One year ago the world witnessed one of the most devastating disasters of the last decade. buildOn was there breaking ground on two schools when it happened. Although we are not an emergency relief organization, we did what we could to help by setting up a temporary first aid clinic in Carrefour.
In the weeks following the earthquake, as hundreds of thousands of people fled Port au Prince to resettle in the countryside, we knew what we had to do. We made a commitment to the people of Haiti to help them rebuild their country in the best way we know how. By building schools.
While much progress in Haiti has been slow, buildOn has completed construction six schools in the Les Cayes region of Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. Not new to the island (we have been building schools in Haiti since 2001), we recognized the increased need for schools in rural areas shortly after the quake.
“Before the dust settled, we realized that there would be an exodus from Port au Prince into the country side where many had extended family, so we knew we would need to increase our efforts,” said Brett McNaught, Vice President of buildOn’s International Programs. “We have built six schools since the earthquake, providing space for more than 900 students to attend school every day.”
In response we pledged to build 36 schools over the next three years. These schools will educate more than 4,800 children annually. Acting also as community centers, the schools will be used to host adult literacy classes, regional polling stations and can act shelters during natural disasters.
“Providing educational access to Haiti’s children is essential to lifting the country out of poverty,” said buildOn Founder and CEO Jim Ziolkowski. “The earthquake in Port au Prince was the same size as the earthquake that hit San Francisco in 1989. Sixty-three people died in the Bay Area. More than 200,000 people died in Haiti. The difference between San Francisco and Port Au Prince? Extreme poverty.”
While many aid organizations have been criticized for implementing projects that are not sustainable for the local communities, our methodology ensures community participation at a grassroots level.
“We target communities that are eager to work to improve their conditions,” said Ziolkowski. “Through our methodology we work closely with village leaders to gain complete community buy-in. The community members contribute the land and more than 2,000 volunteer work days on the construction site. When the community is involved the impact is multiplied.”
As in all of our school projects, we provide the skilled labor, building plans, materials and construction supervision at no cost to the communities. The agreement between buildOn and the community also makes certain that girls attend school in equal numbers to boys. Additionally, buildOn partners with other organizations such as Hope for Haiti, a non-profit based in Naples Florida, to provide support for teachers, health care, access clean water and public health education to the villages.
On the anniversary of this tragedy, we want to thank all of our supporters who have made these schools possible and ask that you renew your commitment to the Haitian people. Together we are building schools that are helping rebuild a nation!