Zen and the Art of Building Schools in Haiti

"We were born for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of upper and lower teeth." Marcus Aurelius 121-180 C.E.

OK folks, by now we must acknowledge that the relief and reconstruction efforts in Haiti have missed the mark. The metrics of food, water and shelter have not been met. There are still about 1.3 million people homeless and more without basic necessities. The country also needs a comprehensive rehabilitation, and reconstruction.

There is no recipe for the best way to help Haiti. There is just a lot of need, and it needs to be addressed while planning long term projects. Our organization Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ) faced a dilemma about three months ago. While waiting to acquire land and build our school, we fell short on supporting relief efforts. We adjusted course in time and have since supported a rehabilitation center and a blood bank in the first free Pediatric Hospital in Haiti. But it is important to remember that as the NGO's turn their attention to their long term projects, Haitians continued to suffer.

Immediate reconstruction is crucial for creating jobs and supporting local economies. We may not have all the right answers, but that may be due to the unknown and changing circumstances on the ground. We have the capability to rebuild Haiti using our best technologies. But there is an urgency to start the process. One more meeting and another important conference is not going to make an impact. There needs to be an inflow of cash and job creation right away.

Building homes and schools would be the natural first step.

APJ is building the first free secondary school in Port-au-Prince. The seventh grade will be operational in October, and the rest of the campus is being built as I write these words. It will feature a music school, an auditorium, arts, computers, language and vocational education. The reason for the success of this project lies in the efficiency of our local grassroots partners. This project is being implemented using a Haitian project management team. Construction material and labor is Haitian. We are not forcing a concept into reality. We are facilitating an organic approach to building and operating schools for the children of Haiti. This school will serve as a model for governmental and non-governmental organizations that are still sitting on >$450 million funds that are earmarked for education.

Act now.