After the last of Team Rubicon left the country my focus has changed from medical to educational. There are now over 40 camps of refugees in Port au Prince with population estimates ranging from 240,000 to 600,000. Each of these camps are filled with children who have been away from school for about a month and wonder aimlessly with little to keep them occupied. Last week some of us were talking about the possibility of setting up refugee schools for these kids, and two days later the Jesuit Province was behind the idea. Foi et Joie, the school system I work for, will be setting up camp schools in three of the largest areas of displaced people in the city. Our estimates are that we will be educating around 7,000 students, something that even raised the eyebrows of our friends over at UNICEF.
As you can imagine, the planning going into this is enormous, and includes recruiting teachers, requesting funding, meeting with other NGO’s, securing tents, classroom materials, and everything else that any school would have. At times it seems overwhelming, but I do have confidence in our team and the products of Fe y Alegria around the world. One walk through the camps lets me see firsthand the tremendous need in the educational area, and rekindles the hope that some of these emergency schools might grow into something permanent.
One last comment… it has been very interesting for me this past month to work with every religious denomination under the sun. I have been with Scientologists, Mennonites, Evangelicals, Jews, Lutherans, and the list goes on. Today in talking with the local leadership of the Mormon Church it was mentioned to me that 85% of the quality education in Port au Prince before the quake was run by the Catholic Church. The man who said this is currently working on getting us school supplies for our refugee schools. I love my Catholic faith tremendously, and that is no secret to anyone who knows me. That said, ours schools in English are called “Faith and Joy,” and that faith is purposely left open-ended. With enough of this faith we can get these schools up and going so the children of Port au Prince do not lose a purpose and a focus for their future.