THE NEED - The security and success of a nation depend upon the communities which comprise it. The ability of these communities to thrive derives from the adult population and the degree to which they are able to support the education and welfare of their families and neighbors. Therefore, the long-term viability of a nation relies entirely on its children and the education they receive. Without an educated populace, there can be no economic growth even with investment, primarily from outside the country, in the business and physical infrastructure of the country.

    Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere with an unemployment rate of 75-80%. Government-sponsored schools, medical care, infrastructure such as good roads, and the more mundane necessities of life are clearly not adequate. Government-sponsored schools cost $60/yr/student plus the cost of a uniform which the government mandates for accreditation. Few families can afford that fee, although it seems minimal by industrialized nation standards.

    Therefore, the only hope for educating the vast majority of children in Haiti is through the auspices of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as the Robert Ford Haitian Orphanage and School Foundation as described in the “background” section of this website.

    The School at Grison-Garde is such an NGO-supported effort designed, built, and managed by the members of the Grison-Garde community. In 2002, Dr. Robert Ford, a mathematician and business man, underwrote the initial construction of this facility. Since then it has been supported by the Robert Ford Orphanage and School Foundation, a non-profit, secular tax-exempt organization, headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia.

THE SOLUTION - The school consists of a “Primary” school, with 350 students, offering education from kindergarten through the 8th grade, and a “Secondary” school, with 80 students, offering education from the 9th through 12th grades. Since the earthquake of January 12, 2010, the mass exodus of about 800,000 people from the earthquake area has resulted in an increase of our Primary School population from 350 to 490 and of the Secondary School from 80 to 210. The subjects taught are those found in any western school including “English”. All students must wear a uniform, approximately $20/student, (in order for the school to receive government accreditation). The cost for a primary student is approximately $100/yr and for a secondary student $150/yr. All Primary School students receive a meal – not included in the costs listed above – on school days.

    The Primary and Secondary Schools use the same classrooms. Therefore, the Primary students attend in the morning and the Secondary students in the afternoon. Construction of a Secondary School was started but was put on hold after the earthquake and the funds used to support the additional students. Funds are being sought to finish this construction and to add an additional 3 classrooms to the Primary School. This increase in enrollment required the addition of several teachers and more will be needed when construction is complete. Until then, space in the large, open vocational school (see below) is being used to handle the overflow.

    More recently, a separate Vocational School, named the "Rita-Christine Vocational School", was built thanks to the generosity of a single donor. Its mission is to focus on teaching skills necessary to provide for the community and to prepare the student for his/her life as a contributing, productive adult. Classes in sewing and hand-carpentry are now in session and courses in mechanics, welding, masonry and computers will be added in the near future

    Nine treadle-type sewing machines are on hand and both instruction and clothing for sale are currently offered. Funds have been donated for hand carpenter’s tools and carpentry classes have begun. The cost of construction of the vocational school was approximately $125,000, exclusive of equipment, and the annual operating expenses currently are $25,000. Students of all ages, including some adults, are enrolled and, as for the other schools, instruction is free.

MORE SCHOOLS - Not all the children in the Grison-Garde region can be served by the Robert Ford School. Therefore, members of the community including several teachers started a new school with encouragement and some support from the Robert Ford Foundation. This school, The Tremesse School, has a student body of approximately 100 children of all ages. Presently, it resides in a relatively crude, but effective, structure but funds for a more permanent facility are being sought. Five teachers from Cap Haitien (about 25 miles north) and from the Robert Ford School donate their time after they finish their day elsewhere. They built the structure and local carpenters built the bench desks shown. The students are an enthusiastic bunch of children who love to gather and sing for visitors.

    PLAYGROUND - In February, 2010, a large playground was donated and built on the Orphanage&School grounds by "Tilt-A-World". This large structure with swings, slides, climbing walls, etc. was an instant success with the children of all ages. So much so, in fact, that the principals had to shutdown access to it in the evenings so that the students could focus on their homework.

    More and larger photos of each of these schools and the playground may be viewed in the Photos Section section of this website.

    Therefore, the dream of Dr. Robert Ford is being realized. Indeed, the community of Grison-Garde can be very proud of its efforts. It was their idea - they built it, they own it and that is why it works.