Who We Are
Hands for Haiti is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit that provides the sole means of financial support for The Solidarity School in Tremesse Village, Haiti. Our Board of Directors are all volunteers who, after seeing the terrible conditions that the children of Tremesse endure with such grace and dignity, were inspired to help. Unlike many larger charities, 100% of the donations we receive go directly to Haiti. We pay no staff in the US. A dollar donated to us is a dollar that is spent for the kids.
Floreal’s Vision : How The Tent School Got Started
In 2006, Floreal Michelet and a few other villagers of Tremesse decided that something needed to be done for the children of the village who weren’t able to afford to go to school. Going from door to door throughout the entire village of Tremesse, sprawling from plains all the way up the side of the mountain, they asked at each hut which children were in need. The numbers were staggering: there were hundreds and hundreds of children who sat at home all day. Despite this, they did the best they could with almost no resources but their own goodwill. Alongside other villagers, they scrounged up sticks and tarps and constructed a little tent on borrowed land near the center of the village. They found volunteer teachers, and began to hold classes each day. They formed the Solidarity Committee—solidarity among the villagers for the protection of those most vulnerable among them.
Because the need was so great, only the youngest and most desperate were able to attend the Solidarity School, but at least these few children were able to learn some basic math and reading. Many of the children who began attending the tent school were in fact orphans—often living with aunts and uncles or even just friends-- young children of 4, 5, 6 and older who were lucky to have anyone to care for them at all. Floreal and the Solidarity Committee consider all of the children who attend the school like their own—they will do anything they can to care for these children for whom even a place to sleep at night is not always even a guarantee. The Solidarity Committee considers itself their guardians.
Because Floreal and the rest of the new Solidarity Committee knew that their was simply no way that the village could ever raise funds to build a permanent school themselves, they wrote down their goals in a document and began circulating it. It outlined the problems that the children of Tremesse face, what the Committee believes the solutions are, and what stands between them and these goals. While the initial plan was to build a primary school, Floreal and the Committee have a wonderful long range vision that goes far beyond just basic schooling—they foresee advanced education, a trade school, and a medical clinic, all built on the beautiful piece of land that Hands for Haiti has helped to acquire. Little by little, we hope to help the Committee achieve these things for the children of Tremesse
Education, Nutrition, and Health:
Hands for Haiti was founded on the belief that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty in Haiti. However, in a country wracked with malnutrition and disease, we also believe that providing teachers and classrooms is just not enough. Hungry children simply aren’t able to reach their full potential. A lack of basic nutrition in young children stunts their physical and mental development. And a lack of clean water takes the lives of far too many in Haiti—more than seven out of every hundred children will not reach their fifth birthday, often due to waterborne diseases that access to a well could have easily prevented.
Because of this, Hands for Haiti has made nutrition and clean water a priority alongside education. Before even funding the construction of our school building, donations made to Hands for Haiti were used to construct a well that provides the children and adults of the village access to a clean source of water. In addition, we prioritize providing food and nutritional supplements to the malnourished young children who attend the school each day. We know that children who are severely malnourished during their youth will bear the physical and mental scars of this for a lifetime, and we are working alongside the village committee of Tremesse to prevent this. In fact, shortly after we began working in Tremesse, we made the decision to provide 5 meals a week to each of the children. A year later, we saw such a difference in the health of our kids that we’ve now expanded to 7 days a week, especially as many of our kids tell us its often their only meal of the day.
Like the villagers of Tremesse, we believe that education is the long-term solution to the problem of desperate poverty that faces Haiti, but this can only ultimately be effective if it is provided alongside meeting the immediate needs of the schoolchildren-- nutrition, clean water, and basic health.
Locally Driven Solutions:
Hands for Haiti also believes that the best solutions to poverty are locally driven solutions. We chose to partner with the village committee of Tremesse—known locally as the Solidarity Committee, for precisely this reason. They are a group of concerned people who know intimately both what the problems are in their village, and what the solutions are. It is only because of the cruel circumstances of dire poverty in Haiti that they have been unable to achieve their goals.
The Solidarity Committee of Tremesse doesn’t want charity for charity’s sake, but instead asks us to work with them to find donors who can help them allow their children to have a future where each child can meet his potential. Like parents anywhere, the parents of Tremesse want their children to have a better life, and they know that education is the future, because ultimately it will allow them to grow up to be able to be self reliant and able to take care of themselves and their own children. Hands for Haiti is proud to work with the villagers of Tremesse to help them create a better future for their children.
A Shared Vision
Hands for Haiti is a partnership: we work hand-in-hand with the school committee (The Solidarity Committee) of Tremesse Village to help educate 230 children from pre-school through the 5th grade. We share a vision with the committee: that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. The situation in Tremesse is dire. Before we built our school, over 90% of the children in the area had been unable to finish even primary school. As in most of Haiti, there is no free government school in Tremesse, and most of the villagers, as subsistence farmers, simply cannot afford to pay to send their children to school elsewhere. In fact, many of them cannot even afford to reliably provide just a single meal each day for themselves and their kids.
We’re working with the Solidarity Committee to change this. Over the past two years, Hands for Haiti and the Committee have worked together to build a six-room school, but our vision doesn’t stop there. We’ve committed to finding the funding to add another grade each year as we grow together with the children of Tremesse. While we believe that education has value in and of itself, together with the committee we know that the end result matters. In a country where almost 50% of the population is under 18, with less than a fifth even making it to secondary school (8th grade), Haiti is in danger of losing yet another generation. In Tremesse, at least, with help from our donors, we’ll change this. Our shared vision is to see our first students – from one of the poorest areas of the world – enter trade school or university in another 8 years. The kids in our school are like kids anywhere else—with dreams and goals and minds that thirst for learning. We believe they deserve the same opportunities as a child lucky enough to be born in the United States. We know that our kids, given the opportunity, can grow up to change not only their own lives, becoming self-sufficient through education, but can help change the future of their country. Our kids can be the future doctors, builders, lawyers and teachers in Haiti. All they need is your help.