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The Children of Haiti Project: Entering a 9th Year of Success
By Dominique Pierre and Jacqueline Fabius 28-Nov-18
The Children of Haiti Project opened its doors for the first time in May of 2010, thanks to the outstanding support of international schools around the world in response to the devastating earthquake that had hit Haiti. COHP’s mission is to create the future leaders of Haiti. In 2011, there were some 11,000 NGOs operating in Haiti in response to the earthquake. Nearly a decade later, less than a handful are still navigating this complex and challenging environment, on both the political and economic fronts. COHP carries on! This September, COHP starts its ninth year of operation, still offering a free education, three meals a day, and full medical care to its student body of 65. While every year has brought its challenges, this year is a big one as COHP launches its high school program. Government requirements, limited access to resources and qualified staff, multiple languages, and devastating home conditions are among the critical factors COHP leadership must contend with in designing an effective program. Among the solutions being considered are online courses attended at school (notably, for English language instruction); partnering with nearby schools to enhance particular areas of the curriculum; and basing much of the curriculum on projects and problem solving. Twenty-five of the children enrolled are housed at the school during the week, either because their home situations are too dire or they live too far away. The majority of COHP students continue to commute to and from school, walking sometimes more than an hour, and are unfortunately exposed along the way to drugs, prostitution, and gang violence. For most of the children, school meals are the only ones they can count on during the day. The competitive program, while adapted to the Haitian curriculum, offers non-traditional courses as well as vocational offerings to prepare the children for their future. A strong emphasis is placed on community values, responsibility, and the role one plays in society. Providing a free education, nutrition, medical care, as well as housing to these students is challenging and costs around US$150,000 a year. With Haiti no longer making front-page news, COHP struggles to raise the funds needed to operate this wonderful program every year. Over the last eight years, the children benefiting from this program have continually excelled on both national and international evaluations, scoring at the 90th percentile on the majority of tests. Thanks to numerous volunteers and solid teaching methods, the children are now trilingual in Creole, French, and English. English instruction is still at its early stages but is improving each year, with more lessons and greater exposure to the language. Entering the school behind the red gate, one is greeted with the wonderful sounds of laughter and play. It is a place where the children feel safe and are allowed to be children. While Haiti continues to appear in the news only when dramatic storms hit, political discord ramps up, or yet another failed election takes place, COHP remains an oasis of calm and a refuge, offering safety and education for children who are on their way to becoming analytical game changers.
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