FOKAL to Present on Haitian Libraries and Human Development (June 10, 2008)

  • Posted on: 22 April 2008
  • By: Bryan Schaaf

It is not easy to find a library in Haiti. The Fondation Connaissance & Liberté (FOKAL) wants to change that. FOKAL  supports 35 community libraries throughout Haiti.  FOKAL also supports arts and culture programming, a debate program, grassroots initiatives, a preschool program and even water projects.  FOKAL staff will speak at the Library of Congress in Washington DC on June 10th.  If you do not live in the Washington DC area, you can catch the live webcast.   In the meantime,take a look at their website to learn more about this organiztion.  Education is fundamental to solving Haiti’s economic, environmental, and health related challenges.



FOKAL libraries are managed by youth groups in regional capitals, small towns, and rural areas.  The primary goal is to promote empowerment through reading and research.  This is critical in a country where a large proportion of the population is under fifteen.  More than 150 library managers have been trained or are scheduled for training by the foundation.  The libraries are spartially self supporting as members provide small feels to keep them going.  The annual operating budget of a library is $3,000.   FOKAL would like to expand their library programs and would welcome the funding to do so.   If you are interested in supporting the libraries program, you can make a donation here.



FOKAL also has a debate program.  According to the website, "...the debate program is based on formal oratory debates, conducted as a game played by teams of young people. The objective of the game is to convince a neutral third party, the judge, that your team’s arguments for or against a given statement, are better than the other team’s. The debate is a confrontation of ideas, planned, documented and organized, taking place live, as verbal intellectual sparring match following a precise format."  Haitians love a good debate and programs like this are valuable for aspiring community and governmental leaders.



Interestingly, FOKAL has been supporting art and cultural programs since 1999.  FOKAL is involved in visual arts, dance, and music and in particular promoting Haitian literature.  FOKAL supports Haitian editing houses as well. The website states "...FOKAL has contributed, in collaboration with UNESCO, the French Institute, la Communauté Française de Belgique, La Charge du Rhinocéros and the Africamérica foundation, to Haitian-African literary debates, a European tour for the exhibit of famous Haitian sculptor, Patrick Vilaire, a musical tour in Haiti for Beethova Obas, international exchanges with the Forums d’Art Contemporain, and the Festival de théâtre des Quatre Chemins"  Quite impressive.  To promote Haitian arts is to remember Haitian history - During hard times, Haiti's proud history is energizing.  Haiti has succeeded against difficult odds in the past when others said they could not.   Haitians will have to yet again.



Not only is there food insecurity in Haiti, but there is also water insecurity.  For this reason, FOKAl is also involved in water programs.   Those who do have access to water often must walk long distances and make long trips each day.  The burden falls primarily on women and girls who are, by and large, holding this county together.  FOKAL's emphasis is on innovative solutions that build capacity, leadership, and environmental protection.



I was unaware of the TiPa TiPa program that FOKAL supports.  It is apparently a Haitian interpretation of the Step by Step program developed for the Soros foundation network by Children's Resources International (CRI).  The website states this program targets children from birth to age 12 in kindergartens and primary schools.  Basically, TiPa TiPa is a child centered program intended to empower not disempower children.  If you have been to a Haitian school, you know why.  Children are not encouraged to ask questions.  Instead, they are made to recite and recite in a language they dont even understand by a teacher who can barely speak it (and incidentally hasn't been paid in months.)  This program is about encouraging curiousity, creativity, and decision making - the elements of a real education.   It also encourages active involvement of parents in the educational process.



Haitians are entrepeneurial but few have formal business training.   In collaboration with the business community, mentors train secondary school students on the economy and private enterprise through hands-on training activities.  Students are expected to implement a "mini-enterprise" by the end of the course.  Haiti needs leadership of all kinds including economic leaders.  So far,  fourteen schools and eight businesses have participated in the program in schools in Port-au-Prince, Cap Haitian, Jacmel and Hinche.  It is very nice to see an educational program expand beyond the Republic of Port au Prince. 



Since 1999, the foundation has provided scholarships to deprived students showing strong academic potential, usually through referal by partner organizations.  Sometimes, grants are also provided for overseas studies as well.






Education is at the heart of what FOKAL does.  However they have proven to be innovative leaders in other sectors as well.  They are an effective and impressive organization that is having an impact in Port au Prince and beyond.  Interested in learning more?  Below are points of contact:   


In Haiti
FOKAL : 143, Avenue Christophe,
P.O. Box 2720, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, W.I.
Phone : (509) 224-1509, (509) 224-5421,(509) 224-1507
Fax (509) 224-1507


In the US
Friends of FOKAL
c/o Open Soiciety Institute
400 West 59th Street
Phone: 212-548-0332 Fax: 212-548-4652


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