Photo: ACT/Maria Havala
Jauvalda Francique is 3 years old and eager about school, especially since the school she’s attending is new and her parents helped build it.
The school building in Jauvalda’s hometown of Léogâne, Haiti, was nearly destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake.
A year later, École Saint Matthieu has risen from the rubble.
Thanks to ELCA Disaster Response, the new school building is strong and designed to withstand earthquakes, floods and hurricanes.
Supported by contributions from ELCA members and congregations, ELCA Disaster Response partnered with The Lutheran World Federation to spearhead this school project. As members of the ACT Alliance, these organizations hope that the school will serve as a model for providing practical, safe and inspiring environments in which children, who have lived through extraordinary upheavals and distress, can hope for a better future.
“I’m happy to be back at school,” says 11-year-old Josette Jean Pierre. “I’m not even scared anymore.”
Many children, particularly in Léogâne, were traumatized by the earthquake. Léogâne was the quake’s epicenter. At least 30,000 people were killed, nine of out 10 families lost homes and nearly all structures were either damaged or destroyed there.
To help students feel safe about returning to school, ACT Alliance members invited families to participate in the construction process.
Parents worked in the construction, and children chose the colors. Families asked that shutters be painted with words in Creole, French, English and even Finnish.
Natural ventilation and plenty of light make the new school a cheerful, comfortable and safe place for children to learn.
“Even more than the blessings of generous giving, (people) in Haiti have expressed gratitude for the willingness of Lutherans to enter into the challenges of this year,” says Daniel Rift, who directs the work of ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal.
“For many of us, our hearts were broken to see the suffering and turmoil being endured as a result of the earthquake, subsequent floods and cholera epidemic,” Dan notes.
“Our hearts have soared to see schools rebuilt, children restored to health, thousands finding safety and shelter, and many who have found new employment,” he says.
As of January 2011, members and friends of the ELCA have shared more than $12 million to help restore Haiti.
Dan says he’s thankful to God “for the fortitude of the Haitian people, especially the resilience of the Lutheran church in Haiti with whom we have worked.”