One month after the quake, the Aristide Foundation opened mobile schools in five refugee camps across Port-au-Prince. Throughout the spring these schools held open-air classrooms led by young high school and college graduates, offering a refuge for children who survived the quake. The schools gave the kids a safe place to go each day to relax, learn and spend time with supportive adults in the midst of the utter calamity they were living though. The mobiles schools served 1,200 children five days a week and employed 100 young Haitians during the first few critical months after the quake.
By summer as schools across the city began to slowly reopen, we ended the full time mobile school program. We had never intended the project to be permanent, and we did not have the funds to keep the schools open indefinitely.
However, in Nazon (central Port-au-Prince), Fontamara (Carrefour) and Tapage (La Plaine) the monitors along with the parents and members of these communities decided these schools were so important, and the collaboration was so successful, that they determined one way or another to keep the schools going on their own.
On Saturday April 24 thousands of children from the AFD Mobile School gathered for a cultural celebration at the Aristide Foundation. Since late February the AFD has been operating open-air classrooms serving 1260 children who lost their homes in the January 12, 2010 earthquake. The schools are in refugee camps at Fontamara, Nazon, Tarpage, Carredeux, and Building 2004.
For two weeks leading up to the event teachers and kids in the Mobile Schools prepared presentations on the theme “Life with Love.” On the afternoon of the 24th buses from the Foundation brought the children, their families, and friends to the AFD for the event — over 2000 people in all.
Marie Stuart Roche, the director of the Mobile School project welcomed all the kids to the Foundation — which she reminded them is their home.
Toussaint Hilaire, the Director of the AFD welcomed the children and their families on behalf of former President Aristide and his wife. He reaffirmed to them the Foundation’s commitment to work with them for a better life –a better life meaning: school, food, healthcare, hospitals and parks for them to play in.
Zamor, the coordinator of the schools at Nazon then took over as MC and introduced the kids, who put on a spectacular show. The kids from the schools at Nazon danced and sang, the schools from Fontamara put together a threatrical piece about what they lived through at the moment of the earthquake. The kids from the camps near Building 2004 danced and read poetry. The schools at Carradeux and Tarpage performed music and danced.
All the children who attended received new t-shirts, part of a large gift of new clothing from American Apparel. The AFD is distributing these clothes to the kids in the Mobile Schools and to others living in refugee camps around Port-au- Prince. We want to thank American Apparel for the generous donation. There are a lot of used clothes coming into Haiti as donations right now, and while people are in great need of all kinds of assistance, it is especially nice to be able to give the kids new clothes — made in the US, and sweatshop-free to boot.
After the event, everyone present, teachers, kids and their families shared a meal together. It was chance for everyone to be out of the mud and heat that is a daily part of their lives and to celebrate what the teachers and kids in the Mobile Schools have accomplished together over the past two months, under these extraordinary circumstances.