We’ve had a very hectic two days. Yesterday three meetings starting with USAID, then with Zach Oles at Cross International and finally with a local Haiti Foundation working on community development. All were very informative.
USAID Deputy Director Herbie Smith basically covered all the ground we already know about how difficult it is to work in Haiti, about the lack of schools and education. One of his main points was teachers need to be trained and if we can follow through with our desire to help with teacher training and make the Villard school a model for that area it will help to improve the other schools. Herbie also stressed the importance of a good school lunch program but the draw backs of the lunch program are the parents may not feed the children because they know they are getting fed at school. USAID is also starting a pilot program in the St. Marc corridor for reading. We might be able to get some of their materials on this.
Herbies advisor Herve Jean-Charles, PHD stressed the need to get the parent community involved with the new school; again teacher training; ask if the school is licensed; and find out if they are in the St. Marc district. The school director should share his accounting books with us too.
Then we met with Zach Oles, project officer in Haiti for Cross International. He filled us in more of the historical background about the 18 schools that Villard is part of and explained how he is monitoring the aid Cross provides which is teacher salaries, food and propane to cook. Zach stressed to not import building materials as it takes forever to get through customs and you have to pay the bribes. The 18 schools did get together last September to have a one day training in Port-au-Prince. It was very successful with almost all the schools attending. Villard teachers did attend. Then we discussed our schedule for today which was to visit two of the schools in Leogane one of which was the school that was being totally rebuilt.
Leogane was basically at the epicenter of the earthquake with over 90 percent of the buildings destroyed or damaged.
David and I arrived safely yesterday. Still a bit confused over the time here. Looks like same as EST. After leaving the airport mid-afternoon we checked into the hotel and then went to visit Lionel Pressoir’s Restaurant which is up in the Kenskoff part of Petionville. Quite high, almost 4000 feet in elevation compared to sea level in main Port-au-Prince so it is much cooler there.
We has dinner with our driver and translator, Matt who also translated for NPR after the earthquake. Matt works for a non-profit organization based in Haiti, FNJD.org.
We are getting ready to head out for USAID meeting. This afternoon we are meeting with Cross international to coordinate our trip to their school in Leogane. Looking forward to that.
I will be in Haiti along with David Reichow another board member and Jack Newell next week visiting the school in Villard. We will be looking at the existing foundation with a structural engineer trying to determine how to use it for the new school. Jack Newell will be continuing his work on the documentary film about the school. We will also be visiting other school sites in Haiti and firming up our material sources. Check in for photos and updates on our trip. Thanks again for all your help and following our progress.