History of Return 2 Haiti
Many supporters around the world associate the names Pierre and Cynthia Balthazar with Education for Prosperity. The establishment of Return2Haiti and its tri-focus of education, health and environment are because of the lessons learned over more than a decade with a singular focus on education.
The roots of Education for Prosperity (the U.S. based nonprofit supporting the school founded in 2000) efforts in Haiti lie in the “town hall meeting.” In August 1999 Pierre Balthazar and David Smith visited Pichon to attend a gathering arranged by Pierre’s brother, Liné, who directs a Haiti-based non-profit organization dedicated to rural development. The purpose of the meeting was to ask local people what they would like to do in their village that could be supported by grassroots efforts in the U.S. The material needs of the village were many, given that they had no jobs, no healthcare, no electricity, and no fresh drinking water. A quick consensus emerged from the consultation – in spite of the pressing physical and infrastructure needs they wished to have a school for their children.
In January 2000 enough funds were raised to hire the first teachers and launch Lekol Pa Nou (Creole for “Our School”) to serve pre-school through first grade students. As the years went by additional grades were added, new teachers were hired, classroom were donated by European relief agencies, and the network of supporters in the U.S. and Canada expanded to keep pace with the growing financial needs. Lekol Pa Nou has had several classes of graduates and is recognized as one of the best schools in southeast Haiti.
In 2011 Lekol Pa Nou, being recognized for its success, the government of Haiti assumed funding responsibility. The timing of this turning point for “Our School” also marked the realization by Pierre and Cynthia Balthazar that while educating the students in rural Haiti was a noble cause, far too many of the students were graduating and moving away, leaving the future of the village in the next generations in question. It was then that the seeds of a new mission were planted in their minds and hearts.
And so, a nonprofit organization dedicated to meeting the needs of Haiti, especially in and around Pichon and Belle-Anse, was born in 2012. The focus was to be a sequenced three-pronged approach to address the needs for sustainable, locally-driven solutions in the areas of education, health, and environment. After five months in development the first meaningful project of Return 2 Haiti was set in motion – a health care initiative which meets the requirements of locally driven and sustainable.
The next project in development is from the education segment, yet intersects with the health project. The goal is to temporarily locate a library in a central location at an existing facility. The library will be for all ages and most of the books will be in French. The space will serve as a base of operation for continuing education for the homeopathic practitioners. Soon after the establishment of the library, plans will be set in motion to create a community center/education hub on already donated land from which visiting volunteers may stay for multi-week visits to conduct training in a variety of trades and disciplines. At the community center Return2Haiti will continue to offer or facilitate training and education initiatives.
As time goes on, the best thinking of both the local residents in and around Pichon and Belle-Anse, and the founders and supporters of Return2Haiti will be needed to set sustainable and meaningful environmental projects in motion.
A plot of land in Haiti has been donated to Return 2 Haiti; it is approximately 2 hectares or 4-5 acres. This land will provide the opportunity to have a base of operation for current and future projects, such as a library, a community center as a gathering place for meetings and trainings as well as technology access. Also planned for this plot of land is a dormitory for visiting service groups and demonstration gardens for possible environmental initiatives. Watch for more news about this plot of land. We will want to name this physical location and would love to have your input on our choices.
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Use our contact form to address any specific questions you might have, we promise to respond promptly. One of the best things you can do is forward the link to this website or our other channels to people you may know that have the heart to help in this important mission for Haiti. Thank you for your support!