Haiti: A school gives vulnerable children an opportunity
Tilory, 18 July 2017 - Many Haitians have been forced to migrate both internally and to neighboring Dominican Republic due to natural disasters such as the 2010 earthquake or severe poverty. This migration often has lead to serious human rights violations, such as the abuse of laborers, sexual and gender-based violence, the abuse of children, and human trafficking. Haitian children are particularly vulnerable, often being trafficked and forced to serve as domestic servants, agricultural workers, or street vendors.
Such danger is evident in Tilory, a border town in Haiti. There, children known locally as "restaveks" work as domestic servants and are often exploited and abused. Other children end up begging on the streets of border towns in either the Dominican Republic or Haiti, making themselves vulnerable to violence. Further adding to their vulnerability, Tilory is located in a remote area with winding unpaved road, and does not have enough schools for all children in the community.
JRS/USA, with a mission to educate, serve, and advocate for refugees and other forcibly displaced people, used a comprehensive approach to reduce the suffering of this community through educational and economic opportunities. JRS/USA did this through a generous contribution from Dr. Thaddeus Regulinski, building a school, creating a training center, and providing access to clean water.
The school, which took two years to construct, is a three-story building with a total of 15 classrooms and will accommodate 510 students. It also has solar panels that provide electricity, enabling the community to make use of the building day and night.
JRS/USA also developed water purification and reforestation efforts in Tilory and neighboring communities. Together with partners in Haiti and Dominican Republic, JRS/USA helped to complete a community pilot farming training center, intensive irrigation, seedling, and tree planting activities.
"The school is a living legacy to your children, and their children, and the children of their children," said Dr. Regulinski during the opening ceremony of the school on May 26.
Liana Tepperman, Program Officer at JRS/USA, says the community of Tilory was part of the school construction, and now have a voice in the management of the school, selection of teachers and ensuring that their children receive a quality education. "JRS, with Dr. Regulinski's support, only provided the opportunity, and now it is up to the community to make something of it, and they have expressed and demonstrated a strong desire to do so," added Tepperman.
JRS/USA has worked with local partners to serve the needs of Haitian migrants and stateless people of Haitian descent for more than 15 years, building upon the migration and refugee protection work carried out by the Jesuits of the Dominican Republic and Haiti for the last 70 years. The opening of the school represents the completion of this work started in response to the earthquake that caused widespread destruction and displacement of Haitians in 2010.