Beaver Creek homeowner is helping Haiti | VailDaily.com

Beaver Creek homeowner is helping Haiti

Peter O'Flinn
poflinn@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado

Lilian Stransky, pictured above with the children of the Tipa Tipa elementary school, is building a school in Lahaie, Haiti. She expects construction to be complete in September. Kathy Andersen/Special to the Daily

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado – Liliane Stransky’s passion for helping children has led her to build a school in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

“It’s a symbol of hope and aspiration for the entire community,” said Stransky, who started building the Tipa Tipa elementary school in Lahaie, Haiti, prior to the Jan. 12 earthquake.

The small fishing village on Hispaniola’s southwestern tip has no running water or electricity.

“Tipa Tipa” means “step by step” in French Creole.

Stransky, a part-time Beaver Creek resident, founded the Step by Step Foundation in 2004 to help improve the lives of children living in poverty. The foundation’s mission is to enhance the lives of underprivileged children by creating and supporting health, nutrition, water, education and other programs that substantially impact the human rights and development of children worldwide. She helped found an orphanage years ago in her native Caracas, Venezuela, that houses over 250 children.

Stransky and her family have been coming to their residence at the Highlands Lodge in Beaver Creek since 1991. Her daughter, Daniela, learned to ride horses in Edwards when she was 5 years old. Daniela, now 14 years old, has come a long way since her first ride in Edwards, competing in horse jumping competitions in Puerto Rico, Spain, Venezuela and the United States. When Daniela wins, the Step by Step Foundation and the children of Lahaie win, too – proceeds from her prize money are donated to the foundation.

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“Everyone can help in their own way. My passion, and hopefully my career, is riding – so I decided that’s how I could help,” said Daniela.

Daniela and her mother traveled to Haiti last fall to hand out supplies. Despite not yet having a roof, the school still had almost 500 students when volunteers visited.

“It’s unbelievable,” Stransky said. “A teacher makes two to three dollars a day.”

Teacher’s assistants typically make $1 a day. The cost to educate one child for a year is only $130 dollars.

In March, the Step by Step Foundation’s team was victorious at the 2010 Great Charity Challenge at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, Fla. The win earned the foundation $150,000, which will fund the completion of the school in Lahaie as well as other community improvements. The team also won an additional $25,000, which was donated to the Boys and Girls Club.

The school has grown to 596 students since the January earthquake. About 40 families from Port-au-Price relocated to the town. Stransky expects enrollment to continue to grow when construction is complete. Many of the children are “willing to walk one or two hours” each day to go to school.

An engineer and volunteers from the Step by Step Foundation arrived in Haiti on July 18 to check on the progress. Stransky now expects the school to be finished and open in September when she plans to return to Lahaie.

“I go down with my daughters and my friends,” said Stransky.

She likes to hand-deliver supplies. The last time she visited she went with 13 volunteers. The volunteers paid for all travel expenses.

Other efforts by the Step by Step Foundation include helping with immunizations and distributing LifeStraws – personal water filters that remove 99.9999 percent of waterborne bacteria and more than 98 percent of waterborne viruses. After the school is completed, Stransky plans to create fish collection pools, which help farm tilapia. While Stransky and the foundation are committed to “making the community sustainable,” she says the first priority is to finish the school.