This summer we broke ground in a new community in Haiti called Marialapa. The school we’re building is the first in the region; the only schools the community had previously are in borrowed structures, or under thatched roof.
The groundbreaking at the end of June was incredible. With more than 600 community members present, it was the largest gathering the community has seen. People walked for hours to be there. Students and parents prepared for two months to get ready, and the community celebrated for hours with dance, theatre, speeches and singing. A group of mothers – champions that Free The Children works with – presented a song with baskets of local produce and gifted Erin, Free The Children’s Haiti Country Director, with pineapples (to reflect young life) and gave the project engineer, Napoleon, an egg.
During the ceremony, Napoleon gave a speech to the community and the Free The Children team. He said that it was
symbolic that he had been given an egg, because everyone in the community knows the story of the wealthy man in Hinche, Haiti, who started with one egg and built up from there to a large business. His story of success began with an egg. Napoleon said that this egg can be nurtured like the new school in Marialapa will be, and it will allow for the community’s dream of success.
It was a day of profound remarks. A representative from the ministry of education, the ministry of public works, the ministry of agriculture, and the mayor were all present. In his remarks, the minister of education committed that Marialapa will have publically funded teachers – so the community will not have to pay private school fees. Free The Children has been working for this for a long time and is very happy this came in a public commitment. It is particularly important because in Haiti – even despite the government’s free education initiative – this region’s greatest number of schools are private, with prohibitive school fees. A free school means there will be equal access.
Free The Children is incredibly excited to be working in Marialapa. Every challenge we’ve put to the community, we’ve seen such success. Just before the groundbreaking, the Free The Children team stepped back to figure out where materials were going to go. We picked a spot at the base of the hill, but the ground needed to be leveled. Because there is virtually no road access to the school, our team determined it would take 15 days to get a bulldozer. At this point, community members began to speak up, and decided to do it by hand! Ten days later, they achieved it. From building a fence to secure the school grounds, to getting more land for the new school location, this community is up for any challenge.
We’ve seen so much growth in the area, and we’re on track for four new classrooms to be ready by October, serving several hundred students.