Can Foreign Aid Help This Girl? NY Times

Can Foreign Aid Help This Girl? NY Times

News

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: December 7, 2013 New York Times

Kristof_New-articleInline-v3PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — ALMOST four years after the earthquake that devastated Haiti, Darline St. Luc, 13, is one of the hundreds of thousands of people who are still homeless. She and her family get by in a leaky, rat-infested shack made out of old USAID grain sacks, and she says that she sometimes goes days without eating.

It has been months since Darline had a bite of meat, and she says she doesn’t quite remember what an egg tastes like. Her dad died this year, and she had to drop out of school in September because she couldn’t afford the $200 needed for a school uniform, shoes, books and supplies.

Yet, this month, Darline is back in school because of an extraordinary Haitian woman who has turned a torture chamber into a school — backed by high school students from Los Altos, Calif., who raised money for it.

Let’s acknowledge that Haiti is Exhibit A for many people who think that foreign aid is, in the words of the late Senator Jesse Helms, “money down a rathole.” Billions of dollars have poured into this country and countless aid workers drive around in white S.U.V.’s, yet Haiti remains the poorest country in the hemisphere.

Angus Deaton, a development economist at Princeton University, says that he began his career believing in foreign aid but gradually came to conclude that it is unhelpful and even harmful. In a new book, “The Great Escape,” Deaton suggests that aid fuels corruption without improving economic growth. Referring to aid workers, he concludes: “Dedicated and ethical people are doing harm.”

I disagree, but this is an important argument to have because so much rides on it. And a starting point is to acknowledge that aid sometimes wasn’t effective because it was intended mostly to prop up allies, or to support American businesses. Deaton says that some 70 percent of aid from the United States may never reach the recipient country, at least in cash — so it’s not surprising that it doesn’t always bolster the lives of Haitians like Darline.

More broadly, whether or not aid boosts economic growth, it unquestionably saves lives. Haiti’s infant mortality rate has been nearly halved since the 1990s. Worldwide as well, aid has dramatically reduced child deaths and, after a lag, brought down birthrates, too. Here in Haiti, women average 3.3 babies today, down from around 6 in the 1980s.

Aid’s impact on economic growth is more complicated. But there is reason to think that as people become educated and better nourished they will become more productive and demand better economic governance, laying the foundation for improved growth rates.

And if Haiti is Exhibit A for skeptics, it’s worth noting that Haiti may be on the move again. The economy is growing faster than America’s, kidnappings are down and new garment factories are reviving the manufacturing sector. And Haitians themselves are stepping up to build their own aid networks for girls like Darline — because they see that the right kind of aid can achieve remarkable returns.

The school that Darline attends was founded by Rea Dol, 46, who grew up impoverished in the Haitian countryside. Dol dropped out of school in the eighth grade, then returned to school in fits and starts. Eventually Dol started a literacy program and then a school housed in a former secret police base with a torture chamber.

This school, called the SOPUDEP school after a local community organization that supports it, now serves 835 low-income children from prekindergarten through 12th grade. Dol asks for school fees from those who can pay, but, when there’s no money, she sometimes waives the fee and even provides a free uniform and books.

The school is an exemplary marriage of local leadership and foreign donors. A Canadian foundation has been very supportive, and Dol once ran into Seth Donnelly, a Los Altos High School teacher, in a Haiti guesthouse. That led Los Altos students to raise $200,000, allowing Dol to take over two other schools in Haiti and start building a big new one.

Helping people is harder than it looks, whether for Dol or for international aid groups. After the earthquake, Canadian supporters sent her a 20-foot shipping container of books and clothing, but Haitian customs officials seized it, held the container for a year, and then charged $15,000 for duty and storage fees — a sum that donors had to make up.

Yet Dol soldiers on and works closely with a network of other Haitians also trying to build a better Haiti. She delivered some of the books to support a new library for Sakala, a program that promotes education in a notorious slum called Cité Soleil.

Daniel Tillias, a Haitian who leads Sakala, says that the library shows that local people can solve their own problems and overcome an aid-driven culture of dependency and passivity.

“People say, ‘why should we build a library? Unicef should do it for us,’ ” Tillias said. “People need to understand that the only person who can build a better life for you is yourself.”

DARLINE still faces enormous challenges. She has never seen a doctor or a dentist in her life. Rats scurry around her home and the public outhouses. And now that she is 13, men harass her; she worries that in the insecurity of the crime-ridden makeshift encampment where she lives, she may be raped, as two of her sisters were.

“When I go to the toilet, men are scarier than the rats,” Darline said. “I can kill the rats, but I can’t kill the men.”

In this bleak environment, school offers a ray of hope for a better future. Darline eats a free meal every day at school, so her nutrition improves and she’s less anemic.

I was there in her hut when Dol handed Darline a school uniform and told the family that she could return to school. The family lit up with joy, and Darline is now dreaming of graduating from high school, maybe even going to college through a university fund that Dol has established at SOPUDEP.org.

Now five other children living near Darline have trooped to the school to see if they, too, can get a free education. Dol is scrambling to find the money to make that happen — because anyone in this slum sees that the right kind of aid can, indeed, transform a child’s life.

I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook and Google+, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

Play to Live. The Vitality of Recreation

Play to Live. The Vitality of Recreation

News

By: Ryan Sawatzky
Original Post, August 2013

The proverb, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, refers to the fact that incessant labour with no leisure time makes a person boring. I would argue that it could go on to say that a person in indefinite laborious motion has their physical, mental and spiritual gears worn down, making creativity and joy a near impossibility. Decisive and critical thought is halted with the onslaught of physical and psychological stress. Maybe not stress due to the basics of natural survival, but with the threat of ones extinction. Stress, which is the release of adrenaline, was meant as a short term fight or flight mechanism to protect ourselves from natural dangers and predators. But in todays culture, these stress factors are becoming chronic due to instability in family and communal bonds and economies, which pitch and yaw almost nonsensically.

However for us and our children in the first world, extracurricular physical and creative activities dot our daily lives and serve to be a distraction and a stress release. Not only do hobbies such as ceramics, soccer, cooking, book clubs, language, pick up hockey, day camps and so on, provide reprieve from our realities, but serve to connect community and to expand our skill base and our world just a little bit more.

