Given Opportunity, Students Thrive at Louverture Cleary School

  • Posted on: 22 January 2009
  • By: Bryan Schaaf

Below is an article in the Catholic Sentinel about the Louverture Cleary School, a respected institution in Port au Prince that admits students based  solely on merit, not their ability to pay.  When we think of development, too often we just think about physical infrastructure.  In terms of human development, education is essential.  The graduates of Louverture Cleary, many of whom grew up in the most "hopeless" parts of Port au Prince, have gone on to be doctors, engineers, and community organizers.  Bélimaire Emmanuel's story below illustrates how critical education is to cultivate a new generation of leadership in Haiti.


After graduating from Catholic-run Louverture Cleary School near Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 2000, Bélimaire Emmanuel competed with 3,000 applicants to gain a seat in the Faculté de Medecine et de Pharmacie, the national medical university of Haiti. Fewer than 4 percent of the applicants were admitted. He was one of the successful 100.


Today, Emmanuel is the medical director at the Doctors Without Borders' Center for Rehabilitation in Port-au-Prince. Fifteen years after entering the gates of Louverture Cleary, he now treats infections, diabetes, lacerations, gunshot wounds and other medical afflictions. He is one of the five doctors Louverture Cleary has produced-a number that is likely to grow rapidly over the coming years, as there are currently 15 graduates in medical school.


Louverture Cleary runs with donations from an Oregon group and other U.S. backers. A delegation from All Saints Parish in Portland visited this year. Tom Stein, former owner of a Portland Catholic bookstore and longtime youth minister, now leads the school.  The Center for Rehabilitation, on average, holds 45 victims of car accidents, sexual violence, muggings and other traumatic experiences. Many of Doctors Without Borders' patients are brought in for emergency surgery and sent to Emmanuel for rehabilitation. Services are provided free of charge. The clinic also keeps social workers and psychologists on staff to help traumatized patients re-enter society.


Emmanuel says he would like to continue his work for Doctors Without Borders because they are different from other medical clinics. He respects the independent commitment to victims of poverty, violence and natural disasters.  "They are working so all human beings can have access to health ... equality with no discrimination," he said.


Fifteen years ago, Emmanuel never would have believed he would become a doctor. While attending Louverture Cleary, he lived in Cité Soleil, which he calls "the biggest and most miserable shantytown in Haiti." Many people look down upon the residents of Cité Soleil, considering them dishonest and uneducated. Emmanuel wanted to obliterate the stereotype. All he needed was the opportunity to prove himself.


Louverture Cleary gave him the opportunity that 80 percent of the children in his neighborhood lacked. He ran with it and became a top student at the school. During his school years, visiting medical teams from the U.S. would hold free clinics. He observed their efforts and was touched by their compassion.


"When I was in high school, I always said I would like to study something for which Haiti is in great need of," he said. Medical school seemed perfect to him. Emmanuel said it was during his time at Louverture Cleary that he received his "information for life." Louverture Cleary taught him about community spirit, the need to serve and the importance of being aware of his political surroundings. He was not concerned simply about passing to the next level of education, but rather passing the profits of his education on to others.


"I believe that if you want to change a situation, it is through education and community spirit," he said. At the end of each school year, he visits the campus and gives the graduating class an orientation to introduce them to the world of public universities and teach them how to compete for the limited seats at the national "free" university.


Determination seemed to be a common theme for the life and education of Emmanuel as it continues to be for the students at Louverture Cleary. In a place like Haiti, it is easy to feel there is no hope. But through his continuous work with victims of violence and tragedy, Dr. Bélimaire Emmanuel avows, "I'm still an optimist."

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.