Nestled in the rural mountains southwest of Port-au-Prince near the foot of a steep hill is an educational oasis for 140 children, sons and daughters of corn and bean farmers, construction workers and homemakers who live in Laboule (Grenier). These youngsters are the lucky ones in a nation lacking public education. They are enrolled in the Fondation Rêves et Actions School (Foundation Dreams and Action), backed by Haitian investors who are committed to supporting them through college, pledging to add a grade each year to prepare these students for post-secondary education and professional careers.
A $7,000 donation from Zafèn contributors supported dozens of children for an entire year, including a school uniform and a hot lunch for each child, which for many is the only meal they will eat that day. The earthquake destroyed several schools in the region and caused many parents to lose their jobs, rendering them unable to pay for their children’s education.
The foundation employs certified teachers, several of whom make heroic journeys to reach the school each day. Principal Fedeline Normil takes three busses and travels on foot the final 45 minutes from her home in Tabarre, especially unpleasant in the rainy season. She does it because she believes “education is important to the future of the country.” Teacher Jean Gardy Divers hits the road at 4 a.m. to arrive before his third graders.
Pierre Neptune, 53, is a retired military instructor, former Ministry of Public Justice and Safety employee and real estate investor. More importantly, he is a founding member of the foundation. “It’s difficult to find a doctor or an engineer here,” he tells a visitor, explaining the motivation to support the school and foreshadowing its measure of success 20 years from now.
Divers echoes the concern through a translator: “There is a crisis in Haiti in the education sector. This area lacks professionals, lawyers, teachers and agricultural experts.”
The possibilities are promising. Students enroll at age 3 and follow the national education ministry’s curriculum, getting full doses of math, grammar, history and science. Unscathed by the earthquake, the facility is better than many American elementary schools, brightly painted with a nutritious lunch program and supplies for such perks as art and music.
Students dressed in royal blue—the girls with coordinating ribbons in their hair—regaled foreign visitors with a charming French welcome song in classrooms adorned with geometry lessons on the chalkboards and posters of native fruits.
Tragically, many college students in Haiti already on the path to the professions these teachers envision for their pupils perished in the earthquake as multi-story universities collapsed on a generation ready to take on the mantle of a nation. Now it’s up to the foundation, its dedicated teachers, eager students and generous donors to prepare this generation for leadership.
The foundation has begun to raise funds for a professional school and is accepting donations.
To support other empowering projects in Haiti, visit https://www.zafen.org/en/projects.