Back in Haiti six months after the devastating January 2010 earthquake, long-time honorary consul general Dr. Eric Pierre was still unsure of the role he could play to help alleviate the suffering in the land of his birth when he ran into a local priest.
Having just secured a piece of land, the cleric offered it to Dr. Pierre in return for the construction of a kindergarten school.
Ecole St. Paul de Corail Cesselesse was opened last January mainly with funds provided by Haitian nationals and their Canadian friends through the annual Pierspective Entraide Humanitaire (PEH) fundraising gala held last Saturday night.
Pierre, a dentist and Haiti’s top diplomat in Toronto since 1995, said the first phase of the building cost nearly $200,000.
“It’s a two-storey building and we are now looking for funds to complete the second storey,” said Pierre. “That should cost about $150,000.”
A group of French Canadian students provided labour during a visit while a friend of the priest donated money to build a basketball court outside the school.
“It has been a total team effort,” said Pierre. “But we still have a far way to go because the money we are raising is just for the building. We do not pay for things like desks, chairs and the teachers’ salaries. The priest is taking care of that from his end and we don’t know how long he will be able to sustain that.”
The school currently accommodates about 120 junior and senior kindergarten kids.
“The children are in a stable environment and they are learning with the help of some very talented teachers,” said Pierre. “We are very impressed with the quality of the teachers.”
To show its gratitude to Canadians engaged in Haiti’s redevelopment, PEH presented Humanitarian Awards to Sankofa Juba and Rayjon Share Care at its annual awards fundraiser.
Sankofa developed a program – Remembering and Celebrating Haiti’s 200 years of Independence – that was aired on community radio station CHRY 105.5FM and provided a bursary for students in Cite Soleil. He has travelled to Haiti before and after the earthquake and plans to create a social enterprise community centre in Haiti that will include a school and business centre.
A spoken word artist and dub poet, Jamaican-born Sankofa has travelled to Ghana to honour his African roots.
Located in Sarnia, Rayjon Share Care is a volunteer organization that focuses on development projects in Haiti.
Order of Canada recipient, Dr. Samuel Pierre, was the keynote speaker at the annual fundraising gala.
Migrating 35 years ago to pursue post-secondary studies, he’s a professor in the department of computer & software engineering at Polytechnique Montreal and the director of the Mobile Computing & Networking Research Laboratory.
Pierre is also the president of GRAHN-World, a think tank of Haitian professionals in Quebec that emerged after the 2010 earthquake.
“This is our way of using the skills and talent we have in various areas to give back to Haiti,” said Pierre, who last May was bestowed with an honorary doctorate by the University of Quebec. “We are dedicated to contributing to the emergence of a new Haiti, which is an open democratic society. For a better Haiti, we need universal access to quality education and basic health care and wealth and job creation in all regions of the country for reducing unemployment and poverty.”