By Deacon Patrick Moynihan, President of The Haitian Project and Head of Louverture Cleary School
It’s time to get back to what works.
Throughout history, education has proven itself to be the most reliable tool for promoting the advancement of individuals and societies. Still, major foundations (think Gates and Clinton) and philanthropic initiatives around the world fail to properly prioritize education as the best road out of poverty. They prefer instead more ephemeral and emotional initiatives like health care and shelter; or more “exciting” ideas like microfinance and mobile banking. While there is certainly a place for relief (food, water, shelter etc.), it seems the world has wrongly conflated these things with development and now heavily funds what are in many cases symptoms of poverty, not solutions to poverty.
Education, however, is a solution. And, we need more of it.
For the last 20 years, I have lived and worked in Haiti with my family as president of The Haitian Project, Inc., which supports and operates Louverture Cleary School, a top-notch, tuition free Catholic secondary boarding school in Haiti that forms the future servant-leaders of the country. We empower the young individual to be a catalyst for change in their own life and in their community.
Time and again our students and alumni do prove that education is the surest way out of poverty and towards a brighter future for Haiti. In a country where just 3% of young people graduate high school and over 70% of college graduates leave the country, 90% of our alumni are either studying or working IN HAITI. Many are earning 10-15 times the per capita income of Haiti. They then use their own success to build strong families and to send their own children to school, and often their extended family as well.
All of our alumni are giving back to their communities and their country. This is by design. The school’s motto comes from Mt. 10:8; “What you receive for free, you must give for free.”
Education works because it not only helps the individual make the most out of the current opportunities and infrastructure available, it helps him or her develop new opportunities and build more advanced infrastructure. Therefore, education is potentially the most basic of development tools. It also is the one that naturally causes and allows the individual to become part of their own advancement. Unlike medical procedures, loans or something that remains external, education is internalized by the person who receives it and it becomes their tool.
It is clear that Haitians themselves prioritize education and recognize its potential. The world should listen:
- While just 20% of foreign aid is spent on education, Haitians make education their priority by dedicating over 80% of their remittances to pay for the education of their children.
- The high demand for education has ensured that teaching is one of the most highly paid professions in Haiti.
- Every May at LCS 250-300 Louverturian hopefuls line up around the block at 4 am to take our entrance exam and to have a shot at an education that will undoubtedly change their life, and also the lives of those around them.
Real change in Haiti can come only through Haitians themselves, and education equips them to make that change personally and for their country. My 20 years in Haiti has taught me that there are no “silver bullets.” But, they have also taught me that there is hope. The stories of our graduates below leave no doubt in my mind that Haiti’s better tomorrow is an achievable reality.
Please consider donating to The Haitian Project. Your just reward awaits you both in heaven and on earth.
The Haitian Project, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that runs a tuition free Catholic boarding school in Haiti for 360 students in order to nurture the future leaders of the country. Visit their website www.haitianproject.org for more information or donate now.