Where we’re headed
The 2010 earthquake devastated Haiti, and specifically the densely over populated Port-au-Prince. In the years since the disaster, billions of dollars of aid have gone into reconstructing and rebuilding many areas. While a lot of important work has cleared away most of the post-earthquake destruction, aid has fallen far short of uplifting the neighborhoods and communities that were struggling economically before the disaster. Many neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince have little access to clean drinking water and reliable electricity. According to the CIA World FactBook, currently almost 30% of households in the major urban cities do not have electricity, and of those that do, 88% have no access to the internet.
Since the earthquake, we at The Larocco Haiti Project have implemented many programs and projects to help uplift communities in Port-au-Prince. We have retrofitted houses, and brought fresh drinking water and reliable sanitation to over 15 homes and family communities. We are working on developing some new projects and initatives in the coming months that we are really excited about. Along with stable houses, clean water and reliable electricity, we are looking to the future. Education is a big priority to us, and we have some exciting news coming up in the coming months. Stay tuned!
How we got started
I am passionate about helping others. My family emigrated from Haiti to New York City in 1970 when I was a young girl. I spent my adult life assimilating to American life, working in various positions and industries and raising my two children. Now, at the tender age of 54, with work experience as entrepreneur, realtor, insurance agent, financial advisor, and legal headhunter, I am eager to return to my core values: connecting with and impacting people who have a real need, in a specific and beneficial way.
Like many pre-baby boomers, I seek to transition into the non-profit world and expand the scope and impact of the foundation I have founded working in Haiti. After the 2010 earthquake, I mobilized my friends and family to donate large sums of money to help with disaster relief. We raised tens of thousands of dollars for aid, but when I visited four years later, I was dismayed to see how little impact our donations had made on the lives of people living in Port-au-Prince. I knew then I had to get more involved; Haiti requires hands on experience and guidance, not aimless donations. Since then, I have traveled back as frequently as I can afford, overseeing reconstruction and retrofitting of housing in some of the most neglected neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince. I have organized and managed many projects in the past two years, including bringing fresh running water and sanitation upgrades to several households, and opening and supplying clothing inventory for two micro-businesses. It is both the most rewarding and most frustrating work I have ever done, but also the most necessary. Every successfully completed project pulls back the curtain of a myriad other equally pressing needs.
I am really proud of the work that my small foundation has achieved in the past two years, but the time is now to scale our efforts. We have several effective models for putting people to work, and teaching life long skills. I am passionate to grow my foundation and expand the programs that we offer and the projects that we can complete. Haiti is at a crossroads. Most of the rubble from the earthquake is gone, exposing the country’s underlying problems in its wake. I see the problems first hand. As a native, I understand some of them. As a social entrepreneur, I know that we can help fix them.
At LaRocco, we started out with the most pressing needs- rebuilding destroyed houses, and bringing stable, fresh drinking water to families in need. Completing these projects was incredible – watching these families have a stable supply to live, cook and clean with on a daily basis is incredible. Completing these projects brings to light other important needs, like education. In Haiti, public schools are rare. Roughly 87% of all school aged children have to go to private schools- each with a sizable tuition, expensive uniforms, and book fees.
While we continue rebuilding homes and building water and sanitation infrastructure, we have also launched our Education Re-admittance Initiative, which identifies students who were forced to leave school because of the earthquake and due to familial poverty are unable to rejoin the school system. Since September 2015, we have successfully re-enrolled students in our program into several schools throughout Port-au-Prince. We supply their tuition, uniforms and school supplies.
As awesome (and successful!) as this new project has been, most of our students come from homes without reliable electricity. Many of our students leave the classroom and go home to houses without lights or desks to complete their assignments. This makes keeping up with their studies and completing their homework almost impossible.
Luckily! We were able so score some incredible land right in the heart of the Carrefour Feuille region, and we want to build a community center there! The center will host 2 rooms for quiet study with individual desks and lights, 2 classrooms with blackboards and projection, with computers and internet access; and one large communal space for instruction in various vocational skill sharing.
This center is integral to supporting our students’ academic progress by giving them a safe and reliable place with electricity and internet to complete their homework. But, the community center will also be open to the community of people who need a place to complete school work. We have an amazing team on the ground that has experience in after-school activities and homework support who are eager to support students serious about their education.
We have consulted with three trusted architects and have received an estimate of $86,000 to construct the center, and $14,000 to add reliable electricity, plumbing and internet access with a projected timeline to be completed in approximately 6 months. At LaRocco, we firmly believe in sourcing the best local contractors who focus on apprenticeship programs. We’re excited about building a new center, employing hundreds of workers, and expanding access to education!