Below is an article in the Catholic Sentinel about the Louverture Cleary School, a respected institution in Port au Prince that admits students based solely on merit, not their ability to pay. When we think of development, too often we just think about physical infrastructure. In terms of human development, education is essential. The graduates of Louverture Cleary, many of whom grew up in the most "hopeless" parts of Port au Prince, have gone on to be doctors, engineers, and community organizers. Bélimaire Emmanuel's story below illustrates how critical education is to cultivate a new generation of leadership in Haiti.
Search and rescue operations in response to the Petionville school collapse have concluded and there are no more survivors. In the Miami Herald article below, Jacqueline Charles notes that 89 individuals were killed and 150 survived, although many were badly injured. Thank you to Martinique, France, the United States and other countries that contributed equipment, search and rescue teams, or financial support. For the families, the mourning process begins. For the Haitian government, the pressure is on as they try to develop a strategy for preventing a similar tragedy from happening again. Nationwide school inspections would be a good start.
Some emergencies can be predicted. Every hurricane season, we can anticipate that Haiti will likely be hit with tropical storms. Others such as the collapse of a school in Petionville yesterday are unexpected tragedies. The community was, as is usually the case, the first to respond. They tried to remove as much of the rubble as possible but were hampered by a lack of heavy equipment. Search and rescue operations continued through the night and casualties now stand at 75. According to President Preval, shoddy construction practices could result in other collapses. Below is an AP article by Jonathan Katz on the situation.
USAID has just announced that literacy and fighting HIV/AIDS will be the focus of a new three year stabilization effort. HIV/AIDS will be built into curricula and training will be provided for for teachers, school administrators, and inspectors. If you've had any exposure to the Haitan education system(s), you know how important this is. Food may be the key to the present, but education is the key to the future. For more information, take a look at the main USAID website or the USAID/Haiti website.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the development agency of the American government and a major bilateral donor to Haiti. USG support to Haiti is considerable - In Fiscal Year (FY) 2007, USAID provided 245 million dollars in foreign assistance to Haiti, 279 million in FY 2008 and is scheduled to provide 245 million in FY 2009. The goal of this support can be summarized in one word - stability. The point of this blog is not to evaluate these programs but to point out what USAID is doing, where, and to highlight some useful resources on the USAID/Haiti website.
In a just world, income level would not be a barrier to an education. The Haitian Education Leadership Program (HELP) is a top-notch initiative that provides scholarships to high performing, disadvantaged students. 100% of HELP graduates are now employed, using their education to promote economic progress and to rebuild the Haitian middle class - an essential component of a functional democracy. The fundraiser will take place at the Haitian Embassy in Washington DC and there will be food, music, and a variety of speakers including two HELP graduates. Take a look at the HELP website and consider attending this worthwhile event.
Jule Hanus from the Art of Living Foundation sent us a video clip featuring a Youth Leadership Training Program which incorporates music, dance, yoga, and environmental preservation. Take a look at it by clicking here. Even when the Haitian government (someday) releases a strategy and appeals for funds to support nationwide reforestation communities will do the heavy lifting. In a country, where almost half the population is under fifteen years of age, there are many opportunities to involve the young in reforestation.
The article below (courtesy of bonpabon) announces that the Digicel Haiti Foundation met its goal of building twenty primary schools in its first year of operation. Digicel, as the largest foreign investor in the history of Haiti, prevents a compelling model for others to follow - a socially conscious corporation that provides a much needed product, employs a substantial number of local staff, and funnels some of its its profits into education projects. It makes sense for Digicel who will need educated employees as it grows and it makes sense for Haiti where long term development will depend on education.
Haiti is not known for the quality of its educational system. However, the country has a handfull of top notch institutions educating and training a new generation of community leaders. These institutions can be expanded and replicated for the betterment of andeyo Haiti. One of the best examples is Fondwa, a rural University with a strong emphasis on service learning.
Auctions can be an excellent way for small organizations to raise seed money with which to start pilot programs. Sometimes these new programs will work, and can be expanded. Other times, the decision will be made to discontinue but it will still have been an important learning experience for the organization.