The rat race that is our lives can be a burden factor to say the least, but Haiti’s stresses, economic or otherwise – at least primarily for the sons and daughters of Africa – have been dire for the past five hundred and some odd years. Even when the slave uprising procured Haiti’s place in history as the first independent black republic, national and imperial powers have consistently thwarted the people of Haiti’s ability to find their own way and thrive.

And so after two hundred years of independence, the vast majority of Haitian’s have to contend with modes of survival that really makes our problems seem… well, first world! Morning to night, working to make just enough to feed your family on an semi-regular basis, economy, politics, government and the health of the population perpetually imploding, and social services next to nil unless you have the money. Even then, these services that primarily tend to the middle class and the elite are not immune to the vulnerabilities the rest of the country faces. It really is enough to make anyone want to throw their hands up in defeat.

But what of their reprieve from this drudgery? It hardly seems reasonable with their incessant daily grind that they could accommodate any such leisure time. And for many, this is all to true. Life is point A to Z with no time to lift their heads in between.

SOPUDEP Director Réa Dol and her staff have had a growing awareness to achieve a work and play balance with their students. Education is not only words in a book, but is also experiential. Without the latter, it would be near impossible to expand the mind and gain real insights into life. In a manner of speaking, education needs to be good for both the mind and for the soul.

No time in SOPUDEP’s short history was this more prevalent than following the earthquake. When the school reopened its doors in March 2012, Rea sought to find a way to reintroduce her student’s to a daily routine while relieve the traumatic stresses they now faced. She would dedicate the first two weeks to nothing but play. Singing, dancing, games, and sport all played a roll in the students introduction back to school. Just two months prior, these students lives were turned upside down in immeasurable ways and all experienced some kind of loss; either through the death of family and friends, a home reduced to rubble, physical trauma, or all of the above. Leisure is what Rea knew they needed more than any kind of structured learning. They needed a chance to just be! It turned out that what was good for the student’s was also good for SOPUDEP’s staff.

For the most impoverished of SOPUDEP’s students, namely those of the schools afternoon session – who many of you already know live and work on the street – it is for these children especially that Rea has tried to offer ways to relax and have fun. She has given these kids some peace from their everyday life is by getting them away from the suffocating urban environment and reconnecting them with nature. This of course has been brought to fruition because of international friends who have donated their time and money to provide these field trips. These trips are usually to the sea, and in the case of their last travel, to a river. Taking them to the water is not by coincidence, but a clear way to give these kids literal means to remove the weight of themselves and in turn the world of problems they carry, even for just a few hours.

Splashing in the water has even become an annual event at SOPUDEP school for the little ones. For three years now, during Haiti’s Flag Day celebrations in May, inflatable pools (provided again by generous supporters) are dispersed throughout the schools courtyard. On the one hand, it is meant to be a day of fun, on the other it is SOPUDEP’s attempt to breakdown class boundaries. Yes it is only the elite of the country that have swimming pools, but more than that, for the urban poor, water is either a source of need and survival, or especially now in the case of cholera, death and disease. Rarely is it a source of fun and relaxation.

This summer, SOPUDEP wanted to take their expanding vision for extracurricular activity into the creation of a summer camp. That is exactly what they did. Three hundred and fifty children are in attendance for this inaugural year. The program is sponsored by international donors, including Half the Sky from New York, which is filming a documentary on females in Haiti. They also have volunteers from the Lesly Brezault for Music and Arts Foundation and the HELP organization. Twenty senior students are also volunteering to help run the program.

Dance, music, aerobics, arts and crafts are provided, but they are also using this time to further the vocational skills of the students through cooking, sewing, carpentry, and French and English classes. The pictures Rea has provided below ultimately say more that I can. What Rea has told me however, is that they are all having a lot of fun! Rea will hold a fair at the end of summer camp to sell the students art to buy more supplies and set up a small art store for SOPUDEP’s students.

We must thank those who continue to provide funding to keep these programs running; educational or otherwise. A new school year approaches and it will be important that the school continues to function as a quality institution of learning for those who lack the means to go to traditional tuition based schools that are far too expensive for the average Haitian. But just as important, we must recognize how imperative recreation is as a counterpoint to work and support these initiatives too. For these children, it will be one of the secrets to their successes.

Many of SOPUDEP’s students have expressed their desire to work hard to improve their conditions and the conditions of their country. Desire must come from joy and joy must come from a life seen as worth living and a world worth living in. SOPUDEP provides, at the very least, a glimpse into a life where the world is not just a never ending struggle, but one that also includes beauty and peace, where the mind can be free to imagine a reality balanced among equality, prosperity, and harmony with others and the world in which we live.

The Haitian State and Haitian Education

The Haitian State and Haitian Education

News

By: Rea Dol
Originally Posted, July 2012

Any country wanting to engage in the process of development for a prosperous future must invest in education. In this crossroads of Haiti’s history, it still is not a priority for the Haitian State to take charge of education and to implement suitable means to ensure the training and the development of all Haitians. For true national development to happen, the government’s hand cannot be withdrawn.

The Haitian constitution of 1874 was the first to recognize the importance of state funded education, at least in its primary phase, by declaring obligatory primary school education. Following constitutional amendments stipulated that primary school education was not only obligatory, but free. In spite of these written words, structures have hardly improved, and the Haitian state continues to neglect its duties in this field. They prefer to leave the responsibility of education on the largely unregulated private institutions and foreign NGO’s.

At the end of the 19th century, the already cash poor Haitian government was to naively pass the responsibility of providing education for its people onto the many catholic monks who found themselves on Haiti’s shores ready to convert the population. These monks were the ones who first founded schools that favored the established middle-class, neglecting the poor masses openly. Favoring this small group of people able to pay for their education was a way to create assets for the church and lessened the challenge of having to engage with a poor rural majority that would use up monetary resources.

While this may have eased a perceived burden for government, they were forgetting that: to invest in education is to invest in people, who in turn will make Haiti infinitely more prosperous than it would have been otherwise. People provided with the best educational potential are those who’s progress will be fastest.

In a country such as Haiti, true education for the masses would have a clear effect on fertility and mortality rates related to parents, especially mothers. Education would also help demonstrate the impact of our day to day living on the environment and how we can reduce our impact, would play a key role in promoting our overall health and confront the cycles of racism, classism and inequality that exist in Haiti.

The majority of the small private schools which were born out of this history have only one objective: to gain money. To achieve this goal, those with low moral fiber do not hesitate to act like “professors” without having any qualifications. The State is always paying lip service in regard to the importance of education, but has never installed any real mechanism of control.

