Quality Education, Social Business, Partnership & Community Development at the Haiti Partners Children’s Academy
February 6, 2013
In October 2011 in the rural mountain community of Baocia, Haiti Partners broke ground on a new school: the Children’s Academy and Learning Center. After months of holding community meetings to identify local development priorities and cultivating relationships of trust with local residents, it became clear that central concerns of the community were education, jobs, and job training. Haiti Partners responded by engaging to build the Children’s Academy, a pre-K through high school that would not only offer local children a quality, student-centered, education and drive community development, but would also become a center for training educators from across the country who can come to see development and education in action. In partnership with Architecture for Humanity and BAR Architects to design the building plans, Miyamoto International to assure that it was constructed to international hurricane- and earthquake-resistant standards, and AMURT to help train and accompany our new teachers as they learn how to provide a genuinely student-centered education, the Children’s Academy moved forward. By September 2012 the first building was nearing completion and 25 wonderful three year-olds embarked upon an inspiring and joyful education.
Understanding that the key to long-term development in Haiti is sustainable, independent, Haitian-led enterprise, we sought out a means for the school to work towards financial independence. With help from Yunus Social Business (YSB) and with close community collaboration, we created a business plan for a local cooperative bakery to both serve the local need for food and jobs, and to create a means to support the school’s operations for the long-term. By the fall of 2012, this plan had been approved for major funding and was legally recognized as the “Coopérative Production de Bellevue la Montagne” (CPBM).
While constructing the first building of the Children’s Academy – and the inevitable challenges this involved – it became clear that the construction of the bakery could also be an opportunity to build local capacity and generate economic activity in Baocia. With this in mind, Haiti Partners partnered with Extollo International – a San Francisco-based company with expertise in building the capacity of Haitian tradespeople through training and accompaniment – to provide training and oversight in order to create a locally-based, Haitian-run construction company right in Baocia. This independent, cooperatively owned social business will not only build the bakery; over time it will be contracted to build the rest of the Children’s Academy campus. As a social business, it will partner with YSB to develop a business plan and obtain its own financing. In addition to providing jobs and increasing Haitian capacity to build earthquake- and hurricane-resistant structures, its profits will be used to fund community development projects in Baocia.
In this way, through a series of fortuitous partnerships, Haiti Partners has engaged with the community of Baocia to build a school that will provide a quality education, a social business cooperative bakery that will support the school and create jobs and food in the community, and a construction firm which will provide skilled job training, create more jobs, and provide increased economic stimulus to the community. Together, these elements promise to make the Children’s Academy an incubator for new ideas and practices for quality, sustainable education and community development that can be replicated and adapted to different contexts across Haiti.