Olivia adds one last shovel of dirt to the wheel barrow. Flo and Amada on opposite ends power the dirt to the top of a steep slope. The payload almost exceeds their collective weight but they work tirelessly for hours in 93 degree weather. Other teams work simultaneously and trade off with fellow students to maximize efficiency. Johnny, Devan and Seth prefer to wield a pickax, but everyone works hard in the heat of the day. This proud, dedicated group contributes these efforts to build a foundation for the new school building of SOPUDEP—the official sister school of LAHS in Haiti.
SOPUDEP serves more than 600 children of all ages in Port-au-Prince. Many of these children are among the poorest of the poor in the western hemisphere. SOPUDEP teachers and director Rea Dol work tirelessly—often without any pay-- to educate these children, as well as provide vital services to their families. While the Haitian government fails to provide free education to its children, SOPUDEP and its associates provide education and a daily meal to hundreds of students daily. Many of the children are orphans victimized by the 2010 earthquake. The new SOPUDEP building—being constructed after the earthquake—will include 15 classrooms, a library, an art and music room, a 70 thousand gallon water cistern using “captured” rain, solar powered energy, rooftop gardens, an orphanage, and a meeting courtyard. Finances for the school construction are being provided by SOPUDEP supporters in the Los Altos community, including the Los Altos Rotary club, among others.
Our LAHS team traveled to Haiti this February in order to provide assistance to SOPUDEP and other educational organizations in the area. The trip was the product of exhaustive efforts by LAHS students, their families and the greater Los Altos Community. The students sold macramé bracelets and baked goods, created activities such as dances, “open microphone” performances, and garages sales in to amass a nest egg. We raised thousands upon thousands of dollars to provide contributions to schools in Port au Prince, and medical supplies to the recently reopened University of Aristide Medical School. The vast majority of students and all of the instructors each paid this/her own way and attended the trip during their winter break--thereby missing no school here at home. The students came through the experience so enriched that many resole to begin again in order to return to Haiti in July.
Our group worked closely with Rea Dol, director of SOPUDEP (Society of Providence United for the Economic Development of Pétion-Ville). Rea introduced us to other teachers and students throughout the Port au Prince area. Her philosophy reflected the belief that Haiti’s recovery and its future will come from true education and democratic, self-organization of the people.
Conversations between LAHS students and the children and young adults revealed congruent dreams. Elementary school, high school, and even medical school students shared their desire to become a professional and work in service of their country. “I want to become a civil engineer” one of the SOPUDEP students explained to our group “to rebuild a better Haiti.” Nearly all LAHS students responded by voicing desire and a commitment to work in the service of others. They too hope to build a better world.
Twenty-one LAHS students, three instructors and a vice-principal returned home form our visit tired and proud. The Los Altos community delivered significant financial aid to people needing our assistance. Seth Donnelly, an LAHS teacher and leader of our trip, waved to our colleagues at our departure. “Au revoir, we’ll see you again in July”.
Legends for Pictures:
Figure 1: Students at work at the new SOPUDEP school site.