Current News (displayed below main page slide show)
It's hard to believe that it has been just about four years since Rea started the process to purchase land and build the new SOPUDEP School. It has been a huge struggle for Rea and her team, but the fruits of their labour and our support are starting to produce a tangible product. On March 27, they poured the first level roof (which will be the second level floor) for their first five classrooms. This is a huge accomplishment for SOPUDEP and it means that the site is now functional and will be put to use in the very near future.
This also means that SOPUDEP has a new found sense of security they never had before. Their current school building, which will be referred to as the "old school" from now on, is under lease. This lease was procured for ten years in 2002 from the former mayor of Pétion-Ville, Sulley Guerrier, who now works for SOPUDEP largely on a volunteer basis. In fact, he engineered the new school. During their stay at this leased building, they have often been threatened with eviction from people claiming to own the building (which proved to be lies) and even political figures, such as Pétion-Ville's last mayor. She wanted to sell the building off instead of see it continue to be a beacon of community health and pride. It was because of the outcry of SOPUDEP's friends, local and international, that they were able to stay. That lease ended in 2012 and now the insecurity is greater than ever as SOPUDEP renews month by month. Even in the past couple weeks, new government officials have started coming around asking questions about the building and casting an ominous presence at the school. Their time at the old school is fleeting.
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!
Video footage of my trip to visit Rea Dol and SOPUDEP in November 2012. This video focuses on the growing solidarity within the grassroots community to make effective change for themselves.
Madam Rea walking to meet women from the FASA Micro-Credit program
I visited Haiti six months after the earthquake. It was a trip that left me feeling a bit uncertain of SOPUDEP's future. Only two years earlier in 2008 our foundation, The Sawatzky Family Foundation, had become SOPUDEP's main financial contributor, which had allowed them to not only keep their doors open, but for the first time since 2004, think about expanding their program of providing accessible education. The vibe in that time was that of a Haitian organization of potential and progress, however very humble it may have looked compared to the monolith NGO's, who's logo's were splashed across vehicles, t-shirts and backpacks at every turn. That vibe tuned to one of dissolution immediately following the earthquake. Was all the progress made prior to be for nothing? People were tired and angry and the situation of repairing not only the physical structures, but also all the broken social and political structures that existed prior, now seemed intensified and almost a bottomless pit of which there was no escape.
In January of 2011 I flew SOPUDEP Founder/Director Rea Dol out to Canada to do a small speaking tour from Toronto to Montreal that was organized by Canada Haiti Action Network in regard to the one year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. There were many great and eye opening moments about the two weeks I spent with her. One on one at my house after the days activities, Rea really took the time to expounded on the political and social situations revolving around Haiti as well as offering her philosophical views about these various subjects. One thing I heard every time was a genuine pride and love for her people and country. Her work is not just something that gives her a fuzzy feeling inside, it is an intense passion that I have never seen before.
A running theme in her vision about Haiti was a need to break down barriers. She doesn't simply see the elite of the country having negative views of the poor, but the poor having negative views of those poorer than themselves and so on. She understands that part of our human survival instinct is to identify ourselves with a group of people that are in a sense, winning over another, but knows that this defeats the purpose of our humanness.
By Réa Dol, July 21, 2012
Translation and editing assistance by Ryan Sawatzky, The Sawatzky Family Foundation
Any country wanting to engage in the process of development for a prosperous future must invest in education. In this crossroads of Haiti’s history, it still is not a priority for the Haitian state to take charge of education and to implement suitable means to ensure the training and the development of all Haitians. For true national development to happen, the democratic government's hand cannot be withdrawn.
The Haitian constitution of 1874 was the first to recognize the importance of state funded education, at least in its primary phase, by declaring obligatory primary school education. Following constitutional amendments stipulated that primary school education was not only obligatory, but free. In spite of these written words, structures have hardly improved, and the Haitian state continues to neglect its duties in this field, preferring to leave the responsibility of education on the largely unregulated private institutions and foreign NGO's.
At the end of the 19th century, the already cash poor Haitian government was to naively pass the responsibility of providing education for its people onto the many catholic monks who found themselves on Haiti's shores ready to convert the population. These monks were the ones who first founded schools that favored the established middle-class, neglecting the poor masses openly. Favoring this small group of people able to pay for their education was a way to create assets for the church and lessened the challenge of having to engage with a poor rural majority that would use up monetary resources.
Well, just by the skin of our teeth were we able to put together the funds to send Rea, six of her staff, and a representative from both MOJUB and Les Petits Amis de SOPUDEP to the Dominican Republic for the teacher training course. As of yesterday they arrived in Santo Domingo, the Dominican capitol, and today completed the first of the four day training.
