The Road to Hope, a Denver-based nonprofit foundation led by parents, faculty, and students, got a jump on the official 2015 earthday.org theme “It’s Our Turn To Lead” with a trip to Haiti over Spring Break to direct construction and sustainability efforts for the first local school and Community Center-Medical Clinic in Nordette. They hauled rocks to complete construction of the school rooms, gifted musical instruments from the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and provided masters-level instruction to a young student orchestra, and researched local water and biodigestive waste processing systems. In the process, they learned surprising life lessons for anyone on Earth from the very impoverished Haitians they served.
“We came here to build them a school, provide sustenance and music…. we left with so much more,” said Charlie Wallace, High School Freshman at Colorado Academy. “Haitians do not feel fulfilled by material wealth, they feel fulfilled with the relationships they can make. The feel a strong need for education. Haiti has shown me how success can be measured by happiness and community.”
Armed with years of dedicated environmental, agricultural and cultural research about Haiti, as well as a bond with Haitian students fostered via Skype, the group went to work touring a local biodigestive waste processing system in Cange to further their development of a permanent symbiotic water filtration system using invertebrates (which they initiated at the recent Global Water Challenge). Art students created and donated "Growing a Better Future" signage templates illustrating a Road To Hope from the Colorado Academy school in the U.S. to St. Patrick’s school in Haiti. The templates will be crafted into iron signs from local artists in Haiti’s Iron Artisans Village - Croix de Boquets, a suburb of Port au Prince. The students solidified their bond on this trip with hard work, multi-cultural exchanges, dances and songs in Creole, English and French. Their bon voyage in Denver had been blessed by a Proclamation from the Mayor Hancock of Denver, delivered by Derek Ukubo, Executive Director for the Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships, City and County of Denver.
Christy Collins from the Denver-based Davis Partnership Architects provided architectural drawings for the complex, pro bono.
Zach Harris, a sophomore at Colorado Academy, who helped create the Haiti Youth Orchestra at Lecole St. Pierre in Mirebalais on a previous student-led trip, was pleased to assist the students with their new instruments and witness a first-ever concert from the local Haitian students who had just picked up instruments for the first time in their lives 2 years ago.
“I was so humbled and inspired,” said Zach, who plays bass, piano and viola, “to see what progress they made. They delighted in making music!”
Another student, Kenneal Patterson, added: “to visit Haiti is to broaden your mind and expand your perspective. And to share the element of our humanity, the world will improve just a little bit more.”
The new Nordette school, named St. Patrick’s, will provide a future of education, clean water, free meals, internet access, and a comprehensive education curriculum pursuant to Haitian national standards…free to all residents. It is the second partner school developed by The Road To Hope in conjunction with the US-Haiti Partnership Program, aided by Colorado Academy. The first school serves a daily meal plus clean water to 120 students in Mathone, near Cap Haitien. (61% of Haiti schools are without potable water; children often work instead of attending school). Development is underway for the medical clinic.
Eighth grade student Rachel Harris, daughter of The Road to Hope founders Rich and Lisa Harris and sister to two Haitian siblings adopted in Port-au-Prince in 2010, travelled with American photographer John Fielder to Haiti to write a children’s book featuring illustrations by local Haitian children. All profits from Nadia’s Good Deed: A Story about Haiti, available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, are donated to build schools and provide clean water and agriculture. The book will also be available in Creole and French. The story is about Nadia the goat and her journey to the city, replete with insight into Haitian culture. Combining Rachel’s tale, Fielder’s photography and local illustrations, the picture book aims to inspire, educate and entertain while benefitting one of the poorest countries in the world.
“Our goal is to build sustainable communities focused on education,” said Rich Harris. “More than anything, Haitians want to give their kids opportunities to attend school and thrive…things we take for granted.” Rich and Lisa Harris also founded The Harris Law Firm, a family law firm.
Students aged 8 to 18 from Colorado Academy have committed to long-term sustainable and educational development in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Their future studies include the study of mirrored crop gardens in both Colorado and Haiti climates, and Creole, French, and Haitian history.
By September 2015, The Road to Hope plans to officially open the doors to the new Nordette School as well as render operable a new water treatment and waste management system for the village. In 2016 they plan to open the new Medical Clinic in Nordette, with health partners from the Denver area, as well as establish a sustainable, Community Farming Initiative at The Road to Hope's Mathone School near Cap Haitien.
For more about Nadia’s Good Deed: A Story about Haiti, tours, or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit www.theroadtohope.org or like The Road to Hope on Facebook.
About The Road To Hope
The Road to Hope Foundation is a 501c(3) whose mission is to develop schools and promotion education in Haiti where children can grow up strong and healthy, free from the trauma of abandonment. By providing water and meals, TRTH enables children to attend school while providing for their families’ needs. Projects are designed to meet the basic needs outlined by the 1989 UNICEF Bill of Rights’ principles: “Non-discrimination, devotion to the best interests of the child, the right to life, survival and development, and respect for the views of the child.”
January 12, 2015 marked the 5th anniversary of the devastating 7.0 earthquake. About 4,992 schools were destroyed and 1.5 million Haitians were displaced; 1,000 orphans were adopted in the U.S. (USAID). Haiti still lacks infrastructure, water, schools, shelter, and suffers from Restavek – a form of modern child slavery affecting 300,000-500,000 children who are sent to work for other families, paid only in food and shelter. Although parents of these children are often given assurance that their child will be sent to school, very few will actually be educated. Nearly 75% of Haitian children live in poverty. Nearly half of Haitian children do not attend school. Sixty percent of children who attend school will drop out before the 6th grade; 30% will not make it to the third grade. (UNICEF.)
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