Because of passing this responsibility onto the private sector, public education in Haiti has been in shambles for years. It is the public teacher that should be the one to shape society, but because there is no accessible education for the public, half of Haiti’s children do not go to school, and 75% of those provided with education are registered in private schools. The bad quality of teaching, the lack of adequate school handbooks and the shortage of qualified teachers contribute to poor school results, high rates of grade repetition and abandonment of school altogether.

On top of all this, there are very few schools in Haiti, with the majority of these institutions charging tuition fees that are unrealistic for the average family. According to our data collected in an investigation with the poorest families living around Institution Mixed of SOPUDEP from 2002 and 2007, parents will keep their children at home in periods of economic difficulties. For many, there is no relief from economic hardships and never are able to consider sending their children to school.

In the neoliberal plan, education becomes goods: a service to be sold for a profit. It also steers pedagogy towards the training of a skilled labor force that can be controlled by industrialists and sold as a cheap, disposable commodity into the global market. The transformation of education into merchandise produces a culture that is indifferent to providing education of any true depth and quality, of which the lack thereof leaves many “intellectually handicapped”, unable to reflect and think. Within a private system, education loses its humanity, only to become an investment for the parents. Those that are already engrained with this ideology believe that economic stability equals competence, which justifies inequalities of an economic, social and political nature. They say, “The poor are naturally ignorant and should be subjected to the will of us, the elites. We know what they need to survive.”

Today, despite large promises, the Haitian State has still not taken basic measures to put education within reach of the majority of the population. And although the masses’ requests for this social right are unceasing, it always seems to fall on deaf ears. However, each waking moment, Haitian community leaders, activists, grassroots social organizations and any person willing to fight for a better Haiti, lay the groundwork for a good academic foundation for future generations. In this way, SOPUDEP’s program is aimed at providing accessible education to Haitian children with an objective to increase the net rates of schooling in our community of Morne Lazard, Pétion-Ville Haiti.

We give our deepest gratitude to all that have supported SOPUDEP in the past and we welcome your further support so we may continue to improve the conditions of our people. We also thank our teachers, who tirelessly dedicate themselves to a better future for those children who would not have another way to receive an education.

Education, Employment and the Third-World

Education, Employment and the Third-World

News

By: Ryan Sawatzky
Originally Posted, June 2012

SOPUDEP director Rea Dol was presented a unique opportunity just a few months ago, when a generous amount of funds were directed her way from Rotary Barrie, in Ontario Canada. While SOPUDEP has implemented programs in free and accessible education for both adults and children and economic empowerment through micro-credit, Rea and her peers saw a need which they had not yet met: that of trade skills training. They decided the street children program would be the starting point, and those most in need were the attending youth in their late teens and early twenties.

As some may know, the street kids education program that Rea Dol started in 2009, has transformed a number of rough and tumble kids into young people who now take pride in their lives. What started as six kids, now has grown to over 150, ranging in age from five to their early twenties. Along with learning their ABC’s, these trade skills are now providing alternative ways to find employment.

The first street kids trade skills project would seek to tap into the ever expanding eco technology market, through providing these youth with theoretical and practical skills in electronics and a way to produce clean energy. They are building inverters for solar panels, which is the part of the photovoltaic system between the solar panel and the appliance or outlet that converts solar energy into usable household electricity. If anyone has ever made the trek to Haiti, one knows that electricity is a scarce and valuable commodity. What little hydro power there is, it is extremely unreliable.

Clean affordable power is then a step in the right direction for an impoverished country such as Haiti, if not for the rest of us. Providing skills to meet the coming demands for this technology is securing a position that many will not have. And while some would see this as a way to finding factory work, in Haiti, little employment is found without an entrepreneurial spirit.

The majority of employment in Haiti, as throughout the third-world, is through means of self-employment either at the market or through odd jobs. Factory work does very little for the economic stability of the population. Yet, the times are changing and education is becoming more prevalent in securing ones ability to even generate income for an independent business. Roadside tailoring and selling food are traditional business in Haiti, but coupling a trade with formal education will leave the person less vulnerable to opportunistic sharks and a way to gain credibility with financiers.

DSCF4123Literacy and basic math skills are mandatory due to advancements in technology and increased accountability in doing business. Western society provides necessary social programs which give its citizen’s a leg up to achieve a certain level of education and financial gains. But how does this translate to a country such as Haiti, where even receiving a basic education is well out of reach for the majority of the population?

To see the difference, you have to look at what were the causes of the “third-world”. This great divide of the rich, reasonably wealthy and the extremely poor was established in a global manner after the end of slavery and the decolonization of many countries. It was, and remains based on a residual master / servant system. The African slave trade was the backbone of North America’s and Europe’s ability to produce unprecedented means of wealth. With this, they were able to explore even greater means to financial gains and develop social benefits for its own citizen’s. However, those newly independent non western nations, that were asking for a new identity apart from their former colonial masters, were left to fend for themselves within the confines of an power system that did not recognize them as people worthy to take an equal part in thier economy.

Haiti was certainly no exception, becoming an independent nation in 1804, when the tide of racism and slavery in North America and Europe was still cresting. Haiti would also be an example to be made of for their disobedience and were left on the line to flounder as a nation with no finances (having being forced to to pay reparations of lost property and revenues to France.

If slavery, in its literal form was to become passé or economically unsound, the upper crust of western society would continue to call the shots in a “global economy”, while the third-world, with no real means or support, would have to do the best they could to follow suit or be indebted their former masters. These countries would now have to sell off national assets, give up natural resources, open their doors to western imports and industrialists, and provide a cheap labour force to make good on “generous loans” provided by imperial nations. In essence, the powerful were simply taking back what they deemed to be theirs in the first place.

With a look at history from this perspective, it is easy to see why the third world currently suffers the way it does. These countries are now locked into deep, deep debt through contracts from the World Bank and the IMF, that only really seek to incur massive amounts of interest with no substantial money being provided for these countries benefit. At least not for the majority of citizen’s living in chronic poverty.

This is the legacy organizations such as SOPUDEP has been left to deal with. They are having to evolve to find ways to empower their fellow citizen’s, preserve and rebuild culture, natural resources, and yet keep up with modern times. The current generations in Haiti are starting to put the fragments of a broken history together the best they can to make a new way forward.

