Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. In response to the “liberation” of France in 1789, Haiti staged its own liberation from slavery to France. It was rewarded for its impudence with a crushing defeat from Napoleon in 1813, and the penalty of war reparations. These reparations to France lasted for the next 80 years, extracting what in today’s terms would be in excess of 20 billion dollars, and ensuring the continuing debt of Haiti down into modern times.
The situation was exacerbated by the Americans who propped up the vile dictator “Doc” Chevalier and his incompetent son in order to prevent another embarrassing Cuban-style revolution. Haiti was once the richest colony in the New World, its wealth in coffee, lumber, and sugar cane exceeding the wealth of all the 13 colonies in America combined. Now it is a denuded wasteland, reduced to enduring poverty by its former colonial masters who in typical capitalist rhetoric blame their victims for their plight.
The Children of Haiti Project began as a response to the recent devastating earthquake, and was set up in the Delmas region of Port-au-Prince. The byline on its website declares, “In the face of human tragedy, doing nothing is not an option.” Frank Anderson, former principal of the Colegio International in Caracas and superintendent of the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges, now retired, is the driving force of the project.
Ms. Dominque Pierre, an American trained Haitian teacher, runs the school with complete devotion. There are 60 students who attend the school, and a number of them are orphans who also live on the school property. They are divided into four classes, and the mission pays for the teachers, who otherwise would not even enter such a poor part of town. Ms. Pierre watches over them with loving care.
We, that is four other teachers from CIS and myself, went to Haiti over the March Break to teach in the school. We took with us nearly 250 pounds of school supplies, generously donated by the students and parents of this community, packed away into five suitcases. Fortunately, we had no difficulty in either Miami or Port-au-Prince in getting this material into the country. Once there we settled into the COHP school where we boarded, along with the orphans at the school.
I was the only teacher with a smattering of French, sufficient to conduct my lessons, which were admittedly of a pretty simplistic nature. The four other staff, all young enough to be my children, made do with sign language and the occasional translation from Dominique, who had exceptionally good English. The lessons were all enthusiastically received, as were the games and the sports equipment that we brought with us.
That is why a school like COHP is so important. It represents not only education, but hope for the future. People like Dominique Pierre, who could easily make a living in the States, sacrifice much to help her country pulls itself out of its malaise. She could do with our help. I hope to return again soon.