Léogâne was one of the areas hardest hit by Haiti’s devastating earthquake on 12 January 2010. Officials estimate 80 to 90 percent of Léogâne’s buildings were destroyed. These included Association of Parents of Mellier (ASPAM)’s elementary and pre-schools – along with the homes of most of the schools’ children.
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, when even day-to-day survival was in doubt for many, parents began work to get their children back in school.
Parents in Mellier, Léogâne, have a long history of working in times of hardship. In the chaos that enveloped Haiti following the departure of the ruling Duvalier family in 1987, a group of these parents formed the Association of Parents of Mellier (ASPAM), to make sure their children’s schooling continued without interruption. Soon after, they opened a pre-school and an elementary school so their youngest children didn’t have to walk for hours to get to school.
“CARE was with us from the start”
In the aftermath of the quake ASPAM turned to CARE, which has supported 78 schools since the earthquake, 20 in Léogâne alone.
“CARE was with us from the start,” says Ginette Louis Jean, director of the ASPAM pre-school. “CARE provided us with school kits for teachers, students and educational materials for the class direction.”
The parents soon re-opened the school in a temporary structure. CARE provided classroom supplies such as benches, blackboards and recreation equipment. CARE also built latrines, hand wash stations, water purification systems and held regular hygiene sessions. The community pays an attendant to clean the latrines and ensures that the hand wash system is always filled with chlorinated water.
CARE’s work with the school goes beyond standard educational curriculum. CARE is helping the school teach children how to make attractive handbags from discarded items like bottle labels and cigarette packs. They can then earn money selling the items at a local market, and will have marketable skills if something were to happen that meant they were not able to continue their education.
CARE has also provided psycho-social counselling to staff, students and others connected with the school. This has helped them cope with the intense trauma of the earthquake and its aftermath.
“The psychosocial sessions have helped us realise that we didn’t only need to rebuild our houses, but also our minds,” explains Ginette. After some understandably difficult months, the school’s 250 students, 138 girls and 112 boys, are much happier now, she says.
Strength to strength
Despite the extreme challenges created by the earthquake, ASPAM believes it is a stronger organisation now than it was before. With 80 percent of its students passing Haiti’s standardised tests, ASPAM acquired land to build a secondary school so its graduates have a local place to continue their education as they grow.
“We hope CARE can help us expand the school,” says Lesly Jean-Baptiste, chairman of ASPAM. “But even if it can’t, CARE helped us become much stronger. I’m sure we will find a way.