Haiti offers many questions and a few answers.
Haiti is the poorest country with the highest illiteracy rate in the Western Hemisphere.
The 2010 Haitian earthquake was the greatest natural disaster in the history of the Western Hemisphere--over 250,000 lives lost, millions rendered homeless, and countless millions of dollars in destruction of property.
We cannot fix Haiti’s problems. We can plant seeds for a hopeful future.
Why are American churches building a school instead of a church in Haiti?
In Matthew 25, Jesus says that communities will be judged by how we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, help the sick and nurture the prisoner. Haiti fits the entire need profile that Jesus describes in Matthew 25. Presbyterians have long emphasized education as a pathway for helping people meet these basic needs. Building a school is a traditional Christian answer.
Why doesn’t PCUSA build the school?
Following the 2010 earthquake, Presbyterians donated $11 million dollars for relief efforts through the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance program. Funds were given to many relief and rebuilding projects, including $600,000 for resettlement of earthquake refugees into EcoVillages. Those relief funds have been spent, and these families have safe housing, but there was not enough money left to build a school or provide additional continuing support.
Why are they called EcoVillages?
They practice sustainable, organic agriculture. MPP, an agricultural coop, has taught the residents how to compost to create rich soil, how to use tire gardens to conserve soil and water, and how to select and plant the most nutritious crops that thrive in the area’s dry and rainy seasons. Established residents are able to feed their families healthy meals from their land, while generating modest income to pay for necessities.
How big is the school now? What is the goal?
The school has 5 classrooms, kitchen, dining hall, storage for food, latrine, garden, well and several acres of land. In 2017, two additional classrooms will be built. Our goal is 9 classrooms, one for each level. This will constitute a “Fundamental School” meeting the standards set by the Haitian Ministry of Education. Children in Haiti must pass a national examination after the 8th grade to qualify to attend high school. Our goal is to educate children to pass that exam.
What about long-term sustainability?
The Haitian Constitution guarantees each child a free education. From a practical standpoint, the government is unable to make this happen. Thus, the Haitian Ministry of Education has set standards for schools and it only nationalizes schools that already meet those standards. Nationalizing a school means that the Ministry of Education pays for the teachers. This is the long-range goal of the project. The EcoVillage School follows the official curriculum and presently meets all of the standards for the grades it provides. When construction is completed, it will meet all the requirements. It is unknown how long the school will need to wait before it is officially sanctioned.
Haiti Country Profile: Facts and Figures
The United Nations Human Development Index ranks Haiti as the poorest country in the western hemisphere. 77% of the population lives below the US poverty line of $1.25/day. According to a UNICEF study, almost half of all primary school-age children in Haiti do not attend school, and Haitian public schools have the capacity to serve only one-quarter of the school age population. To read more about Haiti, click on any of the links below.