Rebuilding Haiti. Not So Fast.

The Haiti Orphan Project is committed to helping care for orphaned and abandoned children in Haiti in a Christian gospel context. In addition to homes, food and clean water and other essential needs, we plan to help these forgotten children get a quality education. School is everywhere here in the US and easily accesible. Not so in Haiti.

After the devastating earthquake of January 201o, the international community pledged $10 billion to help Haiti rebuild. An AP story dated July 23 provides some facts on what has been spent and where the money has gone in Haiti. Of the US portion pledged,

[A]fter the rubble was cleared and the dead buried, what the quake laid bare was the depth of Haiti’s dysfunction. Today, the fruits of an ambitious, $1.8 billion U.S. reconstruction promise are hard to find. Immediate, basic needs for bottled water, temporary shelter and medicine were the obvious priorities. But projects fundamental to Haiti’s transformation out of poverty, such as permanent housing and electric plants in the heavily hit capital of Port-au-Prince have not taken off.

The authors give some reasons for why these projects have not “taken off.” But I want to focus on one aspect mentioned in the article: education. They write,

Lack of education has long been a problem. Haiti has about 4.5 million school-age children, about half of whom were attending school before the earthquake.

The largest U.S. education program after the quake was through the Washington, D.C.-based American Institutes for Research, which was a few years into a $25.6 million U.S.-funded project to train teachers.

“Then the earthquake happened and everything changed,” AIR vice president Jane Benbow said. “They said we need you to take the resources you have left and we need you to redirect them, we need you to start doing other things with that money.”

In April 2011, USAID announced that a $12 million AIR project had “constructed or is in the process of constructing more than 600 semi-permanent classrooms serving over 60,000 students.”

But when pressed for details, AIR spokesman Larry McQuillan said the number of classrooms actually was 322. They were serving at least 38,640 students each day, many in two shifts.

The organization left Haiti last year after building 120 temporary schools. Today, about half of Haiti’s school age children attend school, about the same as before the catastrophe. The Haitian government says it wants to put another 1.5 million children into school — by 2016.

Get that? Still, over two and a half years after the quake and $12 million, statistics are essentially the same. And 322 classrooms at $12 million works out to about $37,000 per classroom! And these are semi-permanent classrooms.

Now I’m not here to throw stones, though it’s not hard to see that government bureaucracies are often ineffective, in Haiti and here in the US.

What I would like to do is offer an alternative. It’s a small alternative. But if Haiti is really going to be rebuilt, it will be because regular folks, lots of us, get involved.

We are raising money right now to build a 250 student school at the Village de Vie orphanage. The cost for construction is $70,000. That’s $7,000 per classroom. And all donations are used for the construction…100%!

How can you help? Quite simply, give. If you scroll down just a bit on that page you’ll see an orange “Build-A-School” donation tab. Any amount will be appreciated.

In addition, our 2nd annual HOPE 5K is October 6 in downtown Kirkwood, MO. Proceeds from the 5K will be used for the school. Sign up and plan to run or walk to help construct the school. Share the 5K link with your Facebook friends and email list. Bring a group. Bring the family.

You and I can’t rebuild the whole country. We can’t get all the children in Haiti into school. But we can make a difference in the lives of some orphaned and abandoned children. Together, with other organizations, we can make a difference.

Pray for us and please consider making a difference by contributing to help build the school.

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About Les Prouty

Les Prouty is the Executive Director of the Haiti Orphan Project. In his spare time... Wait, what spare time? Seriously, he enjoys spending time with his family, playing golf and hunting. Connect with Les on Twitter and Google+.

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