They buildOn: Jean Edrice Mondesir Opens People’s Eyes Through Literacy

Today is International Literacy Day (September 8). At buildOn, literacy is the foundation of buildOn’s comprehensive Adult Literacy Program. This program teaches adults in rural villages reading, writing, basic math and numeracy, sanitation and hygiene, and other topics relevant to local community development, such as agricultural practices. Literate members of the community are trained by buildOn staff teach these classes. Jean Edrice Mondesir is our Education Officer in Haiti who has trained all eight facilitators of our program.

Mondesir started working with buildOn in October 2011. What’s incredible about him is his connection with the people. “He knows the first and last names of all of the students – and he doesn’t teach them. He relates to them so well,” said Rosann Jager, buildOn’s Vice President of International Programs. He is always excited to see his students, and is always at the same level as his students, whether they live in rural or urban areas. Because of Mondesir’s commitment to education, he spearheaded a partnership with Haiti’s Department of the Secretary of State for Literacy, making buildOn’s program more sustainable.

Learn more about Mondesir!

– I studied English at the American University of the Caribbean. Before I came to work at buildOn  I worked for another organization called Terre des Hommes ( as a specialist in community mobilization.

– My job includes selecting the best villages to implement the program; interviewing, hiring and training facilitators; and developing the curriculum for the program with another teacher. With the Haitian Secretary of State of Literacy, I supply books and televisions for an audio-visual program, supervise the program’s teachers, visit the sites, collect daily attendance, conduct training follow-ups for the facilitators, and plan all the schedules for the program.

– The people who attend the classes are parents of the children who attend the buildOn schools who can neither read nor write, and people in the villages who participated in building the school. They come to the program because they want to help their children with their education, and learn how to read, write and make basic calculations. There is a man who came to the program who couldn’t even hold a pencil, nor did he know how to open a book properly. Now, after six months, he can write his name and the names of all his children. He feels very good about himself and what he has accomplished so far. His progress has given him confidence so he can succeed in other areas.

– We have a different method for teaching adults than we do for children: it’s called andragogy (versus pedagogy)—and we use the Creole alphabet.  We teach our participants how to hold pencils to write in their notebooks, how to write their name and their families’ names, and how to make basic calculations.  We identify all of the things and places in their villages (things they are already familiar with) and use them as tools to teach them.

– I like my position because of the interaction I have with the adult students in the program. I really enjoy talking and joking with them, but what’s most important to me is that I help them to open their eyes by teaching them how to read and write.

– Literacy is very important for people in Haiti because it helps parents participate in the education of their children, it helps them to rise up out of poverty, and it helps them be more social and active in their society.