I have grown up in Haiti witnessing my country deteriorate year after year. I have seen a UN force sent to restore some level of security and order. I have seen thousands of NGOs apply all kinds of theories only to leave after a few years, having nothing to show in terms of achievements or positive impact. Following recent natural disasters, I have yet to see one successful community development project even though an abundance of resources and hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent.
Through all this, however, I remain hopeful because I see great progress in the field of EDUCATION. For nearly 3 decades, The Haitian Project, through its Louverture Cleary School, has been educating young Haitians from the most vulnerable sections of our population. This education allows them to qualify for jobs, earn an honest living and become productive citizens. While not often reported by mainstream media, this transformation of our poorest citizens is the most important thing currently happening in Haiti. Only through education will Haiti make order of its chaos, raising its head and moving towards true community development and economic growth with an educated population possessing the ownership and determination necessary to turn the country around.
The THP miracle has been a labor of love and of subsidiarity (working at the local level). It harnesses both US and Haitian resources to establish, in Haiti, a formal structure able to address the need for education at an institutional level. Through our recent establishment of local non-profit foundations, (Fondation Haitian Project and Fondation Educative Louverture Cleary) responsibility for school operations, assets, and property now happens locally. We are becoming more equipped to build more schools in Haiti.
Today, Louverture Cleary graduates are in every spectrum of Haitian life, bringing their values as Louverturians to the national edifice. Even with all I have seen these past 51 years, I have faith in the future knowing the day is coming, the tipping point, where Haitians, led by Louverturians, will have the ability to think strategically and collaborate with one another to accomplish our dream of "building a Haiti where justice and peace thrive.”
THP Board Vice Chair
Chair of THP’s two Haitian Foundations
Haitian private sector leader
When THP President Deacon Patrick Moynihan arrived at Louverture Cleary School in 1996, changes were in order. At the time, only 15% of the LCS student population was female. Reasons for this disparity are many and include a domestic culture that views sons as more likely to earn an income and thus more deserving of what few educational opportunities exist.
A strict affirmative action plan was immediately put into place, requiring at least 40% of each incoming class be female. Because potential students must pass an entrance exam for enrollment, this necessitated enrolling some females even if they tested lower than a number of males.
Within only a few years, it became far less necessary to adjust the acceptance process. Word got out about the success of LCS’s women graduates and biases in the community began to change. Soon, LCS had a large number of female applicants to pull from.
In 1996 only 15% of LCS’ students were female. Today, over 50% of LCS’ students are female.
"Right rules equal right results.”
Leveling the ratio is truly something to celebrate, but, as Deacon Moynihan points out, it is “very normal” that LCS won this particular battle:
If you put the right rules in place and defend those rules, you will get the right results. Beyond the pure justice of this issue, it is a great indicator that, in Haiti, if you introduce purposeful rules you will get very normal outcomes.
Today, there is no affirmative action plan—it is no longer necessary. Philo (US 12th grade +1) student Edwine Estinfil is just one of many who has benefited from the cultural shift that was ignited by the plan in 1996 and that now drives the large numbers of female applicants. She will graduate in a few short weeks from LCS, after which she plans to attend university and study medicine. Edwine, fittingly, finds motivation in her mother:
My mom only went to elementary school. I see how she has worked very hard to put me where I am. I want to seize the opportunities that my mom did not have and make her life easier after I go to university.
Edwine Estinfil, pictured far right with a few of her Philo classmates, reflects: “We are also human beings and deserve to be educated because we have the same dignity.”
Salomon Asmath, team manager at Energy Central, a solar panel sales, installation, and maintenance company in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince is a 1998 graduate of Louverture Cleary School with a perfect employment record. He has been continuously employed since graduating from LCS.
Salomon is one of many graduates breaking stereotypes about poverty in Haiti. A snapshot of his resume shows a man who has worked his way from stock keeper at a hardware store to his current position at Energy Central, which he helped start and now co-owns.
His employee badge reads he is from Cité Soleil, a fact that throws his customers off. Cité Soleil is a deeply impoverished area near Port-au-Prince and home to many LCS students. Typically, Cité Soleil is tapped for factory labor at best, while management positions are awarded to people with wealth and strong family connections. Salomon sees this changing thanks to LCS:
Employers want LCS graduates – they know that they can trust them. I have not seen anyone who was poor and did not go to LCS in a management position.
While THP has always known that education empowers individuals and their families, 20 years and hundreds of alumni later, it is now clear that LCS graduates are empowering their nation. THP President Deacon Patrick Moynihan characterizes this change as something physical, like breaking the vacuum seal off a jar. If people living in poverty have literally been kept in cultural isolation, then education, specifically a Louverture Cleary education, is the force breaking that seal to allow for an equal and free flowing exchange throughout all levels of society.
Salomon Asmath, LCS '98, at work at Energy Central, a solar company he helped begin and now co-owns.
Post graduate support emerges
Salomon graduated from LCS when Deacon Moynihan, newly arrived in Haiti, was confronted with the reality that without connections or money to pay for university, graduates had no place to go after LCS. Thus, THP's Junior Staff program was born, offering new graduates part time employment at LCS to help pay for university. Deacon Moynihan hit the pavement quickly, establishing connections with local business owners for internships. It did not take long for THP’s Office of External Affairs to emerge – first, managing internships then, formalizing university scholarship and networking programs for graduates. Today, the OEA supports university scholarships for more than 100 graduates every year and has a steady network of companies that are hiring LCS grads, sometimes up to 10 at a time.
Of LCS' more than 600 graduates, 90% are either in university or employed in Haiti. The vacuum seal that has prevented Haiti's poor in the Port-au-Prince area from being seen as individuals capable of supporting themselves and their families has been broken through the power of education at one school. Imagine the possibilities.
“In a country like Haiti the one thing we need is better education at all levels of society.” – Salomon Asmath