Project

Fessart School

Date of Activity: 04 Mar 2011

A basic community school in the remote mountainous area of Fessart

Our original guide Fito lives in the mountainous suburbs high above Port Au Prince and Petionville. Whilst working with him and also living in his house during our August trip, he made us aware of a very basic school his family had been trying to help. This school is in a very remote and desperately poor area, and is very tricky to get to. You have to climb up treacherous mountain roads a considerable distance, and then traverse a (hopefully) dry riverbed, and upon crossing this attempt to get your car up an incredibly steep path of loose rocks and earth. You find yourself in a tranquil and idyllic  rural location nestled in the mountains; with women washing and drying their clothes on the riverbed, livestock being led up the mountainside, and the feeling that you could be somewhere centuries ago, but for the occasional truck noisily scrambling up the impossible slopes. 

 After enjoying the bouncy journey up here we began to hear the sound of singing carrying across the peaceful mountainside. We came across an incredibly basic small hut, part of which had disintegrated in the earthquake.  This building was probably what you would expect an everage family to live in, but to our shock we instead found about seventy children and their teachers singing. They were split up into four incredibly cramped classrooms, with ages ranging from about four to late teens, and definitely nowhere near enough seats or books for all of them. This school, like we would find in Onel's in Cite Soleil, had no source of income whatsoever. Again, it was down to just the love and determination of the teachers that it was able to barely function at all. Being in its remote location, no other organisation had been near it. The teachers weren't being paid at all and barely had enough money to eat, let alone supply the school. Yet they were still determined that the kids in this remotely rural area should be given an education and not fall prey to the prevalent illiteracy and subsequently ensured poverty found in these sorts of areas of Haiti. Therefore, like Onel, we found the head teacher Josue, and his staff to be incredibly inspirational people. The function and stature of Josue and his little school in the community was obvious. He was admired and the school was the centre of everything there.

  Though, as ever, for a small charity we had plenty on our plate, we felt we had to do our best to help Josue. We decided firstly that we had to get him a proper space for the children to learn in, as the damaged hut was too cramped and also unsafe. We went down to UNICEF and to our surprised managed to procure a huge heavy-duty tented shelter, which was transported up there in due course after we had left. Upon returning in November with our new guide Christian, we helped Josue with buying learning equipment and stationery and had also had wooden benches made by a local carpenter so that there was space for everyone. We also provided a basic wage for him and the teachers to reward them for their absolutely selfless devotion to the children of the community. By this point, with the larger space available (however by no means spacious) Josue had also taken on more charges, bringing the total to nearly one hundred students.

 The school was functioning much better with its new workspace and stationery and something resembling teachers' wages. However this is a long-term project that we would like to continue to improve. The area is so poor that the teachers' main problem is that the children are usually too hungry to concentrate on their learning, as are they,  no doubt. When we returned in February, we decided to call a community meeting and had everyone assemble in the school tent. We loaded a Haitian tap-tap (look it up!) with about a hundred bags of rice, enough for each family to have one. This was as a gesture to them, as they were obviously so impoverished and they really appreciated what Josue was doing for their children. We have also had to make a subsequent food drop in March for the children, and getting them fed at school like Onel's is something we would like to accomplish in the near future. Before leaving in February we again provided Josue and his staff with some money to keep the teachers going and buy more learning essentials for the children. We are now concentrating on how we can use some of the ingenius intermediate building technologies we have seen in Haiti to provide a permanent structure. We are also twinning the Fessart School with local schools in Guernsey as a way to raise funds for it to continue its absolutely vital role. 

 

 

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