The following is Rea's email to me after today's administration tutorial.
We are in the DR now and the first day was great! We had two workshops, one for the teachers and one for administration. Although we only had one person to translate into Kryole today, all the administrative training was in spanish, while someone translated in english. I was able to translate for the administrative workshop, but tomorrow they are sending another Haitian translator.
It is a great experience for us and I don't want to miss anything!
Thank you so much and everybody is very happy. For most people in this Haitian delegation, it is the first time they have ever traveled anywhere. It is all very positive.
Thanks again Ryan.
I will let you know more tomorrow.
The Sawatzky Family Foundation would like to thank all the individuals as well as "Sanctuary for Kids" and "Haiti Union Solidarity Fund" who generously donated to make this training seminar happen for this select group of Haitian's who struggle everyday to improve the lives of those around them.
SOPUDEP director Rea Dol was presented a unique opportunity just a few months ago, when a generous amount of funds were directed her way from Rotary Barrie, in Ontario Canada. While SOPUDEP has implemented programs in free and accessible education for both adults and children and economic empowerment through micro-credit, Rea and her peers saw a need which they had not yet met: that of trade skills training. They decided the street children program would be the starting point, and those most in need were the attending youth in their late teens and early twenties.
As some may know, the street kids education program that Rea Dol started in 2009, has transformed a number of rough and tumble kids into young people who now take pride in their lives. What started as six kids, now has grown to over 36, ranging in age from five to their early twenties. Along with learning their ABC's, these trade skills are now providing alternative ways to find employment.
Another need was identified within this trade skills program, one which was not only to secure a better future for themselves, but that of the environment in which they lived. Haiti is notoriously known for a county that is on the edge when it comes to sustaining their natural resources. Three main reasons are due to the mass deforestation that has occurred over the years to make charcoal for the use of heat, cooking and light, virtually no infrastructure for waste disposal and the erosion of their reefs, which has occurred due to washouts from deforestation and overfishing.
Original version and posting at Sactuary for Kids
Photos by: Darren Ell
January 12, 2010, an earthquake ripped through the southwest end of Haiti, leaving thousands dead, and millions injured and homeless. The capital city of Port-au-Prince, with a population of 2 million living within 14 square miles, suffered the brunt of this quakes catastrophic effects. Over two hundred years since Haiti's independence, foreign exploitation of her citizens created a poverty that has wreaked havoc on the majority of the population. It was this chronic poverty and over population in Haiti's Capital that led to the devastating effects of this quake.
Those millions, who were left homeless, sought large open spaces to form makeshift camps. These camps are cobbled together, using any materials on hand. Bed sheets, old tarps and scrap metal fashion homes that are so close together, people are virtually living on top of one another. These camps are stiflingly hot, increasingly dangerous for women and children, and have poor sanitation, with cholera spreading like wildfire.
All of these camps residents come from the poorer sect of society. Even before the earthquake, these poor majorities had little to no hope for employment or education, and now, have little hope to leave this deplorable living situation. Sauvlyne Louis Jean is a young woman whom I met in the summer of 2011; a student attending SOPUDEP School, a Haitian community school our foundation supports. She is a resident of one of these camps and was kind enough to let us see her world.
some other grassroots organizations that work along side of SOPUDEP. From left to right: Les Petits Amis de SOPUDEP, Fanm Viktim Leve Kanpai (FAVILEK) and Pax Christi Ayiti (PCA)
Some of you may have noticed, that a few months ago the website banner was changed from, "SOPUDEP School - Knowledge is not a privilege of power, but a right for everyone", to what is currently above, "SOPUDEP - a Haitian Grassroots Social Organization". "School" was dropped from the name, simply because working with SOPUDEP over the past three and a half years, I have seen SOPUDEP as an organization that address numerous issues that face the poor through different social programs. They needed to be promoted as such.
While they have mainly focused on providing education for both children and adults since the mid 1990's - including basic literacy, formal education, as well as cultural and health, education - they have tackled other social issues, such as disaster relief, integrating homeless children and those in servitude into a formal education system, and economic development (Micro-Credit). SOPUDEP, and namely founder/director Réa Dol, not only work within their own organization to provide for their community, but collaborate with and support many other Haitian social organizations throughout Port-au-Prince and beyond - as can be seen with Les Petits Amis de SOPUDEP and MOJUB. We all felt it was time to promote SOPUDEP as the multi-faceted organization it really is. To be fair though, their K-12 school remains their biggest project to date and continues to be at the top of their funding priorities.