On Earth Day, we are reminded of the saying by Confucius: “If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children.” At PRODEV: Progress and Development, we are planning for the future by educating Haiti’s children and by planting trees. Thanks to the support of the Clinton Foundation, our students at Institution Mixte Union des Apotres – one of the PRODEV schools in Cite Soleil – planted trees in their schoolyards that will bring much-needed shade to their communities and help reforest the country.
PRODEV schools build upon the belief that every citizen has and should play an important part in Haiti’s social and economic future. We know that restoring Haiti’s agriculture is vital to the country’s future, so we are planting trees with our students and introducing community gardens in all PRODEV schools. We will use the fruits and vegetables in our lunch programs, and use this opportunity to teach our students about the importance of their role in protecting the environment.
PRODEV was established in 1995 by Max Pénette, Daniel Kedar, and myself, as a small family foundation dedicated to empowering the youth of Haiti through education. Founded on the idea that education is the only solution for Haiti’s immense challenges, PRODEV’s work has expanded over time to address the country’s evolving needs. After the earthquake, with the support of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Voila Foundation, PRODEV opened and operated 12 elementary schools and eight kindergartens in Port-au-Prince tent camps. As the tent camps closed, PRODEV recognized that well-managed, community-based schools and access to high quality education were vital for recovery. PRODEV built an independent school, Ecole Nouvelle Zoranje, as a model for the country, and partnered with existing schools to spread this philosophy. For the 2012-2013 school year, PRODEV manages four schools, reaching a total of 1,200 students. We are now working to create “Partners-in-Education,” a network of high achieving community schools, and to produce a Book of Procedures, a how-to manual for high-quality education in Haiti.
PRODEV is developing a model that can be replicated across the country. Today, Ecole Nouvelle Zoranje – PRODEV’s flagship school – educates 570 students, from kindergarten to 9th grade. While school fees are typically very high in Haiti, Ecole Nouvelle Zoranje is free for students, and parents are asked to pay a very small participation fee, if they are able. The school is handicap accessible, and offers a select special education program. Students receive breakfast and a hot meal every day, and we provide a safe space for students to learn and play. Ecole Nouvelle Zoranje hires local teachers and school administrators, and is always looking for ways to engage community members of all ages and to increase economic opportunity in the neighborhood. PRODEV believes that in order for a school to survive, thrive and produce good citizens, there must be strong ties between the school, parents, and community stakeholders.
As students and community members at PRODEV schools come together today to plant trees on Earth Day, they are planting seeds to bear fruit next year, to provide shade in ten years, and to fulfill the dream of education and opportunity in Haiti for hundreds of years to come.
Thank you to the Clinton Foundation, NRG Energy, and Sow a Seed for their support of the Earth day celebration at Institution Mixte Union des Apotres. These organizations share our vision that in order for Haiti to have a prosperous future, we must take care of our environment and take responsibility to educate our children on how we can work together to create a more sustainable world. These trees will become vital to our communities – they will help restore shade and, overtime, will increase protection from storms and improve air quality. A special thank you to PRODEV staff, teachers, and volunteers, past and present, who work every day for a better educated Haiti. We know our friends at the Clinton Foundation are also committed to education and a greener future for Haiti’s children, and we are grateful for their support this Earth Day.
Want to take action on addressing deforestation in Haiti? Take the Clinton Climate Quiz and a tree will be planted in Haiti.