Two elementary schools were directly impacted by a massive tornado in the Oklahoma City area on Monday. It brings to mind a storm from a 1996 tornado which destroyed the Allardt Elementary School in Fentress County.More >>
Two elementary schools were directly impacted by a massive tornado in the Oklahoma City area on Monday. It brings to mind a storm from a 1996 tornado which destroyed the Allardt Elementary School in Fentress County. More >>
Each morning, more than 1,300 students at the primary school in Boucan Carre stand as their nation's flag is raised.
When members of the Haiti Outreach Program first came to the school, it looked very different.
"When I first arrived, it was falling down," says John Stone, the first person from the program to come to Haiti. "We had 300 students. It was unsafe. One wall caved in."
This was Stone's first trip back in six years, and he was amazed at all that's changed.
"It's really been gratifying experience," Stone said. "I came here knowing there has been infrastructure change in the last six years, but I was really surprised by the element that really struck me most was the interaction with the people."
Stone said when he first came, people had never met an American, and they were very nervous. Now they're warm and friendly when members of the group come to visit.
Money raised by the Haiti Outreach Program built the two story school building. Each month, they donate more than $5,000 to keep the school running.
Besides an education the children are also getting good meals. When program members first came, many of the children had orange and red hair, a condition caused by malnutrition.
When the school was built, a lunch program started. There's a kitchen in the back where beans and rice are cooked on open fires.
For many students, it's the only meal they'll eat for the day.
"There is no electricity," says Jarett Beaudoin, a UT student who went on the trip. "They have two outhouses. There is no air conditioning. The windows are just holes in the walls."
Even though conditions may seem primitive to Americans, the Haitian people are grateful for what they have, and the help they've received.
"Thanks to the help of the people of Knoxville, we have the place to send our kids to school," said one of the nuns at the school.
"When you come here and you're surrounded by hundreds of little children signing to you, it makes your heart soar," said Billy Stair, a member of the Haiti Outreach Program. "It's an incredible feeling."
Much more needs to be done at the school, including fixing minor damage caused by the earthquake in January.
But Haiti Outreach Members are inspired by the progress of their first project, and hope the school continues to grow to help the young Haitians build better lives.
Since the earthquake, the primary school had to start an evening class because of the increase of students from Port-au-Prince. They still need to raise money to pay for the teachers needed for that.