Pierre and Cynthia Balthazar – A Mission and a Marriage
Pierre Balthazar – Mèt Toto
Have you ever played school? Let me tell you the story of my husband, Mèt Toto, to those who knew him when he was playing school…he was an island boy, running the beaches and hills of Ayiti, his father grew coffee and marketed it in the nearby city, at age 4 he was sent to boarding school. He was one of 10 children, two of whom did not survive baby-hood; there were 7 boys and one, the youngest – a girl, who grew to adulthood. It was the time of the Duvalier regime and the oppression of the people was great. My husband’s parents understood that in order for their children to know something besides the poverty and oppression of the island, an education was necessary; and for this reason, at the tender age of 4, my husband began his annual trek to boarding school. As painful as it was to leave the loving arms of his mother, grandmothers and aunts, it would have been worse to stay.
It was a 2-3 day journey either by foot or by rowboat to the city of Jacmel where he attended grade-school. If the weather indicated hurricanes, they went by foot, even at age 4. Imagine the bewilderment of a small child at trekking 3 days only to be left with strangers for months. Although this suffering is critical to his story, it is what happens next that tells you why our work today is so important: when my husband returned home for summers, even as a small boy, he was deeply saddened that he had the privilege of good schooling while his little friends and neighbors back home did not. And so, he began to “play school” he was the teacher, his friends and neighbors were his students. The curriculum was whatever he had just spent the year learning. He, according to the stories he tells me, was strict just like the classroom teachers he experienced, who, at that tender age, would not get a thrill of wielding the power of a teacher over their friends?!? For him, though it was more than a game, he was serious about teaching the other children who missed out on the opportunity to attend a good school, and his impact reaches far. In many of the places I have traveled with him he introduces me to a doctor, a professor, an engineer or others who tell me that were it not for my husband, they would not be where they are today.
Even as a small child, a passion to help his people filled his heart. He, accordingly, became a teacher and a counselor in the State of Michigan, and, he accordingly, has continued efforts to help his people. A teacher’s salary is pretty modest, but in order to help Ayiti, he has given every month a portion of his own salary, and I a portion of mine, to pay teachers’ salaries, to purchase teaching supplies, to travel and meet with teachers and to do many other activities that are helping. The problems are vast and we are often asked about the sustainability of our efforts.
Cynthia grew up in Cadillac, Michigan. She has visited Haiti at least twice a year since 2008, often traveling with her own children and students. She is a co-founder of BUCOSEH, a non-profit dedicated to supporting an orphanage/school near Port-au-Prince that was organized by local Haitians and which serves children who survived the January 2010 earthquake. Cynthia taught mathematics at several high schools and chemistry at Alpena Community College. She has a Masters in Chemistry from Central Michigan University and also taught chemistry at Mid-Michigan Community College She teaches mathematics part- time for Lansing Schools and is currently a PHD student in the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State University. Cynthia is the mother of five children.
Pierre and Cynthia met by chance at a sustainability conference in Michigan in 2007. Soon they were marrying their passion for sustainability, Haiti, and each other into a life together with a fulfilling mission. Married in 2011.