In Haiti, few children wake up early one morning and begin to prepare to go to school. After walking anywhere from one to three hours on the well-worn roads, they reach the school building and take a seat on a brick wall, right outside the entrance. The children pull out their books and then sit, waiting for class to start. They sit for a long time, never venturing inside the building, even after class begins, for they are not enrolled in any of the classes. Their families could not afford to pay for their education, but they enjoyed feeling involved and wait outside the school building day after day.
In the beautiful rural area of La Vallee de Jacmel, Haiti, the average school tuition is $150 for each child every year. However, the average income of a family ranges from $300 to $500 a year, which leaves more than 2500 children unable to attend school each year. A fairly new organization, La Vallee Alliance, started three years ago with a determination to give every child in La Vallee de Jacmel access to a quality education. With open lines of communication between the community and the organization, 97% of funds go directly to programs that the leaders of the community themselves approve and offer their own perspectives to in order to ensure effectiveness.
Through the partnership with the community, the organization has achieved much since its launch. Their accomplishments include the support of 237 student scholarships in 12 different schools and the sponsorship of an interscholastic competition that resulted in a 60% increase in test scores on national exams. The most recent project the group is undertaking is the community library of La Vallee. There is one sole library for a population of 40,000, which has no electricity, funding, and is poorly equipped with dusty encyclopedias and dictionaries, some of which date back to the 19thcentury. A spokesperson for La Vallee Alliance, Kim Burnett, “wants the library to be a center of learning” for the community. Marcy Rehberger, the co-founder of the organization, envisions the library as a way to “open up the world” to the kids.
The plans for the renovation of the library includes the installation of solar panels, computers, and lavatories. An initial shipment of books already has children lining up outside the door, eager to get their hands on the books to read, forcing the volunteer librarians to limit each child one book for one week. “At one time there were as many as 70 kids in the library,” reports Antonica Payen, a resident of Haiti and representative of La Vaille Alliance. There are hopes that in addition to books, Internet connection will also widen the perspectives of the children and give the community the tools to improve their own communities.
Every move that La Vallee Alliance makes is focused on making the community of Haiti stronger and self-sufficient. The books for the library are even purchased in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in the effort to stimulate the economy and avoid taking away business from the country. The group is currently fundraising for the library with the hopes that it will become a gateway for education, with further plans for ESL and literacy classes. More information can be found at their website: [url=http://www.lahaiti.org/]www.lahaiti.org[/url].
The link to their project is: http://www.givology.org/~lvclibrary/
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