Program assistants paula prince and jessica jean francois with father belizaire, director of cherettes primary school 

Program Assistants Paula Prince and Jessica Jean-Francois with Father Belizaire, Director of Cherettes Primary School

Program Assistants Paula Prince and Jessica Jean-Francois with Father Belizaire, Director of Cherettes Primary School
Program Assistants Paula Prince and Jessica Jean-Francois with Father Belizaire, Director of Cherettes Primary School 

May 28, 2011

Upon arrival at the Notre Dame de Cherettes Primary school, Hope for Haiti and buildOn representatives were greeted by nearly 75 enthusiastic members of the Cherettes community. Seated outside on wooden benches, the parents and families of Cherettes were eager to participate in the first of a series of meetings held to assess the initial need and support for constructing a new school. It is the community members themselves, the men and women seated on benches beneath the lush tropical trees, who will construct the new block of three classrooms to serve the school’s 135 students. Men and women both young and old came, not only from Cherettes, but also from surrounding mountain communities up to three hours away in order to voice their excitement about the project. Together with Hope for Haiti and buildOn staff, they brainstormed strategies to recruit the additional teams of volunteers necessary to carry out such labor-intensive construction.

As the meeting became more animated, various community members spoke up in strong favor of the project and emphasized the importance of building the coalition of volunteers necessary to carry out the work. One woman sparked applause from the crowd when she expressed her support for the project, claiming that this opportunity was an “answer to the ‘s prayers.” When buildOn suggested that, if Cherettes was not interested in the project, another community could benefit from the construction, the crowd erupted in emotional shouts: “Non, isit la! Isit la!” (No, here! here!)

Hope for Haiti has been collaborating with buildOn, a non-profit dedicated to building schools with local resources in rural areas around the world, in order to pinpoint various rural communities in Haiti’s southern peninsula in need of new school structures. A lack of classroom space hinders Notre Dame de Cherettes Primary, a new addition to Hope for Haiti’s network of supported schools, and makes it an ideal community for investment in school construction. The school’s facilities are limited to a small three-room concrete building and several open-air, unfinished classrooms. The fourth, fifth, and sixth grade classes share the community chapel as one loud, oversized classroom. These issues – a lack of adequate classroom space and poor quality structures – contribute to reduced school attendance and make it difficult to provide quality education in the poor rural communities that schools like Notre Dame de Cherettes serve.

Program Assistant Jessica Jean-Francois with Cherettes 4th grade class in Cherettes chapel
Program Assistant Jessica Jean-Francois with Cherettes 4th grade class in Cherettes chapel
Cherettes community members appointing group leaders for buildOn project
Cherettes community members appointing group leaders for buildOn project
Cherettes community meeting with Hope for Haiti and buildOn representatives
Cherettes community meeting with Hope for Haiti and buildOn representatives

Hope for Haiti’s support of Cherettes through teacher salary subsidies, as well as its strong partnership with buildOn, allow us to provide comprehensive support to education in this rural community. Because Hope for Haiti was able to identify the need for additional space in Cherettes and subsequently share these needs with buildOn, its partner organization is taking action to bring solutions to the community, its parents, and their children.

By Paula Prince

School directors from the mountains came to support the event and bring trees back to their communities 

Celebrating Earth Day with Reforestation, Seedlings

School Directors from the mountains came to support the event and bring trees back to their communities
School Directors from the mountains came to support the event and bring trees back to their communities
A worker from the nursery where Hope for Haiti's thousands of seedlings are cultivated
A worker from the nursery where Hope for Haiti’s thousands of seedlings are cultivated

May 3, 2011

Yesterday Hope for Haiti marked the May 1st holiday, known here as the Fet Agrikilti ak Travay (National Agriculture and Work Day), by celebrating the accomplishments of our Reforestation program in the coastal city of Aquin.

A day when Haitians reflect positively on the importance of agriculture and the value of work as the backbones of their society, the Fet celebrates local products and encourages new planting, especially in rural areas. Such activities are particularly relevant given the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) 2010 estimate of Haiti’s forest coverage at a mere 4%, a rate which stands in stark contrast to the 40.8% coverage in the Dominican Republic and the much richer estimates of Haiti’s past.

The event space in Aquin, not far from the nursery supported by Hope for Haiti
The event space in Aquin, not far from the nursery supported
by Hope for Haiti
Presenting the themes of Reforestation Day
Presenting the themes of Reforestation Day
Patrick discussing the value of work in a society
Patrick discussing the value of work in a society

But while this crucially important theme takes the spotlight for just one day, it is the focus of our Reforestation project all year round – to help make Haiti greener, revalue its environmental resources, and restore its natural beauty.

Hope for Haiti’s Agronomist, Mr. Pierre Francois, planned and led the inaugural event, which brought together over 200 students from Hope for Haiti supported schools in the area and over 150 community members. Men, women, grandparents, and students listened intently to Pierre’s discussions on the environmental state of southern Haiti, while Mr. Rosalva Jacquet, a former mayor of Aquin, talked about the importance of community participation in making agricultural investments pay off. Rather than receive “kado,” or the all-too-common “presents” embedded in aid packages, he contested, Haitians should pay a small fee for seedlings, even one as small as five goud (US 12.5 cents). In his eyes, payment and participation lead to caring and responsibility on the part of his neighbors, which in turn lead to more productive planting efforts and more fruitful harvests.

Country Director, Sarah Dutcher, with Agronomist, Pierre Francois, and local Community Health Workers, Samuel Terasma, as the event kicks off
Country Director, Sarah Dutcher, with Agronomist,
Pierre Francois, and local Community Health Workers, Samuel Terasma, as the event kicks off
Seedlings for Sale
Seedlings for Sale
Distributing the trees responsibly involves recording names & counting money
Distributing the trees responsibly involves recording
names & counting money

Following his lead, Hope for Haiti sold mango, lime, and hardwood seedlings at a reduced cost, and gave students a free tree with each of their purchases to bring home to their families and friends. In all, we sold over 600 seedlings and generated a small profit to reinvest in the community’s nursery. School directors, students, nursery workers, parents, teachers, and children, both from the city of Aquin and its surrounding mountain communities, all went home with new greens for their gardens and the conviction to make even their small slices of Haiti a little bit healthier.

A young girl with her mother takes home a mango tree
A young girl with her mother takes home a mango tree
Mangos make Happiness
Mangos make Happiness
Student from St. Thomas High School buys trees for home
Student from St. Thomas High School buys trees for home
The Real Seedlings
The Real Seedlings