Self-Reliance Through Education: buildOn’s US Students in Haiti

This week is Haiti week on the blog, and we’ll be sharing stories from the very first school building trip to the country undertaken by our US students, as well as details about our long-time presence there. To start things off, here’s a report from the ground by our Trek Manager Rosann Jager!

Students from our very first buildOn school building trip to Haiti have just returned to the United States. I was in Haiti with them for the week of set up and the first few days, and I wanted to take a moment to share some highlights with everyone.

The team arrived in the village – Cherettes – to a warm welcome. The church was packed with community members eager to see the visitors. People were looking in windows and crowded around doorways in order to be a part of the celebration. Among them was Gary Clerge, a fabulous buildOn staff member in Haiti. He has been working on our Haiti programs for 5 years.

[pullquote]People thought he was crazy for trying to build schools in Haiti with so few resources.[/pullquote]

At the church, he addressed the students and the entire community and told us all how people thought he was crazy for trying to build schools in Haiti with so few resources. He was just one guy dedicated to the mission of a small nonprofit…passionate about helping his own country through education. It was a powerful moment as Clerge was overcome with emotion. In tears, he told us all (hundreds of us in the church) that this was a great moment for him…having the students come to Haiti. This was a real wake up call to me. I often get caught up in the logistics of making things happen and forget about the impact of the work we do.

This trip also showed me the strength of our methodology. On our first workday, there were 250 people working alongside us to build the school! It was amazing to see all ages working on the school. We had the president of a women’s group 300 people strong walking across the river to collect sand and rocks. We had young men and old men swinging pick axes and both men and women digging. There was even a guy walking around with a bull horn motivating people to join in. At the end of the day, it was 250 VOLUNTEERING to build a school. TOGETHER we had completed 3 days of work on the first day!

[pullquote]At the end of the day, it was 250 VOLUNTEERING to build a school.[/pullquote]

On day two, I spoke to a young boy who was moving rocks onto the foundation. I asked him if he was in school and he told me he was not. He said that he could not afford the school fees. I asked him why he was building this school. He replied that he was building this school in the hopes that he would be able to attend.

Haiti has more NGOs per capita than any other nation. There are so many groups going to Haiti with good intentions, but instead they are creating a culture of dependency. This makes our work in Haiti even more difficult, but we stand in stark contract to many other organizations. We are creating self reliance through education!