World Challenge 2007 - Support Haiti by Supporting Education

  • Posted on: 4 November 2007
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
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We often write about the importance of education....for empowerment, for health, for business, for the environment, or in short, for change.  Education is complementary, if not neccesary for success in all other sectors.  Sadly, education is often neglected.


The World Challenge 2007 is a global competition, supported by Shell, that highlights innovative approaches to developmental projects that could, given the resources, be scaled up.  There are 12 finalists, and one from Haiti, the Paradis des Indiens School  


The school began as a one room school in the small fishing village of Les Abricots.  Those who have been there know that it is isolated, beautiful, and extremely poor.  A Canadian expatriate, Michaelle de Verteuil, set up the school especially for children whose families couldn’t afford uniforms and shoes.  


Though Haitians are entitled to a free education, at least in writing, the cost of uniforms is prohibitive to a family basically surviving on a barter system.  That having been said, Haitian families value education highly.  Given the opportunity, they will take that opportunity and take pride that their children are learning. 


Its an idea whose time had come.  More than 30 years later the program has expanded into a multi-faceted development programme.  Poverty reduction activities, through livelihood building, include beekeeping, embroidery, woodworking and fruit-drying schemes.


Thankfully, environmental efforts are focused on reforestation – a key priority for an increasinglz desertified country. The Grande Anse is perhaps the most forested portion of Haiti left...but without these sort of interventions, it will not remain that way.  We do not want the Grande Anse to go the way of the South, slammed by flooding each and every year.


The program also runs a microfinance scheme to foster local businesses and lift individual families out of poverty.  When run properly, these programs have been very successful in Haiti.  It taps the Haitian entrepeneurial spirit as one must be very entrepeneurial to surviv on less than a dollar a day. 


But back to the schools. Paradis des Indiens now runs ten small schools each with around 150 students.  Until the Haitian government is able to provide a country wide, cohesive, AND accessible education system, that includes rather than excludes the poorest of the poor, these initiatives are essential. 


Quite simply, they pave the way for a better, stronger Haiti one student, one family, one community at a time.  If this multifaceted initiative resonates with you, as it does for us, then we encourage you to learn more about the Global Challenge Website. 


You can vote for the Paradis des Indiens programs by clicking here


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