The world is still transitioning out of an old system built on inequality and the concerned citizen or social group is almost essential at this moment to achieve social change. Success comes from the support given to groups that are striving for social balance in the world. SOPUDEP is doing the best they can to provide their fellow citizens a way to a better future.

As support grows, it is only natural that SOPUDEP would increase the skills to be provided. However, their initial step into the eco technology world is one in with foresight and potential.

Martelly’s ‘Education Plan’ for Haiti…

Martelly’s ‘Education Plan’ for Haiti…

News

By: Travis Ross and Roger Annis
Originally Published on the Haiti blog of Rabble.ca, March 21, 2012

Martelly’s ‘education plan’ for Haiti is a failed private enterprise model

When President Michel Martelly was elected in April of 2011 he made a promise to create space for all Haitian children at school. Soon after, he announced his intention to tax all international phone calls as well as money transfers in and out of Haiti in order to fund the policy.

Although the Haitian constitution does not give the president the power to levy taxes, Martelly launched a ‘National Fund for Education’ in May 2011 with the goal of collecting $8.5 million per month by taxing all international phone calls in and out of Haiti at 5 cents per minute and all international money transfers at $1.50 per transfer. Haiti’s largest source of foreign revenue is the money transfers that its Diaspora sends back to family members.

For most Haitians, education is an unattainable goal. According to the UN, the cost of an elementary school education can be prohibitive–40 per cent of family income to the average Haitian family. Only about two-thirds of Haitian children were enrolled in primary school before the earthquake; less than one third of those reach sixth grade. Haiti’s illiteracy rate is an astonishing 57.24 percent, the highest in the western hemisphere.

The earthquake made the situation even more desperate. According to a report by UNICEF in March 2010, “80 percent of schools west of Port-au-Prince were destroyed or severely damaged in the earthquake, and 35 to 40 percent were destroyed in the southeast. This means that as many as 5,000 schools were destroyed and up to 2.9 million children here are being deprived of the right to education.”

National education plan

Martelly’s ambitious promise was to subsidize school fees through a scholarship program that would provide an education to every primary school aged child (ages 6 to12). He then waived all the registration fees for Haiti’s primary schools. Universal education is a laudable goal, but can Martelly’s government pay for it and will he carry out the required collaboration with Haiti’s teachers and other educators?

The National Education Fund (FNE) is administered by Foreign Minister Laurent Lamothe and is without parliamentary supervision. According to Haitian government estimates, the Fund ought to have approximately 60 million dollars in its account. In September, Martelly’s former education advisor, Gaston George Merisier, claimed that the FNE contained 28 million dollars. Merisier’s figure was contradicted, however, by the Governor of the Bank of the Republic of Haiti, who said the account only held 4.8 million dollars. Other reports say that the account holds as little as 2 million dollars.

Martelly’s education advisor Dimitri Nau has acknowledged that “none of the money collected through a tax on international calls and money transfers is being used towards education in Haiti.” This persuaded Digicel CEO, Denis O’Brien to demand an audit of the FNE (Digicel is one of the two, large telecommunications companies that collected the taxes for the FNE).

Nau also acknowledged that more than half the 903,000 students for whom the government claims it has covered fees were already attending Haiti’s free national school system. Their $2.50 to $5 annual registration fee was paid for by the Clinton Foundation, not the FNE. The other 400,000 students are benefitting from an ‘Education for All’ program launched by the World Bank and other international banks.

Until recently, the FNE had yet to compensate schools for the loss of revenue as parents paid heed to government claims and ceased to pay school fees. In an interview aired on Haitian radio in January, the Secretary General of the National Confederation of Educators in Haiti said that public schools are suffering from a lack of government funding, noting teachers had not received salaries since the beginning of the school year (October, 2011), schools were unable to print report cards for lack of supplies and school lunch programs were suffering. 1

Martelly has taken full credit for claimed successes of the program. His international supporters repeat the claims.

Problems in post-secondary education

Accusations of government incompetence can also be heard among staff and students at the State University of Haiti (UEH). Students have protested several times against Martelly’s closure of the Department of Ethnology and lack of funding. Professors have joined protests, claiming the Martelly administration is deliberately underfunding the university because of the democratic nature of the institution.

The UEH suffered huge losses after the earthquake. A study by the Inter-University Institute for Research and Development in March, 2010 found that the earthquake destroyed nine of the 11 UEH faculties in the capital. Three hundred and eighty students and more than 50 professors and administrative staff disappeared. Two thousand students and 130 professors in all of the institutions of higher learning in Haiti died in the catastrophe.

Currently, the majority of the 13,000 students at the UEH’s faculties in the capital are squeezed into cramped sheds, struggling to learn under the intense heat. A new report by Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW) notes that the chronic underfunding and lack of facilities was foreseen by university administrators over a year ago. The report explains that the Rectorate of the UEH submitted a proposal to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), the institution previously charged with approving and coordinating most reconstruction projects. Delay after delay meant that the proposal was never reviewed before the Commission’s mandate expired in October 2011.

UEH administrators argue that their proposal was ignored in order to prevent the consolidation of the university’s 11 departments into one location, a key demand in the proposal. The departments are spread throughout Port au Prince, making communication and collaborative work extremely difficult.

Fritz Deshommes, the Vice Rector of the University, says, “The reason that the university campus has never built is political. Because, if all the students were permanently together in one place, they would have the necessary material conditions to better organize themselves and make their demands heard. Then they would be able to turn everything upside down. The political authorities understood the importance of this. A single campus is not in their interests.”

The IHRC, meanwhile, vigorously pursued funding of private universities. Haiti Grassroots Watch has revealed that the IHRC gave Quisqueya University, a private institution, “a green light for a project of the Faculty of Medicine, and more recently – last December – the Clinton Bush Fund offered US$914,000 for a ‘Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’.”

Why would Martelly’s administration and the IHRC withhold funding for the UEH while quickly approving funding for private universities? Evidently, a pro-private enterprise model is guiding the restructuration of Haitian education at all levels. According to a report on Alterpresse, the 2011-12 national budget dedicates only .55 percent to the UEH, down from one percent in 2006.

A study in the year 2000 by the World Bank argued that many governments have mistakenly made higher education a relatively low priority because of, “the view that public investment in universities and colleges brings meagre returns compared to investment in primary and secondary schools.”

