Nova Scotia

Charles P. Allen high students glimpse Haitian school they funded

A remote Haitian village is rejoicing in its new school, entirely constructed by its residents using funds donated by Nova Scotians.

Nova Scotia RCMP also helped fund school in remote village on island of La Gonave

Children play in front of Terre Sel school on La Gonave, Haiti. (Shaina Luck)

A remote Haitian village is rejoicing in its new school, entirely constructed by its residents using funds donated by Nova Scotians. 

In 2008, students at Charles P. Allen High School were able to raise $10,000 towards the construction of a school for the village of Terre Sel, on the Haitian island of La Gonave. 

Nova Scotia RCMP members also contributed toward the building. Construction finished in 2015, at a cost of approximately $39,000. 

The previous school building in Terre Sel was small and dark, and inadequate for the needs of its 77 students. 

The village is in one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of the mountainous island. The main route into the community is a bumpy trail, and it takes about three hours to drive there from the nearest large town. 

CBC took video of the school in Haiti and brought it to the Bedford, N.S., students to get their reactions. 

"Usually we'll raise money for some place but we don't know what the money's actually going to. So seeing the school actually made, and the students, and how it's affecting people's lives is very interesting," said Thomas Downs, who is in Grade 12 at Charles P. Allen. 

"It was a good reminder to show how fortunate we are, and how we can take advantage of how we live. It also made me feel pretty cool to show how you can have such an impact on someone else's life."

Feeling fortunate

"I liked how we got to see where the money went, because normally when you fundraise for something you don't always know exactly where it goes," said Caitlyn Sponagle, also in Grade 12. "But through the video we were able to see how it impacted all those children's lives," 

Thomas Downs and Caitlyn Sponagle are Grade 12 students at Charles P. Allen High School. (CBC)

"It made me feel pretty lucky to have such good education available to me here," she said. "We go to such a nice school, and we're really fortunate."

The Grade 12 students were part of the first class to attend the new Charles P. Allen High School, which opened in 2013. The students noted the difference between their school and the new six-classroom school in Haiti. 

"We have a brand new school here, versus their brand new school. How totally different it is," said Matt LaForest. "Six classrooms is maybe, two or three of ours, probably." 

'I felt pretty proud'

The students were pleased their school was able to make a significant contribution. 

"I felt pretty proud. Ten thousand dollars is a lot of money, especially for our school fundraisers. And to see it going to such a good cause, it's pretty awesome," said LaForest. 

Matt LaForest (left) and Travis Devonport are Grade 12 students at Charles P. Allen High School. (CBC)

Travis Devonport agreed. 

"Here, you could spend $10,000 on maybe a small car, a second hand car, but to know that you're spending $10,000 to help educate and improve the lives of people who really need it, that's a great feeling," he said. 

Next steps

Dr. Valerie Lewis lived on La Gonave for three years and travelled to Terre Sel in February, at the same time as CBC. 

"To actually see money that has been invested, that has gone into the completion of a six-room school, and that they're using it to educate the children and you meet these people, there's a lot of reward to that," she said. 

Dr. Valerie Lewis is investigating how to sustain funding for the Terre Sel School. (Shaina Luck)

Lewis has taken on the project of helping to sustain funding for school supplies and teaching staff. 

"The finishing of the building is just the first step in ensuring that they have the education they need to move forward in their community and their lives," she said. 

Terre Sel students are between grades one and six. Older students must go to the nearest large town for further education, but the village hopes to expand the grades offered in the future. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shaina Luck

Reporter

Shaina Luck is an investigative reporter with CBC Nova Scotia. She has worked with local and network programs including The National and The Fifth Estate. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca

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