With a long history of development work in Haiti dating back to 1998, Free The Children has strong social ties to both institutional and community-based partners in the region. Focusing its efforts in the Central Plateau region, which is the most rural and underdeveloped department in the country, we work in four rural communities in the mountains outside of Port-au-Prince. Following the earthquake in 2010, Haiti became a priority country for the implementation of our holistic and sustainable Adopt a Village development model.
On January 12, 2010 an earthquake reaching a magnitude of 7.0 devastated the people of Haiti just 15 kilometres from the capital city of Port-au-Prince. At least 230,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands more were left homeless. Already deemed the poorest country in the western hemisphere, Haiti was left in shambles. In particular, the state of education in Haiti was suffering before the earthquake and was set further back when hundreds of schools crumbled and central education system was rocked.
Currently, less than half of Haitian adults can read and only three in four children attend primary school. By high school, that number falls to one in four. Despite hard work and best intentions, the country is far from achieving a plan for universal education and schools are unsafe, ill-equipped, overcrowded, or, too often non-existent.
Free The Children is working to implement our holistic Adopt a Village model in an effort to help rebuild the devastated but resilient country. Even though it might take decades, with a focus on health and education and by improving household and community livelihoods, Free The Children will continue to provide long-term support for this small island nation.
Did You Know?
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Free The Children’s Objectives in Haiti
- Create and ensure a sustainable future for rural, displaced and orphaned children by providing access and removing obstacles to a quality education.
- Support decentralization by ensuring that rural populations have access to essential services and a quality of life that not only allows them to sustain themselves in the countryside, and prevents them from migrating to urban centre, but also draws people out of the congested capital to the countryside promoting rural community development and supporting efforts that prevent Port au Prince from becoming a concentrated hub.
- Help Haiti realize its goal of universal education.
Adopt a Village at a Glance in Haiti
- School building and rehabilitation
- Educational programming
- Teacher training and salary subsidization
- Distribution of school supplies
- Outfitting classrooms with furnishings and text books
Clean Water and Sanitation
- Clean water systems (wells, handpumps, spring harvesting, piping, and rain water collection)
- Hand-washing stations
- Cholera education and outreach
- Distribution of water purification tablets
- Delivery and distribution of medical equipment and supplies
- Health education and training
- Community radio program on health
- Solidarity groups
- New business development (including trade tools, micro-finance/grants)
Agriculture and Food Security
- Emergency feeding program and ongoing support
- School nutrition programs
- Kitchen construction and outfitting
- School gardens
Community Case Study – Dos Palais
A proud community, Dos Palais is a model for schools across Haiti. Through the sheer hard work and determination of local people, the community is quickly becoming holistic and sustainable. When Free The Children first met with members of Dos Palais, the improvement of education was identified as a key focus for alleviating poverty and supporting long-term recovery. The old school was crumbling. Dark, leaky and overcrowded classrooms were not sufficient to meet the school needs, and when the water system broke, students were left thirsty and unable to wash their hands. The teachers complained of insufficient teaching materials and children lacked school supplies. The school yard was full of mud and had no recreational facilities for students.
In collaboration with the community, Dos Palais Primary School was designed with children’s needs in mind and a deep concern for safety and the environment. The land was donated and the school is run in partnership with a community-based organization. Only local workers (parents of the children) were employed in the construction process, which has contributed significantly to the economy in the region. The school buildings are built to paraseismic code out of durable, high-grade materials. Construction in mountainous Haiti can often be destructive, but in Dos Palais, not a single tree was cut and the team worked with the natural grade of the land. Each school block houses two
large, airy, bright classrooms, which have been fully outfitted with desks, chairs, blackboards, book shelves and a cabinet for storing materials. When asked what colour the children wanted to paint their school, every grade selected a different colour, and so each school block at Dos Palais is painted a different color of the rainbow.
“We have the most beautiful school, and now I can sit comfortably in class,” squealed Samantha on the first day of school.
The classrooms have been set up to nurture democratic and child-centred learning, and with Free The Children’s sponsorship, teachers have been trained in new techniques. The salary subsidization program ensures that teachers are adequately compensated. Free The Children provided each student with a school kit and equipped teachers with textbooks and pedagogical materials. As a result of the quality of education improvements, student performance has improved by 40 per cent, since the new school was built in 2010.
Less than six months following the earthquake, Free The Children broke ground on a new school site in Dos Palais. The new school is a full educational complex, outfitted with brand-new latrines that are easy to clean and maintain, a new well and hand pump, enough classrooms to allow for growth, a school kitchen from which a meal is provided each and every day, and beautiful school grounds that parents and students work together to landscape and garden.
The number of latrines built exceeds the UN standard of one latrine per 40 students. The well and hand pump provide direct access to clean water for drinking, cooking and hand-washing at the school. Students are regularly being trained on hand-washing practices as well as personal hygiene habits, and in addition to providing coaching on health practices and health kits for students, Free The Children has been supporting local clinics to better serve the community. Free The Children has shipped millions of dollars in medical supplies to Haiti, and the Haiti team has ensured that they have reached the small clinics that serve rural community members. Further to these efforts, Free The Children supports a health education radio program that plays throughout the commune of Hinche, where Dos Palais is situated. To improve student health, a school lunch program serves a nutritious lunch to students every day.
The school serves local children as well as others who were displaced by the earthquake, and is the feeder school for a large nearby girl’s orphanage. The families in Dos Palais are proud and deeply invested.
Esdras, the father of a grade three student told us, “The school represents light for our community. It is as though we were in the dark and now we see the light for our children and our future. Now they have the chance at an education, and the well is the cleanest water we have had in our community. No one has been infected with cholera since it was drilled.”
In October 2011 when President Martelly inaugurated the school, he opened his address after a moment of silently looking around the campus saying that he never imagined that he would arrive so far in the countryside to find a school that is a model for education in the country.
Needless to say, Dos Palais Primary School is the pride and joy of the community that has poured so much hard work, labour and love into building it. Free The Children will continue to accompany the school community to see through the last stages of Adopt a Village and ensure sustainability of all activities.