When I tell people about going to Haiti they always ask ‘how was it?’ I never know how to reply. Is it good? In the sense that I felt accomplished or in the sense that things are good there? Is it bad? In the sense that some people don’t have food to feed their children? Or in the sense that I didn’t get enough of what I needed done? Its a questions I always struggle to answer.
On January 12, 2010, Haiti’s capital city, Port-a-prince was struck with a catastrophic 7.3-magnitude earthquake. About three million people were severely affected by the earthquake and countless homes, businesses, and infrastructure were destroyed. From the 1.5 million who were displaced many were children. In a nation where half the population is under the age of 18, the devastation severely impacted the very future of the country, its youth.
In post-earthquake Haiti, schools fulfill a vital social function and are a source of stability for traumatized children but the future of education in the country is uncertain. Only fifty percent of the kids in Haiti get the opportunity to go to school. Of those, only twenty percent graduate from primary school, and only two percent receive a high school diploma. This was the reason why the Hand in Hand for Haiti Foundation decided to focus on education and develop a school that enrolled the neediest of children in the area and equip them with a proper education.
The world-class Lycée Jean -Baptiste Pointe du Sale school opened in 2011 and enrolls 350 students today and sits about three miles outside of the city of Saint-Marc. The school is hurricane-proof, anti-seismic, and offers accessible education from pre-school to secondary school in an area in great need. The goal of the school is to provide education to a group of Haitian young people who will be able to re-shape and develop the countries future. The school is equipped with donated computers, ipads, projectors, and internet; a rarity in Haiti. It also has a nurse, a psychologist, and a social worker to serve and tend to the children. The teachers are trained rigorously and the staff volunteers come from France, the U.S. and Canada. The school has also become an economic force and is considered one of the largest employers in the city today.
Lycée is a free school and about 90% of the children in the program come from very poor backgrounds. Along with education, the students also get uniforms, two meals a day, and transportation from the city to the school.
For the most part Lycée Jean -Baptiste Pointe du Sale school is supported by donations and this is where my work comes in. My mission is to create content that displays the accomplishments of the school within the impoverished country. Along with taking portraits of the children so donor can see the children they sponsor, my images attempt to display the lives of the children outside of the school as well. These images will hopefully eventually be displayed at exhibits and auctioned off with the proceeds going towards the school. It’s small events like this that take place in communities that add up into big dollars over time and have allowed the Hand in Hand for Haiti Foundation to consistently fund the school, and progressively increase the students enrolled in it.
The spirit and resilience of the Haitian people is truly remarkable. It is imminent that the children of Haiti are provided with education and are able to not only secure their future, but also their country’s. Lycée Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sale school is helping many children in equipping them with basic skills and qualifications so that they are able to become successful leaders, scientists and entrepreneurs in the future and have the opportunity to make something of their lives, despite the poverty that they’re living in today.