SOPUDEP did have to abandon their school building about four days ago. It was being used as a shelter, but the stench of dead bodies was getting to strong. School director Réa Dol doesn't think it will ever work again as a school anyways because there was structural damage and all but three homes were destroyed in the neighborhood. It is time now for the school to relocate!
Now that being said, SOPUDEP did start payments on a piece of land last year in anticipation of building a new school for 2012 (when their lease would run up on their current building). Thanks to a generous donor from San Francisco, all but $20,000 of the original $60,000 is owing on the land. Seth Donnelly from the Bay area will most likely head up this fundraising project to pay off the land that will secure the schools future.
The Préval government has ordered schools to resume sometime in February. So, temporary classrooms are going to be put together for SOPUDEP's new property. An architectural group from Ryerson University in Toronto is working on a sturdy temporary classroom design using readily available local materials.
We have also set to work on the plans for a shipping container school concept that we came up with last year (concept pics seen here). Professionals and organizations are joining up for this project and an engineer and architect well versed in container architecture are on board. It could include a solar roof that could potentially provide electricity to surrounding homes. The nice thing here is that these kind of structures are hurricane and earthquake resistant. It could very well be a pilot project for other kinds of buildings like residential units.
David Chavannes is a London based photographer and videographer, who in April 2012 visited Haiti to find out more about the cholera epidemic and get a better understanding of the country itself. While he was there he ended up interviewing and filming a few locally led organizations.
The following video is the result of David's one day visit with SOPUDEP.
Thank you David for your support!
"Haitian women, let us rise up to organize and fight against misery. Let us strike down the forces of division that chain us down and prevent us from recognizing the worth of our country. We must destroy division so that both men and women join hands to rebuild Haiti. Thus, our children and grand children will have a beautiful prosperous country that will once again be the pearl of the Antilles."
Réa Dol, Director and Co-Founder of SOPUDEP
This video is made from footage and photos from a trip Montreal Photojournalist Darren Ell and I took in July of 2010 to visit Rea and SOPUDEP. Besides the focus on their K12 school located in Morne Lazarre, it also marks SOPUDEP's inclusion of a Micro-Credit program and another school in Port-au-Prince being brought under the SOPUDEP umbrella.
It has been a while since I've put something up here. It isn't that things are staled, but to start talking about this project as fact before we had all the details solidified might have worked against us. This of course is the temporary shelter project that will give SOPUDEP a bunch of classrooms and has the potential to house countless families that are now living on the street because of the earthquake.
The project began almost immediately after the quake when I was approached by Kathlene Mcguinness, a student in the Interior Architecture Program at Ryerson University in Toronto Ontario, Canada. She informed me that they had created a committee dedicated to helping SOPUDEP in their rebuilding efforts. After my first meeting with her I knew that this was a special project and I could see it not just being a way for there to be a temporary school, but shelter for the masses.
Well, a few months later and we have a final design. One that is fully engineered to drain storm water under the shelter and is hurricane and earthquake resistant. The design is no tent! It is a spacious design that could easily sleep a family of six or more. Two full size double mattresses can also fit in there side by side.
This weeks update was contributed by a good friend of mine and SOPUDEP's, Darren Ell. If you haven't heard how I came upon SOPUDEP in the first place, this is the man.
Darren is an independent photojournalist from Montreal who is not someone content to do his fact checking remotely. Instead, he puts himself in the thick of it by traveling to the places that we would deem to be certain death for any foreigner (of course, he knows this fear is all media hype anyways).
It is because of his dedication to seek out the truth and not a paycheck that his perspective is unique to the popular media. He is the guy I turn to for clarity when the stories and facts I hear start to get muddled.
Oh yes, he's also the guy who provided the majority of beautiful and inspiring photo's you see on this site
Ryan Sawatzky, President
The Sawatzky Family Foundation
Living With Contradictions
It's just a month and a half after the earthquake and we are starting to hear about a new cause for a devastated Haiti. Development! Tourism, agriculture, "industrial parks", strengthening Haiti's government or removing it and installing a new one. This has been touted the magic "new beginning" to a country that has been under foreign control since Christopher Columbus sanctioned it fit for European agriculture production way back when. Some ideas are valid and responsible, but many are opportunistic and will move a much needed income for Haiti out of the country or into the pockets of Haiti's elite. It is a very important topic of conversation and we certainly should pay attention to what's in the works for Haiti's future, but the type of rebuilding forefront in our mind should still be about providing the basics of everyday life for these affected Haitians.
Here is some info I received from Scott Weinstein, a nurse from the DC area who has been working with SOPUDEP and other groups on the ground for three weeks now. "A few weeks after the earthquake, Réa is desperately trying to get food for her community of children and their families from the school she ran before the earthquake. It now is a community center and clinic. Baz, an American medic, has told her that there might be food from the UN. But it is very confusing. The Italian Navy is also promising food in a few days. The prospect of being able to participate in that food distribution system seems daunting for Rea, whose English is not very good and whose Italian is nil."
In memory of:
Nadia Raymond taught the morning kindergarten class and the afternoon class with the street kids. She is seen here as Santa Claus.
Shella Louis taught the kindergarten class in the morning and first grade in the afternoon.
These were dedicated teachers who strived to educate and empower their communities youth despite sometimes having to forgo what little pay they did receive. All of SOPUDEP's staff deserve our utmost respect and support!
We are deeply sorry for all the loss Haiti has endured!
I received this Q&A email tonight between Kathlene McGuinness (who formed a SOPUDEP committee with her fellow Interior Architecture students and professors in order to help facilitate the rebuild and growth of this important education program. Kathlene was asking specifics on how Rea would like the temporary school space designed.
This is Rea words of events that have transpired up until this point. Please read!
This is Kathlene McGuinness at Ryerson University in Toronto. Myself and a group of students and teachers are trying to design you some temporary classrooms for SOPUDEP on the site for the new school, and we have been working closely with Ryan Sawatzky since the earthquake.
Here are some questions I was hoping you could answer:
1. Could you take us through a normal day at SOPUDEP before the earthquake?
Rea: A normal day, all the children come to study at school, as usual, the children go to their classrooms, and when means allow, they receive a hot meal at school. The first group finishes at 1:00pm, and then in the afternoon we help street children to work hard to learn a trade skill. We work, following the pedagogical program of the National Education Ministry that they supply us with—that’s the one we use.
2. What is your vision for the new school? What would you like to see happen?
Rea: As we work with groups abroad, such as in California, with Seth (Donnelly) and the union members, we have been working to try to secure a (new) site (for the school), and we will communicate with Ryan (Sawatzky) as well. The former building, I had a 10-year contract, which is ending in 2012, and I have received many threats, so we were looking at the new school for SOPUDEP. Therefore, we were looking at the possibilities to have a new land and site for the school.