Despite the poor funding of Haiti’s school system, some remarkable individuals and institutions have managed to create successful learning environments. SOPUDEP is a school that provides free accessible education to adults and children and supports women’s rights and economic empowerment for the poor. Director Rea Dol is a community organizer. She directs adult literacy programs, a micro-credit program designed to increase the autonomy of women and an HIV-AIDS prevention and treatment program. SOPUDEP does not receive government funds; it is dependent on financial support from international supporters, including the Sawatzky Family Foundation in Ontario.

Another reason for hope is the reopening of the Medical School of UNIFA (the University of the Aristide Foundation). UNIFA has opened its doors to new students as a result of assistance from Partners In Health, the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund and the Cuban medical mission to Haiti. The school’s mission is to “begin to break down long traditions of exclusion of the poor majority in Haiti from access to higher education.”

The Boston-based global health agency Partners In Health is completing construction of a world-class teaching hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti. The 320-bed hospital will offer a level of care never before available at a public facility in Haiti.

UNIFA, SOPUDEP and other education achievements are results of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s dedication to education. He was ousted in a paramilitary coup in 2004 with key backing from Haiti’s elite and the governments of France, the United-States, and Canada. During Aristide’s two terms, from 1994 to 2004, the Haitian government built or refurbished one hundred and ninety-five primary schools and 104 high schools.

In a recent interview, Aristide explained, “Learning is strengthened and solidified when it occurs in a safe, secure and normal environment. Hence our responsibility to promote social cohesion, democratic growth, sustainable development, self-determination; in short, the goals set forth for this new millennium.” Aristide’s views concur with those of leading educators on how to maximize learning in the classroom.

By all evidence, Michel Martelly’s education policies are hindering, not helping, educators in Haiti. His apparent dedication to failed neoliberal policies stands in contrast to the successful education models already existing and upon whose success so much more can be built.

 

Travis Ross is a teacher in Montreal. Roger Annis is a coordinator of the Canada Haiti Action Network in Vancouver. They can be reached at [email protected]

Notes:

1. Haiti’s Le Nouvelliste daily recently reported that the FNE paid teacher salaries for the first three months of the school year, October to December, in three of Haiti’s ten departments.

Appendix: Letter to the authors from a Haitian educator, March 20, 2012 (translated from the French)

… Let me explain this free education program enacted by President Martelly. The capital raised was supposed to send 903,000 new students to school and build 22,575 new classrooms. They have yet to make a single classroom. It is all a lie.

The program is to support 45 students in grades 4 and 5per school. Each of these students would receive $90 in compensation, which equals $4050per school. The officials visited our school and I filled out the forms. But neither our school nor any other that I know of have received any money from the government.

If Martelly wants to do something good for education in Haiti, he needs to pay the public school teachers, who have not received a pay cheque for the past 12 to 20 months. He also needs to make good on his promise to build all those new classrooms.

I heard a person call Martelly a mobster today on the radio. The President is a liar.

It is now March and I am not sure if any schools have received this compensation money. If, like many other schools in Haiti, I didn’t have international support, I would have to rely on this money to pay my staff. However, if I received the $4050 for those 45 students, how could I pay the staff? How could I take $405 a month and split that among my teachers? We would not survive on this plan, but because of international support we will.

Sauvelyne’s Hope

Sauvelyne’s Hope

News

By: Ryan Sawatzky
Originally Posted: January 2012

January 12, 2010, an earthquake ripped through the southwest end of Haiti, leaving thousands dead, and millions injured and homeless. The capital city of Port-au-Prince, with a population of 2 million living within 14 square miles, suffered the brunt of this quakes catastrophic effects. Over two hundred years since Haiti’s independence, foreign exploitation of her citizens created a poverty that has wreaked havoc on the majority of the population. It was this chronic poverty and over population in Haiti’s Capital that led to the devastating effects of this quake.

Those millions, who were left homeless, sought large open spaces to form makeshift camps. These camps are cobbled together, using any materials on hand. Bed sheets, old tarps and scrap metal fashion homes that are so close together, people are virtually living on top of one another. These camps are stiflingly hot, increasingly dangerous for women and children, and have poor sanitation, with cholera spreading like wildfire.

All of these camps residents come from the poorer sect of society. Even before the earthquake, these poor majorities had little to no hope for employment or education, and now, have little hope to leave this deplorable living situation. Sauvlyne Louis Jean is a young woman whom I met in the summer of 2011; a student attending SOPUDEP School, a Haitian community school our foundation supports. She is a resident of one of these camps and was kind enough to let us see her world.

Like the rest of the other estimated 10,000 people that live in her camp, Sauvlyne’s home is made from tattered tarps and sheets, with nothing but old blankets to protect them from the ground on which they sleep. She lives here with her mother, eight siblings and a few extended family members. When it rains, it leaks terribly, and when it’s sunny, it virtually unbearable to be inside. But despite her families’ poverty and current living situation, she is a positive and strong young woman.

Sauvelyne Haiti

Photo by Darren Ell

In part, her pride and strength can be attributed to SOPUDEP School. Sauvlyne’s mother has never had the means to send Sauvlyne and her other siblings to school, but because of SOPUDEP, Sauvlyne is a recent high school graduate at the top of her class and is now attending college.

Education in Haiti is not just acquiring knowledge, but is a critical part of the process to end the cycle of poverty. For Sauvlyne, now not only does she have a chance for a future that doesn’t include living in chronic poverty, but also a fighting chance to make her way out of this camp and a life for her own. Sauvlyne spoke with the highest regard to what SOPUDEP School and its founder, Rea Dol has provided for her, “If it wasn’t for Madam Dol, no one would care for us”.

It is because of SOPUDEP’s international support, that they are able to better provide accessible education to these children. And it is because of the generous donations from SOPUDEP’s supporters, that as of September 2011, Sauvelyne is expanding her education and her chances of attaining a career by attending college.

And what is Sauvlyne studying? Education science. She wants to become a teacher and work for SOPUDEP, or a school like it. She wants to give back to her community what she was given. Hope!

 

Fun In The Sun For Social Change

Fun In The Sun For Social Change

News

By: Ryan Sawatzky
Originally Posted: June 2011

SOPUDEP Founder and Director Réa Dol sent me these pictures a couple day ago of the Haitian Flag Day celebration she put together for the little ones at the school. I just had to post them! I also thought this would be a fitting theme as some of us prepare for our annual rituals of summer fun.

