January 2015

The Education Mission of Friends of Haiti
By Committee Member,  Lee Hartzheim

Did you ever have some school kids [or maybe your own] rap on your door and ask for a donation to help send the high school band to the Rose Bowl, or help put in $1,000,000 field turf on the football field? Children in Haiti would have a difficult time even imagining such things. Many, especially in rural areas, have no chance to attend school, and those who do often complete their formal education at the end of Grade 6. The schools usually have no or limited electricity, and few textbooks. And yet the children who are able to attend are the lucky ones.

Friends of Haiti (FoH) Green Bay began sending volunteers to Haiti in 2001, primarily medical personnel. Early on, FoH expanded into support for environmental improvement, and education.  All our work is done in Thomazeau, a village, as well as the name of an area in east-central Haiti.

The village of Thomazeau has about 5000 residents, and the surrounding area may contain another 50,000. The village is on the plains east of Port au Prince; most of the rest of the area is mountainous. The village is more easily accessible and prosperous, and its parents and children have more educational choices than those in the mountains.

The FoH educational goals are modest, when looking at the big picture. We do not have the kind of money to build and maintain schools, or pay for teacher salaries. We are able to support existing schools, and in some cases, subsidize individual students.  As in any thoughtful organization, we wish to make the best use of our limited resources.

FoH is involved in support of an elementary and secondary school in the village, and three additional schools in the mountains. Members of the education committee typically visit some or all of the schools each spring and fall. We require and analyze information from the schools, on attendance, teacher qualifications, meal programs, amount of tuition paid, other sources of income for the schools, and number and per-cent of children who pass the national exams.

The number of government [public] schools is growing in Haiti, and perhaps some day all children there will receive formal schooling. Cell phone towers have gone up, and maybe some day children in Haiti will commonly have internet access, and all the information which comes with it. We are a long way from that day, however, and in the mean time the Friends of Haiti intends to do what we can to further quality education in Thomazeau.