Black History Month, observed annually at Portage Beaconsfield during the month of February, got an early start this year as the centre coordinated a clothing drive shortly after receiving news about January’s devastating earthquake in Haiti. Elsie Bossicot, a staff member at Portage Beaconsfield of Haitian origin and Ali Welk, a teacher at Portage, coordinated the initiative to collect clothes, blankets, and other essential goods to be sent to the earthquake survivors. Donations came from staff, residents, parents, and from Westwood High School in Hudson, where Ali used to work. Elsie arranged for the fifteen barrels of goods to be shipped down to Haiti by the Montréal Haitian Community.
To mark Black History Month, Portage Beaconsfield is welcoming several guests. The first was Did Tafari Bélizaire, also of Haitian origin, who visited the centre to speak to the residents about his experiences with compulsive gambling, which lead to an attempted suicide in 2003. Now a paraplegic, he is dedicated to spreading awareness about suicide prevention and the dangers of compulsive gambling. Other guests will be Slim Williams, a musician from the United States with a past history of substance abuse, and Howard Grant, a boxer who will speak to the residents about strategies for overcoming adversity.
Finally, an annual tradition at Portage Beaconsfield during Black History Month which is widely anticipated, Elsie prepares a traditional Haitian meal every Thursday for all residents and staff. On the menu: fritaye, bouillon, jamb poule ak macaroni gratine ak twoa fromages, and piklise.
PHOTOS: Clothing drive for Haiti and traditional Haitian lunch at Portage West Island