On the surface, this romp in the inflatable pools just looks like a normal fun activity for these kids, not unlike what we’ve seen in a thousand suburban backyards during the summer months. However, for these children of Haiti’s poor majority, there are much bigger social ramifications going on here. In Haiti, only 20% of the population has access to clean drinking water and therefor a swimming pool is a luxury that exclusively belongs to the rich. There are no public swimming pools in the country which further solidifies the pool itself a symbol of the elite.

This is for Rea and her staff a chance to further break social barriers that divide rich and poor. For the kids, a day of fun in the sun they will not soon forget!

When I saw these pictures i immediately though of a chapter on this very subject from “The Eyes Of The Heart”, a book written by ex Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide during his second term as president in 2000. I’ll leave you with some select passages from this chapter that explains the significance of the swimming pool in Haiti.

sopudep flag day“On weekends it is the kids from Lafanmi Selavi (Aristide’s Foundation) who come to our house to spend time, to share food, talk, play and swim in the swimming pool. It is a small pool, too small for four hundred kids, but for them it is a piece of paradise. Sometimes we invite other children; restaveks, children from the parishes in Port-au-Prince; sometimes a Lafanmi Selavi bus goes to Cite Soleil, to La Saline, to Carrefour to pick up children who want to swim…

We know the kids need food, we know they need school, but we cannot give them these things in a day. So while we are working to change the society, we can give them a day in a swimming pool. We say no child is so poor she does not deserve to swim in a pool. and if you imagine this has no impact on the society, think again.

The kids swim with us, with their teachers, with a group of agronomists who work with them on Saturdays, and with American friends and volunteers working at Lafanmi Selavi. A mix of races and social classes in the same water. Sometimes these images have appeared on television. Shortly after we began this experience we started hearing reports from friends among the upper class of rumors that I was preparing these “vagabon”, these street children, to invade their swimming pools. Were it not tragic it would be comic. Perhaps the real root of the fear is this: If a maid in a wealthy home sees children from Cite Soleil swimming in a swimming pool on television, she may begin to ask why her child cannot swim in the pool of her boss…

The polorizations are many: literate/illiterate, rich/poor, black/white, male/female, those who have clean water to drink/those who don’t. In Haiti, where these polarities remain so strong, swimming in the same water has both psychological and social repercussions. You swim with people you are close to. If you are a family, if you are a community, swimming together may improve the quality of the relationship. Our experience has shown that the water can help to melt the barriers between us, and wash away the dirt of prejudice.”

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, from The Eyes of the Heart (written during his second term as Haiti’s President in 2000)

Education and the Cataclysm of Haiti

Education and the Cataclysm of Haiti

News

By: Darren Ell
Originally Posted on Upside Down World: September 2010

rea dolRea Dol is the Director and co-founder of Society of Providence United for the Economic Development of Petion-Ville (SOPUDEP), a grassroots organization in Haiti offering education for children and adults and a micro-credit program for women. Her work in the aid effort following the January 12th earthquake in Haiti was the subject of a New York Times documentary. While in Haiti in July, Montreal freelance journalist Darren Ell asked her about the impact of the earthquake.

What happened to the community of Morne Lazarre, where your school, SOPUDEP, is located?

The community of Morne Lazarre was devastated by the earthquake. I was in the school when it happened and I cannot describe the horror around me. The school was empty and did not fall, but the neighbourhood collapsed. Five people were crushed to death just meters from me when one of the outer walls of the school grounds collapsed. My first responsibility was to my family, so I had to get home, but the streets were chaotic. People were panicking and screaming. I had to run home ten kilometres through those streets to find my family. The phones weren’t working. It was horrible.

In Morne Lazarre as in many areas of the city, it’s hard to say who died and how many because in many cases, the only people who knew who was in a house were the inhabitants themselves, and they died. Many are still under the rubble. Extracted bodies were rapidly buried, and now people are displaced throughout the city, so it’s impossible to get accurate numbers. We know Morne Lazarre intimately though. Three thousand people lived here prior to the earthquake, and we estimate that 65% of them died and 95% of their homes were destroyed.

How did the earthquake affect you personally?

On a personal level, when the earthquake happened, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t die. Where I was, many of the people around me died. It affected my profoundly, but I knew I had to overcome my feelings. I had to join in the struggle. I understood quickly that I had a mission. At first, I felt unable to offer support, but I had to do something, so I got a gallon of Betadine disinfectant and some gauze and went out into the street. I cleaned wounds wherever I could. After three months, I finally took a break. But during those first three months, I had boundless energy. So much needed to be done. I spent a lot of time in the camps with my staff and students. They really needed our solidarity. No other schools were doing this, going out into the city to find their people and reconnect with them.

I couldn’t have offered support to anyone with out the support of the Sawatzky Family Foundation (SFF), the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund (HERF), the Haiti Action Committee, special friends of SOPUDEP and individuals donating through the SOPUDEP website. They were always there for us. The work I did during the crisis built my credibility in the city as well to the point where people were consulting me on questions of the credibility of various organizations. But it was more than that. People began staying with me in my home! They kept coming and we cared for them, and we still do.

What has been the impact of the earthquake on education in Haiti?

25% of our schools were destroyed, 50% were seriously damaged and another 25% are standing, but staff and students won’t work in the buildings, so classes have resumed under tarps, but at least 50% of the students haven’t returned. Many died, and others have been dispersed throughout the city now in the tent cities, often far from their schools. It’s a very difficult time for education.

How has the earthquake affected the students and teachers?

We did an assessment of students after the earthquake. Some children who had an average of 80% prior to the earthquake scored 40%, a serious decline. There are several reasons for this. One is the living conditions they now find themselves in. When they had their homes, they could find a place to study, but in the camps, it’s hot and crowded in the tents. What’s more, kids are running around the camps all day, so students are distracted and can’t get their work done.

The trauma of the earthquake has diminished their capacity to retain information and learn. In April, when we reopened the school, we didn’t get into the regular curriculum at all. We did some cultural activities, sang songs and danced, but nothing else until May. We asked students to write about the earthquake. They all said it was the worst moment of their lives. They said they’d never recover from it. They added though that school was like medicine for them. Coming back to school was like life beginning again for them.

When we reopened, the teachers weren’t up to it. They were traumatized and asked for psycho-social assistance because they didn’t feel stable. Imagine how awful the students must have been feeling if the adults themselves needed help! We found a specialist in the city to help teachers get back to work. The assistance was successful, and yet when a truck rolled by and the school shook, it was total panic in the school and the teachers were the first ones out. We told the teachers they were supposed to be the last ones out of the classroom! They said, “We like our life too!” But I understood. They had to run. They were too traumatized. Everyone was.

