The site of the proposed Sgt. Mark Gallagher Vocational School. The site was home to a high school that was destroyed by the earthquake. (Submitted by Friends of Mark Gallagher)

Groups working to build a vocational school in Haiti in memory of Sgt. Mark Gallagher hope to break ground in March, more than two years after the RCMP officer was killed in the earthquake that killed thousands of people.

Gallagher was in Haiti training new police officers as a part of a UN peacekeeping mission when the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit on Jan. 12, 2010.

He was killed when his apartment building collapsed.

Plans have been underway ever since to build the Sgt. Mark Gallagher Memorial Vocational School in a small community about 20 kilometers from the capital Port-Au-Prince, but it's been a challenge, said Richard Blaquiere of the Woodstock-based Friends of Mark Gallagher Committee, one of three groups involved in the project.

Although funding has been coming along well for the $1.25-million, earthquake-resistant school, there has been a lot of red tape, said Blaquiere, who is a teacher at Woodstock High School.

"Building a school in a country that was devastated by the earthquake on a mountain in an earthquake zone is extremely complicated," he added.

Still, the project is important, said Blaquiere, and one he believes Gallagher would have appreciated.


RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher died in the Haiti earthquake in January 2010. (CBC)

"Mark was all about education. His own children (Heather and Shane), by the way, are both highly educated and (his widow) Lisa's an educator. So we feel very, very comfortable that Mark would be...or is...happy with the direction we've taken."

Gallagher's sister-in-law Rosemarie St. Pierre-Willis, who has co-authored a book called Beyond the Call, believes Gallagher would be proud.

"Education was key to Mark and Lisa and they believed, as I believe, that the way out of poverty is through education, so he'd be thrilled," she said.

Will offer 15 programs

The school will offer 15 programs for all 13 communes within Carrefour, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. In addition to basic skills, such as cooking and sewing, organizers hope to provide some trades training, such as plumbing and electrical work.

The school, to be built in Rivière Froide, will admit 500 students who will contribute to the reconstruction of the country and sustainable development of Haiti.

It will replace the school destroyed in the earthquake that killed 150 people — 144 of them children — when the building collapsed.

The federal government is contributing more than $700,000 toward the project.

The school will be built by the Friends of Mark Gallagher, the Quebec-based charity L'Association québécoise pour l'Avancement des Nations Unies (AQANU), and The Little Sisters of St. Thérèse, who run a primary-secondary school in Rivière Froide.

Gallagher, 50, had been stationed in Haiti since July, helping to train the national police force as part of a United Nations mission called Project Co-ordination, based in Port-au-Prince. He was one of 82 police officers from Canada on the UN mission.

Prior to that, Gallagher was based in Halifax and acted as the RCMP spokesman for Halifax and the New Brunswick cities of Moncton and Bathurst.

He joined the Moncton police force in 1985 and became an RCMP officer in 1998.

Gallagher was the recipient of the Queen's Golden Jubilee Commemorative Medal in 2002 and earned the Police Exemplary Service Medal for over 20 years of police service.