Rebuilding Through Education in Haiti

After Hurricane Matthew destroyed her hometown and the roads leading into it, Majorie rallied her village to rebuild the roads so that they could receive the supplies to build a new buildOn school. As a leader and champion of education, service, and community, Majorie has made a true and lasting impact on her hometown of Delva, Haiti.

When Category 5 Hurricane Matthew hit the Les Cayes region of western Haiti in October 2016, the small community of Delva was absolutely devastated. Almost 200 people in the area lost their lives, and nearly everyone lost their homes, livestock, crops, and classrooms.

The damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 was devastating to the village of Delva, Haiti.

In the aftermath of this historic natural disaster, Delva was filled with despair and hopelessness. With no relief in sight or leader to take charge, community members turned to Majorie Belance, a Delva-born student and educator who was studying in Port-au-Prince. When Majorie got the call, she didn’t just offer advice or express sympathy – she immediately returned to Delva and became the leader the community desperately needed.

Majorie Belance knew that if her community were to not only recover, but thrive, in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, investing in the education of the village’s children was crucial.

Knowing that education is the most powerful tool to raise a community out of poverty, Majorie made the rebuilding of the school the community’s top priority. She organized the community to work together to build a small classroom, but this quickly proved inadequate. When it would rain or the wind would pick up, the children would run home screaming “Matthew is coming!”

The small classroom built by the community alone proved to be an inadequate place for learning for Delva’s children, still scarred by the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

While researching partnership opportunities, Majorie discovered buildOn. Although the community met the criteria for a school-building partnership, there was one big obstacle in the way: the roads leading to Delva had been so damaged by the hurricane that buildOn was unable to bring in the supplies needed to build a school. 

Refusing to give up, Majorie organized a leadership committee of six men and six women from Delva, and they mobilized the whole community to work together to rebuild the roads. Majorie then returned to buildOn to proudly report that the roads were fixed and they were ready to build the school – the partnership was then made official.

Shortly after, buildOn students from the Bronx traveled to Delva to help with the construction as part of a Trek – an opportunity to live and work in solidarity with a rural community in a developing country. For two weeks, these high school students worked on the school alongside community members and immersed themselves in their host culture.

With immense pride and excitement, the community finished construction a little over two months after the students left. The school was dedicated in honor of the late Jim Parke, one of the earliest members of the buildOn Movement, who like Marjorie, stepped up instead of giving up when leadership was needed most. 

The partnership between Delva and buildOn didn’t end there. Determined to improve learning conditions for all students, Delva and buildOn broke ground on another school the following year. Today, the community of Delva is proud to be sending all of their 134 students to two safe and spacious school blocks that they built.