After the quake, many teachers were living in very bad conditions. Some were sleeping in cars or public squares because they didn’t have tents yet. So we got tents for everyone so they could have some stability in order to work and prepare their classes. Today, six months after the earthquake, their situation has somewhat improved but it’s still difficult.

Many NGO’s were criticized during the earthquake. What was your experience of aid from large organizations?

The number of NGO’s in Haiti has ballooned again in Haiti. Are they going to change things fundamentally? We don’t think so. Without generalizing to all the cases, and without saying they haven’t helped, we believe they could do more. As far as organizations that could have helped SOPUDEP, there is Save the Children who sponsored a lot of organizations. They’re located right next door to us and they never helped us at all. They had a cash for work program for rubble removal, but I had to pay out of pocket to arrange rubble removal. When they finally came six months after the quake, they asked how they could help us and said they could fix the roof and clean out the toilets. But we didn’t see these as problems. We had more urgent needs related to our classrooms, but that assistance wasn’t there.

What we really needed – financial assistance – came from our regular donors and via our website. The big organizations offered only a small amount of material support: 100 tarps from the Red Cross, plus Save the Children eventually brought in some chalkboards and other school supplies. But the direct aid we gave to families, over 2957 families in 32 areas throughout the city, came from the SFF. It is the engine of SOPUDEP. With the SFF, we have a stable budget and we can plan. Teachers can also plan their lives now knowing there is a paycheck coming.

On a more global level across the country, aid was a disaster in terms of helping families. NGO’s decided to disburse assistance to women only. This led to the abuse of women. They would wait four hours under a hot sun, they’d get beaten by guards. This was shocking to us. They should have chosen Haitians to manage this. The voucher system for aid was abused. Vouchers were hoarded and given to friends while others got nothing. In the camps it was a mess. People with the vouchers were demanding sex for vouchers. Women’s organizations were very upset. Women’s desperation was being used as leverage for sex. What’s more, in order to get help, you had to demonstrate you were in absolute misery. How poor do you have to be to get help? For example, to get a tarp, you had to prove your ripped bedsheet was inadequate.

What does the near and long term future hold for SOPUDEP?

Our current school building is problematic. For years, we’ve received threats, sometimes armed, from a corrupt mayor. For this reason, we were already taking measures prior to the earthquake to find another location for the school. The earthquake made this move imperative. No one trusts the old building and the community is in ruins. We’ll be moving from Morne Lazarre to Delmas 83, quite far away, and this will cause problems for many of our students. Nonetheless, we want to offer all the help we can to keep everyone in our program.

We also want to help other schools in the area. Whenever we receive support, we offer supplies to other schools as well. SOPUDEP includes our main K-12 school, adult education, and a street children education program. We are reflecting on the problem of access to university as well, a huge problem in Haiti. We’ve received a proposal on this matter, and it could be an area for growth in the future. We have a larger vision in the field of health. Anything that represents a major roadblock for the population is where we put our energies. Another problem is unemployment, so we created a micro-credit program for women. Not being able to help your children yourself is awful, so we’re offering women the means to generate income and feed their families.

When we began, we had a small group of adults. It was a community organization that came together to discuss the problems of the country. While doing that, we saw more important problems. We started with activities for children every Saturday. Former President Aristide eventually integrated us into the field of literacy. Today, we have 58 people running our various programs. We are planning the construction of a new school, but our teachers need ongoing help for salaries. We also need assistance integrating our other projects into the SOPUDEP program: our micro-credit program and the elementary school in Boucan La Pluie neighbourhood.

We have grown a lot, but always one step at a time. It is very difficult to build organizations in Haiti. There are few means and we can’t know if we’re going to succeed. Things are shifting and changing all the time, and now things have been degraded to the lowest level possible. They say this is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It doesn’t have to be that way. If we unite, a lot can happen. Working only for your own well-being will get us nowhere. Because of the terrible things that have occurred in our past, trust is an important issue. You absolutely need the trust of those around you in order to accomplish anything. What’s more, the systems in this country are deeply problematic and we need support and solidarity to change them.

What are your feelings on the reconstruction plan for Haiti?

The Government of Haiti should have taken the responsibility to rebuild many of the affected areas. Instead, construction was chaotic and anarchic with no oversight. As a consequence, people are currently living with significant physical dangers and many have already been victims of these dangers. The big question is: “Who is responsible for the reconstruction plan and will ordinary people be allowed to participate in it?” Thus far, we don’t see this at all.

An example is what we see across from the National Palace. This is the face of the country, a symbol of Haiti. And what do we see six months after the earthquake? Thousands of people living in absolute squalor in tents. Many people believe that reconstruction will not be possible with the current government, and many are concerned about who will be in the next government. Electing our own representatives is a sacred right and part of the solution we need. We are however in doubt about many things. Lavalas is there as a popular organization but there are several leaders, each one of them wanting to become the leader. Banning Lavalas from elections has only complicated things. What’s more, past choices were poorly done. For example, the people chose René Préval as someone who could represent them, but the opposite has happened.

Six months after the quake, nothing serious has been done. The first phase is over: everyone has shelter. We should have seen a second phase of more permanent shelters, but this hasn’t happened. The third phase should have been the rebuilding of the country, but we don’t see how this can happen with the current government. It’s abdicated it’s responsibilities. We’ve seen no results and I’m very concerned. Haiti needs to change. Otherwise, why would we keep working? All Haitians need to be very conscious right now, otherwise we won’t get anywhere.

Originally from Saskatchewan, Darren Ell is a teacher, photographer and freelance journalist residing in Montreal. Between 2006 and 2008, he documented the legacy of the 2004 coup d’état in online publication with the Citizenshift, The Dominion and Haiti Action. His photographic installation on this subject, Haiti Holdup, was exhibited at Concordia University in Montreal.

