Fondwa - Haiti's First Rural University
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.
Haiti is a mainly rural country, yet securing a higher education has traditionally meant leaving the countryside and going to an urban center to study, usually Port au Prince. There are exceptions and Fondwa is one of them. Fondwa is a rural, mountainous community about two hours from Port au Prince and a half hour from Leogane. The community is not large, at about 7,000 individuals.
Fondwa is best known for being the site of Haiti's first rural university, founded in 2004. Students, who may be from any part of the country can study agronomy, veterinary medicine, and management. These sectors are crucial for the success of rural communities where animals function as bank accounts, one's survival depends on cultivating land, and where long term outlook depends on organizing for social change, environmental preservation, etc. Students are tought in their own language, Haitian Kreyol, as well as French, Spanish, and English.
After completing their education students are expected to work on sustainable development projects in another rural community. You can read more about these programs at the UNIF-USA website. The UNIF USA Foundation was founded in February 2007 to support the development of the University of Fondwa 2004 (UNIF). You can sign up for email updates through their website or make a donation to support the University. If you would like to be involved more directly, you can volunteer or intern with them either stateside or in Haiti.
If you on the West Coast, you can see the world premire of the documentary about the University, The Road to Fondwa, at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco on March 12th. The film-makers will be present to discuss the documentary after the screening. You can view the trailer and purchase tickets at the documentary website.
A rural country needs rural leaders. We hope that Fondwa will continue to grow, and that other communities will be inspired to establish rural universities in other parts of the country. These institutions could be instrumental in building a better Haiti.
Note: All photos in this blog were taken by Tom Driver.