It has been more than one year since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake wreaked havoc across Haiti, causing enough devastation to leave the nation in a state of disarray for the foreseeable future. Immediately after the earthquake, Americans banded together to provide relief and support for the country. Local teens continue to be a part of that effort.
A year before the earthquake, Carolyn Muir, a New Trier High School teacher, began a fundraising effort to rebuild St. Joseph School in Petit-Goâve—a school attended by New Trier security guards Maurice Bonhomme and Jean Cayemitte. Bonhomme’s father founded the school, which is non-denominational.
“The school had become very run down,” said Muir. “There was no running water, holes in the roof and no electricity. Our goal in Haiti was to raise enough money to rehabilitate the school, until the earthquake completely destroyed it.”
Petit-Goâve was severely damaged during the earthquake and with nearly 1,300 dead, 5,600 injured and 99,000 people living in shelters, it was in desperate need of outside help. New Trier doubled its efforts to raise enough money to rebuild the school entirely and help the citizens of Petit-Goâve who suffered massive losses after the earthquake. New Trier has partnered with many local schools and non-profit organizations to strengthen their fund-raising power and also to ensure that community member donations would be tax-deductible.
Many New Trier students have taken initiative in raising money for Haiti. Sophomore Jill Lurie was among the group of students who played a big part in New Trier's fundraising efforts.
"I would tag along with our sponsors and other students to talk at junior highs and middle schools about our goal," Lurie explained. "I also spread the word and raised money at the Northfield [freshman] campus by selling New Trier Haiti Project T-shirts and by helping organize the Haiti Walk."
Other student-led fundraising efforts included selling jewelry, bake sales, a pancake breakfast and more. Deborah Lazar, a New Trier librarion, who is working with the American Library Association to rebuild libraries in Haiti, said students in French classes helped translate children’s books from English to French to send to Haitian children.
A benefit concert for libraries in Haiti is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. at the Winnetka YO.
Although the Haiti project has already raised quite a bit of money, there is still work to be done.
“Seeing the community with a goal of helping kids in Haiti has been great,” Muir said. “So far we have raised $100,000 but it is not enough.”
Due to increased construction and materials costs, Muir estimates that they still need to raise somewhere between $25,000 and $50,000 to rebuild the schools and buy proper desks and school supplies for the students and teachers. Money donated to the project will go towards installing plumbing, electricity, an indoor bathroom and a kitchen. The new additions will allow children hospitable conditions to attend school as well as provide them with daily hot meals.
New Trier has partnered with local non-profit organizations Little By Little and Architecture for Humanity.
"We are responsible for the designs for the school itself and the coordination of the transition to an Architect of Record, as well as the construction timeline and process itself," said Geoff Malia, who works with Architecture for Humanity. "To date Architecture for Humanity - Chicago has donated over $50,000 worth of pro-bono design and project management services to Ecole St. Joseph. Currently, we are working hard to finish the redesign in order to advance the project to the next phases and ultimately see it into construction."
The school hopes to increase fundraising efforts between April and June and take another team next summer to begin construction on the new school.
"The importance of this project is best illustrated in the words of nine-year-old Nalia, who has already asked Petit-Goâve librarians to make sure the new library is painted in the brightest of colors. She told them the town has been 'a dark, dull ghost town' since the earthquake and 'if I had crayons, I’d show you how bright I mean.'
All donations to New Trier’s Haiti project are tax deductible. Donations can be made online at http://newtrier.revtrak.net/tek9.asp?pg=default.