Wednesday, 24 November 2010

One step at a time…

My colleague Max comes from Luxembourg and is in Haiti to source institutional funding (i.e. funding from governments and development agencies) for SOS Children’s Villages programmes. He told me today that in Luxembourg there is a traditional dance where the people take two steps forward and one step back. This is apparently to remind them that progress is not always easy – you may go forward quickly, it seems, but sometimes you go back. The lesson is not to be put off when progress seems slow – you will make it in the end.

Max’s job in Haiti therefore, is to ensure that the progress SOS Children’s Villages makes is not so quick that it starts to fail, but instead has a solid and secure grounding which will allow them to develop and grow.

Ensuring quality education for the youngest is key to the development of the country. Photo: Hilary Atkins 

One of the most important programmes for Haiti today is education. It is said that up to 4000 schools were affected in the earthquake and possibly 6000 teachers were killed. Can you imagine how many children that touches? One day they are at school, the next they have nowhere to go.

SOS Children’s Village’s has committed to building 10 schools in Haiti which will initially be run by the organisation before being handed over to the government. So Max is working regularly with the Ministry of Education to secure a lasting agreement.

Max says that there are many governments who want to help Haiti rebuild and strengthen its education system and the initial commitment has come from the German government, which will fund the first new school, to be built in the extensive grounds of the SOS Children’s Village at Santo. Because it is due to open in a year’s time this school will be constructed from containers, purpose-built for the job. It will supplement the present school, which currently houses double the number of students that it used to hold, many learning in tents. The German Red Cross has also stepped in and is donating semi-permanent buildings to take in this extra capacity.
4000 schools were destroyed in the earthquake, 6000 teachers killed. Schools that remain standing are overflowing with new students.

But schools are usually better places when children have somewhere to sit. So Max’s first real step forward has been to secure a grant for school furniture which he recently received from the German Embassy in Haiti. In addition, he and other programme staff are hoping to develop a teacher’s training programme for both new and existing teachers who have tended to educate along very traditional lines, and with little formal training. Now Max has to find established and respected partners who will work alongside SOS co-workers in this laudable project.

So it’s going to be a challenging couple of years for Max as he negotiates his way through the many development agencies working in Haiti. He will not only have to show them that SOS Children’s Villages is worth supporting but also convince them that by building a solid foundation, SOS Children's Villages will be contributing to Haiti’s future rather than just the present. Two steps forward, one step back? Maybe for Max, it’s one step at a time…

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