Answering the Key Questions

From the outset, the intriguing part of this development project is that it's run by the local people.  They designed the school, hired the teachers, and engaged the community.  It's not just a place to park their kids for five hours a day.  They have a vision to make this a model of a great primary school that is self-sustaining and run by Haitians.

Over the past two days, we heard the story several times that the people of the Ecovillages lost everything in the earthquake and they came to the Central Plateau to start over.  They have little.  We can help by raising the funds to construct the building but what will happen when we're gone?  How will they afford to pay for continuing operations?

To answer that key question, we started by asking the executive board of MPP about their long range vision for sustainability.  They have clearly considered this issue and have discussed solutions.  The first step is to develop the agriculture on the school property.  We saw the beans that have been planted, the peanuts that have been harvested and a tire garden being built.  Once the plantation (which is what they call the fields around the school) is developed, it should produce enough food to feed the school children.  In Haiti, the biggest meal of the day is lunch and these children will be well fed with nutritious food grown by their parents.  They will grow up knowing where the food comes from; and importantly, the school will not have to use money to buy food from the outside.  This is ambitious and will take time but could be a "game changer" when it's completed.

Even with a fully developed plantation, however, how will the teachers get paid and the school materials get purchased?  The answer may be goats and crafts.  A goat breeding program was started last year with funds that we provided from our donors.  In all, 20 goats were purchased and now there are 47 goats.  The goats are not kept at the school because there's no pen.  The goats are kept by the families in the villages with the understanding that the first offspring goes to the school and the second goes to another family.  With further purchases and breeding, we hope to get goats to allthe families that have children in the schoolwhen there are enough goats, some can be sold to provide income.

Another idea that was discussed was using the skills of the parents to start a local craft industry.  For example, they have identified 8 women in the Ecovillages that know how to sew.  If we can find and deliver sewing machines to these people, they can make school uniforms and other clothes to sell.  The parents can contribute a small amount of money to buy uniforms and pay tuition.

Once the school has classes through 8th grade, establishes a lunch program, and has students pass standardized tests, the school board will apply for accreditation from the government.  This may be a few years down the road but we can see that they have a vision, a plan and the energy to pull it off.  Our partnership is a critical piece of the plan.  A Partnership with one vision, clear roles and lots of exciting possibilities.

-- submitted by C. Calia

{pictured below is the view of the school from the main road.  there are over 20 acres dedicated to growing food for school lunches)