Haiti Empowerment Project helps communities rebuild

July 13, 2010

The Haiti Empowerment Project helps build communities and advance education initiatives in the wake of the Caribbean nation's devastating earthquake.

Before January 12, 2010, the Haiti Empowerment Project – launched at the Ohio State University-Mansfield and jumpstarted by an Excellence in Engagement grant from the Office of University Outreach & Engagement – was a five-year-old success story that shared the intellectual and material resources of Ohio State with the people of Haiti to help develop and implement culturally-relevant professional teacher training.

On January 12, 2010, the mission changed.

The catastrophic 7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit just west of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince that day killed up to 300,000 people and left an estimated 1.3 million more homeless.

Terri Bucci, who leads the Haiti Empowerment Project from the Mansfield campus, kept in constant contact with her colleagues in Haiti, making sure they were among the survivors and asking how the project could help in the rebuilding.

In late March 2010, that new mission began. Bucci traveled to Croix-des-Bouquets – where three tent cities were erected to house about 9,000 survivors – to pursue community-building and non-formal education initiatives. She and project representatives met with leadership in each tent city to gain insight into their individual community organizational structure, needs and resources. They then brought teachers and leaders of the three tent cities together to facilitate cross-community problem solving and work on teaching methods that required little or no materials. The goal is to organize schools for the children of the tent cities that will be open-air institutions while leaders consider long-term how to resurrect the infrastructure.

Bucci blogged from Haiti that the initial work developed a collective community vision, goal and objectives for the children in the communities to best meet the needs of the individual cities. Those goals and objectives then informed professional development workshops that aimed to “introduce methods that could be used in science, mathematics and language arts with no materials.”

By the end of the week, teachers were discussing strategies to combine resources, both physical and intellectual. In fact, one teacher ended the discussion with this statement: “Now, I will be a teacher to the rest.”

The long-term recovery of Haiti will depend on the ingenuity and skills of current and future generations of leaders. The Haiti Empowerment Project has transformed into a vehicle through which Ohio State can help rebuild a country in the wake of devastation by ensuring educational continuity and quality for the future innovators of the small island nation. The Ohio State University’s role is and will continue to be an educational organization with a commodity of ideas, helping the people of Haiti find sustainable solutions that will lead to self-reliance.

The project is helping empower a people who felt powerless, but now can find some hope among the rubble.

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