Caring for Haiti

December 2018, All School Assembly.

Imagine a country where fewer than 30% of students ever receive a 6th­grade education. Where 90% of girls have either never received an education or dropped out by the time they are 12. Here, a mere 400 miles off the US coast sits the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, and the 3rd poorest nation in the world­­ this is HAITI. A country where 80% of the population lives on less than $2 a day and no government funding is allocated for education for a rapidly growing population in a world becoming equally more divided by a gap of knowledge and opportunity.

In a country battered by tragedies; from colonization to slavery, dictatorships to political corruption, hurricanes to earthquakes, education seems to be the only way to fight a cycle of poverty and injustice.

Three and a half years ago, I walked off a five ­hour bus ride from the Dominican Republic into the second largest city in Haiti, Cap Haitien. A city home to one of the only schools for Girls, College Regina Assumpta a Catholic school with a 60­year track record of empowering girls by providing them with a solid education. A school with 1200 girls attending from kindergarten through High school and a small Educational College training the next generation of teachers.

Since 2014 the school has been implementing a robotics program, a program I have been heavily involved with since its inception. The robotics program fits at a school focused on providing more opportunities and possibilities for girls. As Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the UN, said: “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress in every society, in every family.”

By promoting girls education in Haiti, College Regina Assumpta attempts to close the educational gap for girls.

After three years of long, hot summer camps for STEM and robotics, Saturday Skype calls, teacher training and twice yearly competitions with around 200 students and 20 teachers. This summer 20 students, 4 teachers, and the principal came to Seattle Prep in an effort to increase their skills, prepare to become mentors to the younger girls during the school year and widen their view of the opportunities in the world around them. As my time and experience with these girls has gone on, it has been truly amazing to see the growth in skills and there true commitment and hunger for their betterment and learning.

This year has not been easy, in early October I received the disturbing news that the school had been hit by an earthquake. This was then followed by riots stoked by general anxiety and a simmering resentment about rising gas prices. Heartbreaking images arose of a school that had worked so hard to provide opportunities, being attacked by a mob of young men, fuelled by anger over a school teaching and empowering girls, who knocked out walls and flattened the playground.

This year, our giving tree money will go to repair the destruction of College Regina Assumpta.

Why should we care as Prep Students? Why should this year Giving Tree be dedicated to this school? For me that answer is simple, we have the privilege to go to a school where we have countless academic opportunities, where our motto is “Go Forth and Set the World on Fire”. This is our opportunity to live out our motto and support girls who are just like you and me, want to be the best they can be, to be empowered to help change their country, but who have countless obstacles put in their way.

Our Giving Tree money can help repair the school, but even more show the students that they are not alone, that we as a Prep Community care about them, our gifts small and large will create a huge impact. I cannot stop dreaming about what they may be able to achieve with the knowledge of our solidarity with them.

Mirabelle Class of 2019, Seattle Preparatory School