Photo © Darren Ell 2010

Rea Dol vs The Republic of NGO’s

Rea Dol vs The Republic of NGO’s

News

By: Gorgianne Nienaber
Original Post on Huffington Post: March 16, 2010

rea dol sopudepTake a walk for ten years in Rea Dol’s shoes and you might learn something about the imperialist attitude of NGOs in Haiti. You will also learn something about tenacity, hope, and the indomitable spirit of the women of Haiti. Haitians have a term for it — “Poteau Mitan” — women are the “central pillars” of society. The pillar named Rea Dol was almost lost in the January 12 earthquake that destroyed Port-au-Prince and tore a huge hole in the already shredded fabric of Haitian society. Rea is only one, but she was and is still on a deeply personal mission to repair that fabric as director of SOPUDEP (Society of Providence United for the Economic Development of Petionville), whose membership actively participates in the National Literacy Project. SOPUDEP is a private, licensed school, founded in 2000 by Dol and Andre Jean- Marie. It began as an adult literacy campaign.

The day before the earthquake, Rea was in Port-au-Prince to purchase two sewing machines that were to be used in an afternoon program at SOPUDEP. They cost $180 each and it was big decision to make, but the machines would provide added income for some of the 664 kids in her literacy program. The machines needed assembly, so she was scheduled to pick them up two days later, but she had to pay for them first. Now, she cannot even find the shop, let alone the sewing machines. The building was obliterated in the quake.

Today, Rea walks in the rubble-strewn courtyard of what was once a school in the hills of Petionville behind the Montana Hotel. Most of the building stands, but it is unusable and unsafe. The smell of concrete dust is still in the air, in this, one of the hardest hit areas south of Port-au-Prince. She has no idea how many of her kids were lost in the quake, but for certain 24 are gone and unknown numbers are buried in the rubble of homes in the neighborhood. Two teachers are dead, and the children who try to return to visit with Rea are too stressed by the knowledge that their classmates are still under tons of concrete to want to stay. Many are “restaveks” — child domestic slave laborers — who were sexually and physically abused and so prefer street life to adoptive parents. They sought shelter in the shadow of the pillar named Rea.

Looking over the broken courtyard wall of the SOPUDEP school one sees the familiar sign of Save the Children dominating an undamaged rock wall with a blue metal gate in the center. It is less than 30 yards away. At least ten cars and trucks sit idly in the extensive courtyard that is locked to the surrounding community. While we are watching, a man who looks like he stepped out of the pages of GQ, bluetooth in ear and briefcase in hand, strolls up to the gate, shiny watch visible on his left wrist, and calls to the guard to let him in.

We ask if Rea has asked them for help. She all but snorts a reply as she laughs.

“They would not help me before the quake. Why would I bother to ask them now? They don’t follow their mission statement.”

We looked up the mission statement on their website.

In urban areas, including the capital of Port-au-Prince, Save the Children supports welcome centers for street children that provide food and shelter, education and health programs and counseling and play opportunities. Centers offer scholarship assistance so that children can attend school and provide on-site lessons to prepare children for formal schooling. Save the Children also supports children’s rights through direct local interventions and national advocacy. Through a network of children’s clubs, we educate girls and boys on their rights, offers recreational youth activities and endorse positive civic participation.

Funny, that is exactly what Rea has been doing for more than ten years, or trying to do, in a country that according to the World Bank has 3,000 registered NGOs and up to 10,000 charities in total. After the quake it is an absolute free-for-all money grab. Haitians refer to the organizations as the “Republic of NGOs.”

Rea’s vision for the children of Haiti began when she was working with the adult literacy program in the now broken mansion which once belonged to Lionel Wooley. A member of the infamous Tontons Macoutes, Papa Doc Duvalier’s repressive and blood-soaked militia, Wooley died in exile in Miami in 2000. The Haitian government expropriated his property, which was stolen from victims of the Toutons Macoutes. In 2002 SOPUDEP acquired the property under a ten-year lease through the efforts of former Mayor Sulley Guriere of Petionville. The first order of business was to board-up the torture chamber found under the swimming pool.

The original literacy campaign was designed for 30-60 adults, but the need was huge and so more came. So did the street children, who wanted to learn and get something to eat in the process. Realizing that children could not learn in the same manner as adults, Rea’s vision was born. She was going to help these kids, and she began by approaching both Plan International and CARE for help.

CARE could not have cared less and offered no assistance. Plan International did what they do best and asked Rea for a plan. Rea produced an extensive plan and report for the NGO and they ignored it, but Rea was not going to give up.

The Republic of NGOs may not follow their mission statement, but Rea follows hers.

“My mission is to do my best and I pray, I pray. If Save the Children cannot help us, who will? I see their signs everywhere in Port-au-Prince. Our children are the future of our community. I am coming to find myself in them.”

A decision was made to dedicate the property to the children of the poor and the homeless restaveks. A sympathetic journalist and filmmaker, Kevin Pina, helped Rea hire an attorney to structure a charter so that the organization could protect the lease and meet government requirements to operate the school. SOPUDUP is funded largely by the Canadian Sawatzky Family Foundation, a registered Canadian charity that was created in 2008 for the sole purpose of providing financial support and raising awareness for Rea’s program. SOPUDUP also receives some support from a national food organization and private donors from around the world. It is not much, but Rea watches the books like a hawk, expenditures are listed on the webpage, and Rea is always thinking ahead. Initial enrollment was 160, but grew to 664 in 2010. She realized the lease would run out in 2012, that they would need more space, and so made plans to purchase a vacant field — raised $40,000 of the $60,000 purchase price, and then January 12 happened. The lesson plan for that date is still on the broken slate board.

When the quake hit and Rea realized she was still alive, her first instinct was to get to work.

“I knew many of my kids were buried under the rubble. I felt I could not stay in my house. My mission was to help the kids. I tried to do my best. I’m not a doctor; I’m not a nurse, but I tried.”

Well, Rea being Rea, she did more than her best — the pillar of hope became a hero — and she will never say that, but I will.

Rea strapped a gallon of the surgical disinfectant Betadine to her back and climbed through the devastated hillsides, washing the wounds of the injured as best she could. When possible, she arranged transport for the broken bodies that still held a flicker of life.

How did she find the strength?

“I have gone beyond what I was the day before the earthquake,” is all she will say.

And so Save the Children has done nothing to save Rea’s children. But she continues to try, against all odds.

Needs are many. Temporary classrooms are a must, but tents are impossible to come by here. The current school will never be used, but the field is secured at 83 Delmas Road. She needs $20,000 to pay it off completely. Haitian officials have promised tents, but it is doubtful they will arrive.

Before the quake, Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The average income in Haiti is 75 cents to $2 per day, with the cost of food comparable with that of the United States. Today Port-au-Prince can be compared to Mad Max on steroids, but Rea is undaunted and unbowed.

So many write and ask me about grass roots programs in Haiti.