Haiti with a GoFundMe page. The fundraiser has already brought in enough money to buy textbooks for the students but Linda Brooks said she plans to keep the page up to raise funds for much-needed repairs for the school in Dame Marie, a city of about 40,000.
"I've been overwhelmed by the generosity of people around the world," Brooks said. "I would like to put doors and windows on the school, and build lock boxes so the books don't get stolen."
Such efforts come as a bit of a surprise to Brooks, who before 2013 had no plans to operate a school in a developing country.
But she and her partner, Craig Breckenridge, were convinced to join his sister for a Christmas holiday in 2013, a trip that radically altered the couple's retirement plans. "We went and kind-of fell in love with the place," Brooks said. "Six months later we packed up and moved there. We sold everything," including the brand-new Surrey home they'd lived in since November 2012.
Timing was right, however. Brooks had been off work due to a workplace injury and it seemed a good time for Breckenridge to retire from PoCo's Dynamic Structures, where he was the lead designer on the Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT). (The federal government was not providing the $200 million in funding it had committed to the multinational project, putting its future in doubt.)
Brooks said family and friends thought they were "crazy" and asked why they didn't just donate money to a local aid organization, but the trip to Haiti had affected them deeply and they simply couldn't reconcile the luxurious lifestyle they were living in the Lower Mainland with the extreme poverty they'd left behind.
"And the people are so happy," Brooks said. "They go around singing and they may not have eaten for two days, but they're so grateful."
They returned for good in July 2014, and now live in Dame Marie semi-permanently (Breckenridge has returned to work at Dynamic Structures following a spring 2015 announcement that Canada would fund the TMT).
Brooks, who had been an educational assistant in Richmond, took over running the school of about 100 students in Grades 1 to 6 last summer. She's negotiated contracts for teachers, who hadn't been paid in three years, and has met her textbook fundraising goal of $3,500, but is hoping more can be raised to fix the school itself.
For more information and to donate, visit
- See more at: http://www.tricitynews.com/community/port-coquitlam-couple-raising-funds-for-haiti-school-1.2307526