Heading to Haiti

//Heading to Haiti

Heading to Haiti

I had this trip to Haiti planned for months.  I was looking forward to going to Haiti to finally meet the staff and student’s of L’ecole De Choix.  L’Ecole De Choix is a primary school in Haiti that was built after the 2010 earthquake.   I met the founder of the school (Laura Pincus Hartman) in Aix-en-Provence of all places and once I heard about the school and her vision for it, I knew I had to get involved.   We have been working with Laura since May – helping to raise awareness and funds.   We escorted her to CANNES LIONS where her school was one of three non-profits chosen by Microsoft and FastCompany to be part of the Create GOOD campaign.   We went to New York City with her in November to attend the FastCompany Innovation Festival where she was part of a panel session on the importance of innovation for non-profits.  And over the holidays we hosted a party in Aix-en-Provence that raised more than 6,000 Euros for the school and resulted in three students getting sponsored.

So, last week I was excited to finally meet the students and staff of this school that has become such a big part of my life.  After 10 hours on an airplane, months of planning (I even arranged for my 16 year old daughter to come with me – taking her out of school for a week and giving her the job of photo journalist), I landed in Miami only to find out that the trip to Haiti was cancelled!   No, not because of the Zika virus – that is a threat for sure – but the visit was cancelled because of political issues that have been haunting the country forever but were reaching a fiery peak.  Haiti’s presidential election process was being protested and demonstrations were turning violent.   Choix made the very difficult decision to cancel the visit to the school.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Everyone was disappointed but we all understood.  The school is in Mirebalais, which is 60 km northeast of Port-au-Prince, and many roads were blocked making transport difficult and unpredictable.   This is one of the realities of working in Haiti – unexpected surprises.   Fortunately for Choix, all of its staff and students were safe and not directly impacted by the political protests.  Since we couldn’t be there in person,  Ione Cassens, the school’s director in Haiti, prepared these images that show a day in the life of Choix students.   We all found the photos extremely helpful in making us feel like we were there.


Ione often sends out spot updates, which are always interesting and enjoyable.  She routinely shares both school successes and challenges.  She has described the school’s intricate safety procedures – pointing out that these are in effect all the time and not just now because of the political unrest.   She’s always looking out for the student’s best interests.   A recent example is the Homework club she created to ensure that students without support at home got the help they need to keep their grades up.    The philosophy at Choix seems to be centered on teaching its students to be good to themselves, good to others and to always put their best effort forward.  (What a simple and great way to go about life!)  So far, it looks like this is paying off.   Ione reports on how well the Choix graduates are performing compared to their peers and one common attribute is their motivation.

When I returned from this trip I couldn’t help but feel a little defeated and that I wasted so much time and energy.  But, my daughter pointed out that there was nothing we could have done to change the situation.  It was totally out of our control.  And, even though we didn’t get there in person this time, it doesn’t change anything.  Our support is still needed and valid.  (I knew I brought her for a reason).
I guess the lesson I learned from this experience is that you can’t predict the future.  You can only do what you think is right.   The fact is that this school is helping these kids find a better life.  And, anyone that supports the school supports this cause.    I know that I didn’t have to go all the way to Haiti to make a difference (I actually just really wanted to go).   What this school is doing is commendable and has the ability to change the course of history for Haiti.  One final observation:  some of the challenges Haitian children face are not that different from what kids in inner city schools in the U.S. have to deal with  – bullying and gang violence take the place of political unrest, but the rest is very similar – lack of support at home, uneducated parents, extreme poverty.  It’s striking how similar the most advanced country in the world can be compared to Haiti in this area.   
Thanks for letting me share this information with you.  The school is planning its next on-site visit around graduation on June 25. If any of you are interested in visiting Choix– please let me know and I’ll include you on the details as they become available.
2017-10-22T15:38:12+00:00February 6th, 2016|