Beautiful and haunting, Haiti was already labeled the poorest country in the western hemisphere before the massive 2010 earthquake that devastated the small Caribbean nation.
That 7.0-magnitude quake killed or displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and left the government and infrastructure in shambles. People who were already poor were suddenly homeless. Clinics and hospitals were overrun. Schools were destroyed. Injury and death tore families apart.
The UN estimates that the more than 80 percent of Haitians living in extreme poverty—those who earn less than $1.25 a day—live in rural areas. They struggle to grow enough food to feed their families, and are plagued by deadly waterborne illnesses.
It may take decades to rebuild Haiti, but with a focus on health and education, and by improving household and community livelihoods, we are determined to provide long term, sustainable support.
Free the Children began work in Haiti in 2002, focusing our efforts on the Central Plateau region, which is the most rural and underdeveloped part in the country.
We work in four rural communities in the mountains outside of Port-au-Prince to:
Here are some of the projects we are proud to work on with our partner communities.
Dos Palais is a model for rehabilitation across Haiti. Through the sheer hard work and determination of local people, this community is quickly becoming holistic and sustainable. When Free The Children first met with members of Dos Palais, they made it clear that improving education was they key to alleviating poverty and supporting long-term recovery here.
Less than six months following the earthquake, we 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 every day, and beautiful school grounds that parents and students work together to landscape and garden.
Since Dos Palais partnered with Free The Children and Adopt a Village, huge improvements have been made to the lives and wellbeing of the people who live here. Here’s how:
When we arrived in 2010, the old school was crumbling. Classrooms were dark, leaky and overcrowded, and students had no source of drinking or washing water. The teachers complained of insufficient materials and children lacked school supplies. The schoolyard was full of mud and had no playground.
We partnered with the community to re-build Dos Palais Primary School, and are proud of what we’ve achieved together:
School is an important place for rural children to access clean water. When we built the new school in Dos Palais, we made sure the number of latrines exceeded the UN standard of one per 40 students.
School is also the perfect venue to educate students—and by extension parents—on healthy lifestyle practices.
The school serves local children as well as others displaced by the earthquake, and is the feeder school for a large girl’s orphanage nearby. 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, labor and love into building it.