Haiti Program Background
As the post-earthquake situation in Haiti continues to evolve, AFSC is adapting to changing needs. After over a year working in the camps with displaced people, we are developing a teacher training program in partnership with the St. Charles Borromee school.
We asked Carmen Ortiz, AFSC’s Haiti Program Director, to answer a few questions about this new phase in her work:
Where is the school and who attends it?
St. Charles Borromee is located in Croix des Bouquets. A few years ago this area was considered rural, but due to the urban growth it is part of the capital Port au Prince. People in this community live without electricity or facilities, and in substandard housing or camps. Most of these inhabitants are unemployed.
This school was funded by a group of Catholic priests in 2001 with a donation of €10,000 [about $9,000 at the time]. The school started with 14 students and now has 618 (316 male and 302 female), exceeding its capacity. Children from any religious denomination attend the school.
The school has 22 teachers, 8 administrative personnel, one administrative director (a Catholic nun and one pedagogical director (a professional Haitian woman). Funds to support the school are provided by Caritas Italy. With this (€110,000 per year [$150,000]) the school pays salaries, subsidizes uniforms, provides school supplies, and meals.
What are the general objectives of our work with St. Charles Borromme?
- Train the educational community in conflict transformation and mediation, and create a peaceful conflict resolution manual. We also work to apply restorative justice, replacing the traditional model based on punishment.
- Provide teachers with opportunities for skill development and civic activities that promote harmony and a sense of community.
- Provide technical training for work to students of 7th and 8th grade, as well as their parents.
- Support the educational efforts of the school through the provision of material resources for the “resource room” and the development of recreational and creative activities.
Why did you choose this school? What opportunities for change do you see?
The school is an entry point to work with the community of Croix des Bouquets, and we want to develop a model of school which can be applied to other schools in Haiti. A school where human rights are respected, where children can find safe spaces, where they can learn how to live together in peace and harmony, where they can have new learning experiences free from violence and obsolete methods of teaching which don´t promote the critical thinking skills needed to be a good citizen.
Violence is one of the main problems at the school. The violence comes from parents, teachers, and students. AFSC’s program works on peace issues both in the school and in the larger community. The school will allow us to work with the whole community as a system on peace issues, which provides us a great opportunity.
To move people out of the camps, and other precarious living conditions, it is necessary to develop job skills; young people need to prepare themselves to work. AFSC will design projects that will help the students learn to support themselves in the future.
How was this new direction driven by input from the community?
Visiting the school we realized that its mission is very aligned with AFSC´s goals. We understand the importance of the education process for peace. Peace is not possible in an atmosphere of ignorance or hunger. We also know that it is better to work in the whole system. Young people are part of a family, part of a community; to be more effective, we must work with the other actors who influence them. At the same time this school needs the support because they have exceeded their capacity. They are trying to overcome the violence around them and knowing our experience, they asked to us to support them.