Rural Children in Haiti Welcome Newly Rebuilt School
November 2, 2011

It takes ten-year-old Lovena almost one and half hours to walk to school every morning from her rural mountain village in Plateau de Fin, Haiti, but she doesn't mind. She and her classmates from the area surrounding the town of Embouchure welcomed the beginning of their academic year this month in a brand new school. Putting your support into action, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) along with ACT Alliance partner, Finn Church Aid provided assistance for the demolition of the old school severely damaged in the 2010 earthquake and the construction of a new earthquake and hurricane resistant building.

Before the earthquake, St. Joseph School consisted of two different buildings. One was made of thick stone walls and the other constructed with wood. The earthquake crumbled the stone walls into heaps of rubble and the remaining wooden structure became very unstable. The newly constructed buildings sit on a new and secure cement foundation that meets international earthquake and hurricane codes.

Although Embouchure is in one of the most remote mountain regions of Haiti, and access to this rugged area is difficult, rebuilding in the same area was crucial to the well-being of these earthquake survivors. St. Joseph School, originally established in 1982, serves as the only school for more than 300 children from 11 villages in the Embouchure region, and the area directly below the school hosts a large weekly market every Tuesday for over 1,000 people who come from near and far. The school also provides community shelter during hurricanes.

Due to the weak educational system in Haiti, and difficulties for children to attend school in rural areas particularly, school children spend between three and 13 years in school. That means a student can be 20 years old, but still at school completing sixth grade. Without the school being rebuilt, access to education would be out of reach to Lovena and many other children in the region. IOCC Director of Programs, Mark Ohanian, says it was extremely important to have permanent and safe structures to accommodate as many children as possible. "Rebuilding St. Joseph School in Embouchure provides the geographically disadvantaged children an opportunity to complete a highly prized education and establishes a community lifeline for the families who are otherwise isolated from the rest of the country."

The year-long rebuilding process of St. Joseph School was slow and difficult because of the rough terrain and heavy rains, but the villagers were ready and willing to help. Through your financial support, IOCC helped provide building materials and temporary jobs for mule owners delivering materials to the construction site as well as work for local men and women who tore down damaged walls, hauled away rubble and rebuilt the school.

Lovena's mother and cousin were among the many parents hired for the reconstruction project. Lovena watched the construction progress with great interest from the nearby temporary school tent. The fourth-grader, who hopes to be a cook one day, thinks the new school is much nicer looking than the old one. "I am very happy to be one of the students studying there," says Lovena.

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, was the strongest tremor to strike the country in more than 200 years, leaving more than 222,000 people dead and more than one million homeless. IOCC has provided more than $4million in direct assistance to the people of Haiti since January 2010.

Lovena's new school in Embouchure has six large classrooms and plans in place to install solar panels next month. As over 90% of rural schools in Haiti do not have electricity, St. Joseph School will be a rare example of a sustainable school where an alternative energy source provides lighting to all rooms.

ABOUT INTERNATIONAL ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHARITIES
IOCC, founded in 1992 as the official humanitarian aid agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), has implemented relief and development programs in more than 40 countries around the world.

How You Can Help
You can help the victims of disasters around the world by making a financial gift to the IOCC International Emergency Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief as well as long-term support through the provision of emergency aid, recovery assistance and other support to help those in need. To make a gift, please visit www.iocc.org, call toll free at 1-877-803-IOCC (4622), or mail a check or money order payable to IOCC, P.O. Box 17398, Baltimore, Md. 21297-0429.

Media contact: Rada K. Tierney, IOCC Media Relations, 443-823-3489, rtierney@iocc.org

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