When we first visited Tremesse, the children were going to school each day under a makeshift tent made of sticks, leaky tarps and old rice bags sewn together. School had to stop whenever the rains came. Desperate to get even the most basic education for their children, the villagers found volunteers to teach the kids. Despite the lack of any school building or books, more and more children squeezed under the tent each day. For over four years, the School Committee had been searching for a partner that could help them. When we saw the Tent School, we couldn’t say no. At the beginning of 2009, we received a document from a friend of ours, Dr. Raymond Ford, who runs a medical clinic and a school in Haiti. Dr. Ford told us that it was written by a group of Haitians that had been passing it around for several years to anyone who would read it. Their proposal was a plea for help—help to educate the children of Tremesse, kids who otherwise sat around all day with empty bellies and minds eager to learn. After hearing about the conditions in Tremesse, we arranged a visit before even translating the document.
On Jan’s first visit to Tremesse, all she could promise was a little bit of hope. But over the next few months, as all of us made that same trip, we knew we had to do more. And so we did: we partnered with the Village Committee to help them educate their children. Over the next year we were able to find enough funding to purchase land, and then to put in a well— still the only source of clean water in the Tremesse. Next we put in a septic system and latrines for the future school to keep that well clean—vital in a country where water-borne diseases are a killer. And then, as funds starting running low, we put in a temporary school that at least had a solid roof that didn’t leak.
Just after that tin-roof structure was finished, we stood inside it in front of the children and promised them that concrete walls and real classrooms were next. As always, we didn’t know how we’d get the funds, but we were partners with the kids and the Committee, so we knew we had to find a way. A year later, and we had found enough funding to build six classrooms, which will be finished by the end of the summer. We still need books, and desks, and a thousand other things, but with a little faith and help from donors, we’ll get there.
This is the first phase of our school development program. We now have 6 single story classrooms that have 14 ft ceilings to reduce heat impact, steel reinforced cement block walls with fans, electric lights, and a new water well. We are trying to limit the class sizes to 25 students. We have also purchased land for a garden, chicken coop, and hopefully a future talapia farm.