Improving Lives

A Culture of Collective Changemaking

In many ways Haiti, our next door neighbor, is stuck. The country just can’t seem to get ahead. Natural disasters, grinding poverty, political instability…It’s heartbreaking. Haiti remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and among the bottom 25 countries globally on the Human Development Index. Among 190 countries, Haiti ranks 182nd on World Bank’s 2016 Ease of doing business index, down from 134th 10 years ago.

While it’s tragic that nearly 50% of Haiti’s school-age children are either not attending school at all or not regularly attending, it’s equally tragic to think that the children in school are being indoctrinated to perpetuate a broken system, a system that fails to develop the potential of young Haitians to become agents of change capable of getting and/or creating decent employment and improving their society.

From the People

Konbit is a powerful word that describes the Haitian practice of working together in solidarity to survive and to thrive. Konbit requires that the ownership and the desire for participation, collaboration, and solidarity come from the people, not from external control. While konbit was key to survival following slaves winning their freedom and has continued in some areas in rural Haiti right up to the present, it’s no longer a common practice throughout Haiti. Yet every Haitian knows the term and it continues to be a popular name for projects.

The Konbit approach could be key to addressing the other fundamental problem to Haiti’s education: not enough resources. Creating learning environments for children requires salaries for teachers and school staff, educational materials and facilities, ongoing training for parents and teachers and school staff, etc. Only about 10% of schools in Haiti are government schools. The rest are private schools, largely funded by tuitions paid by parents. Some of these schools also have outside support from churches, non-governmental organizations, etc. Nearly all of these schools—government and private—lack needed resources.

Looking into the Future of Learning

Creating educational programs that engage parents, students, youth, and other community members in activities like school gardens and social businesses are ways to generate desperately needed school revenue AND to nurture an empowering leadership culture that can transform education. We believe that enterprises such as our hand papermaking venture can provide a means for generating school income, nurturing an entrepreneurial, can-do spirit, and fostering creative expression. All of which are essential for the future of learning.

We also believe that addressing this significant challenge requires a Culture of Collective Changemaking. It’s not just about Haitians finding a way to fund their transformation. It’s also about using this challenge as an opportunity for people with means to come together in strategic collective action with some of the poorest people in the world. As we work to help those who are less fortunate, we discover that our stories have more meaning too. The work of justice is about how amazing things can happen when our stories come together.


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