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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Education is the Future of Haiti

Robenson and Valencia
The sound of drums beating in the distance combined with the smell of burning trash on the streets set the background for this Saturday evening. 10 year old Robenson and his 13 year old sister Valencia have just fallen asleep after a long day that included studying, chores, and a full afternoon birthday party. Tomorrow they will rise early in the morning to attend church, and begin another week in the H.E.R.O. Transition Home for Orphans. In one week Robenson and Valencia have gone from living in a tent in Cite Soleil, one of the worst slums in Haiti, to living in a house with 24/7 electricity, running water, and 3 nutritious meals a day. We are just at the beginning of the process of helping them become healthy, educated, self-reliant, and socially conscious citizens of Haiti. The best is yet to come.

Robeson Playing Dominoes
This past week I had the opportunity to visit two additional programs in Port-au-Prince. One was an orphanage that had 36 children between the ages of infant to 9 years old. 2 of the children had amputated legs. It is difficult for me to weigh the positive and negatives of this orphanage, as on one hand all the children had at least one living parent, and the education they were providing was limited to one teacher teaching all 36 children at the same time, without any consideration for different academic levels. On the other hand, these children came from families that did need help that perhaps could not even provide a meal a day, or a secure place to sleep. What do you think? Is this what an orphanage should look like, or is it acceptable for them to be provided some level of comfort and consistency, even if they have parents and are given little to no education. If you have thoughts, I would like to hear them.

A second program that I visited was a school started by a high school teacher at SOPUDEP after the earthquake. The school is located in a half-built house that is no bigger than 400 square feet. In this small space there are over 60 children ranging in age from 3-16 and 9 teachers. Almost none of the children had been to school previously. It is unfortunate that such a school must exist in a Haiti, but it is all too common as Haiti has a dysfunctional system of elementary public schools. I truly don’t understand why the international community is not pushing for universal primary education in Haiti. Education is the key to escaping poverty, yet the international community is focused on job creation and other temporary solutions. It breaks my heart to see another generation of Haiti’s children being provided a substandard education, if they are being provided an education at all.

13 Year Old Valencia

It is this dilemma that makes what we do at H.E.R.O. so important. Robenson has been enrolled in a morning school program and is provided academic tutoring every afternoon for 2-4 hours. Valencia is provided one-on-one academic instruction daily in the morning and afternoon to prepare her for reentry into school next August. We are fully investing in the academic potential of our children, because we know that without a doubt, education is the key to their future success.

1 comment:

  1. I am really glad I found out about the work you are doing. Some day I hope to have the courage you all have - to just do it (as the saying goes). Education, health, opportunity - you are offering this and it is inspiring. The last post gave me goose bumps! As an early childhood grad student - I know what matters and you are spot on! I look forward to more of your great work.