Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

One Child at a Time

Southporters Aid in Rebuilding Haiti



Primary school students do their homework at HEI’s after school tutoring program in downtown Jacmel.

Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Educate a child? The sky’s the limit.

For Susan Whitcomb, those words couldn’t be more fitting. As a former college professor, this long-time Southport resident has been restructuring the way some kids are educated in Haiti.

Tropical and mountainous, Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. There are very few public schools. Most are privatized and run by religious or non-governmental organizations. Only a third of Haitian children reach the sixth grade. Often without textbooks, notebooks, or paper, they must memorize what they’re given. Electricity is sparse. Potable water is scarce. Illiteracy hovers around 50 percent. In a country slightly smaller than Maryland ravaged by years of political corruption and natural disasters, Whitcomb sees only the beauty and potential.

“Poverty has no respect for brains or capability,” she says. “The longer I work in Haiti, the more I appreciate it.” Whitcomb volunteered after the devastating earthquake in 2010. What she saw there made her determined to make a difference. With a little hope and a big idea, she launched Haitian Educational Initiatives (HEI) eight years ago. A 501(c)3 non-profit organization, it provides scholarships to 51 area schools in and around the villages of Jacmel and nearby Cayes-Jacmel.

Initially, her goal was to pay the school fees for ten kids. Today, that number is over 200. This year marks their first graduating high school class. While the average promotion rate in Haiti is five percent, HEI has a rate of 89 percent. “We’re growing a new generation of Haitians,” says Whitcomb, founder and program director of the organization.

Anne Svensk, a former HEI board member and long-time friend, traveled to the Caribbean island with Whitcomb a few years ago. The trip made a huge impact. “I visited two schools there,” she says. “One was an actual building, but the other had no roof. Just corrugated tin on four pillars. Very primitive. But I was impressed with the dedication of HEI and their partners.”

Haiti is not a nation, says Whitcomb, but a cluster of families. Breezing in thinking you can fix everything and go home doesn’t work. To gain a foothold, you need a connection. That’s why it has been important to collaborate with boots on the ground. They work with two local community groups—Fondation Jean Bellande Joseph and Cercles Amis des Enfants en Situation Difficile—to help them problem-solve.

Unlike other aid organizations, this operation has no middleman. Your wallet has a direct connection with the kids who need it most. HEI president Jim Whitcomb praised his sister’s mission. “Money funneled through the government doesn’t go where it’s supposed to,” he explains. “Susy goes down and takes it directly.”

Abigail Franklin, HEI’s secretary, agreed the hands-on relationship with their local partners has been essential and is largely due to Whitcomb’s frequent trips every few months. “In the aftermath of the earthquake, there was a lot of publicity about money pouring in to Haiti and it wasn’t going to the charitable purpose intended,” she says. “There was just a lot of corruption and that affected people’s willingness to donate.”

On average, Whitcomb said 90 cents of every dollar goes into production. By providing funds for school fees, uniforms, learning materials, after-school tutoring, job training, and food programs, these kids can have a brighter future.

“What people don’t realize is that there are a lot of fees associated with going to school in Haiti—exams, uniforms, traveling costs,” explains board member Joanne Delone, co-founder of Haitian Building Unity. “A child may have to walk ten miles or take several taxis to get to school.”

But their focus doesn’t stop at the school room door. HEI has recently partnered with Jakmel Ekspresyon, a vocational school providing higher level training for graduates. They are planning for internships in fields like cooking, tailoring, and computer technology. “HEI is a small organization that has a big impact,” says Delone, Whitcomb saysthat small gestures make a difference. “It’s relatively easy to transform these kids’ prospects—food, books, a sewing machine, and an adult to look after them.”

With their help, HEI’s programs ensure Haiti becomes a richer country with every educated child.

 

Add your comment:

Connect With Us

               

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Catch the Vibe Newsletter

See this weekend's events in the area!
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Homes for the Holiday

The Stratfield Village Association's first annual holiday house tour

Southern Charm

Sauces, jams, dressings to delight

Get Your Crafty On

AR Workshop is a great DIY place

Well Aloha

Pokemoto specializes in Hawaiian bowl-style dishes

Pass the Wine

Elegant Bianco Rosso expands to Trumbull with an acclaimed chef, pastry chef and mixologist

Profiles

Your Guides to Leading Local Professionals

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

January 2019

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Hartford Boat Show (HBS50) features the newest boats on the market including center consoles, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, deck and pontoon boats, sport and...

Cost: $12 in advance online, $14 at the door, $10 Senior/Military one day pass

Where:
Expo Center at Mohegan Sun
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT  06382
View map »


Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and how he influenced the civil rights movement. Watch short films about King's life and create your own craft with colorful papers and ribbons...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: People's United Bank
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Join the area’s leading investment and financial professionals at the CFA Society Hartford’s Annual Forecast Dinner. The group’s premier networking event of the year will be...

Cost: Individual Member seats are $90 before 1/8, $110 for non-members

Where:
Connecticut Convention Center
100 Columbus Blvd.
Hartford, CT  06103
View map »


Sponsor: CFA Society Hartford
Telephone: 860-604-1411
Contact Name: Rebecca Taylor
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join us to explore adventures in stories about Alice in Wonderland, animals, and games!

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »

More information

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for the reception on the opening evening of the exhibition, Ghosts: French Holocaust Children, on Wednesday, January 23rd, from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Walsh Gallery at the Quick Center for...

Cost: 0

Where:
Walsh Gallery
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Join us for a conversation between collector Jeffrey Horvitz and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., (Curator, The Horvitz Collection and The J.E. Horvitz Consultative Curator, Department of Drawings, Division...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield University Art Museum
1073 North Benson Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

A French Affair: Drawings and Paintings from The Horvitz Collection will be on view in the Bellarmine Hall Galleries from January 25 - March 29, 2019; an Opening Reception will take place on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield University Art Museum
1073 North Benson Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Thursday, Jan. 24 Author Talk: Stephanie Land - Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother's Will to Survive, 7 – 8:30 p.m. Maid is showing up on almost every best of, must read, don't miss list of...

Cost: free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Wilton Library
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Contact Name: Wilton Library
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Members and guests are invited to join us for the Election of Trustees, followed by an artist talk by eight photographers with work in the current exhibit. Visit our website at...

Cost: 0

Where:
Carriage Barn Arts Center
681 South Ave.
Waveny Park
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Born from humble beginnings in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, CT The Alpaca Gnomes cut their teeth in the neighborhood bar scene by playing marathon shows filled with originals and a wide...

Cost: $15.00 - $20.00

Where:
Wall Street Theater
71 Wall Street
Norwalk, CT  06850
View map »


Sponsor: Jeanne Moore
Telephone: (203) 831-5004
Contact Name: Jeanne Moore
Website »

More information

Are you a lifelong with a passion for sharing history? Find out about becoming a Museum Docent! Docents are trained volunteer educators who present guided tours and other education programs to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Saturday, Jan. 26 Mini Golf Family Day in the Stacks at Wilton Library, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Wilton Library will hold its 2nd mini golf fundraising event. There will be food (each paid admission will...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Wilton Library
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Contact Name: Wilton Library
Website »

More information

  Touchon transforms verbal language into handsome geometric compilations, to reveal the beauty and musicality of language characterized by warmly colored shapes, interlocking irregular grids and...

Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags