Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haiti - Day 7

It's my last day here and I'm sad to leave. There are many, many beautiful things about this place. It's a tropical island, but more than that, the people here are beautiful, interesting and varied. It helps to learn their language and their way of life, so that we can communicate and just talk with one another, sharing experiences and thoughts.

I interviewed the School Manager. He went to school in Business Administration, and worked previously in a bank, and then in the Vocational School here in town. He has been at this school for a little over a year. He is 2nd in charge after the Director of the organization. He guides the curriculum and manages the staff. There is a school Principle, who works with the parents primarily and oversees the pedagogy. At least, this is what I understand given my limited Creole and his limited English. He is shy, though, so I think he understands more than he is able to speak.

What are his dreams, his vision for this school? He has thought about this a lot. The vision is not completely formed in all aspects, but he has some ideas. First, he wants this to be the best school in all of Northern Haiti and then all of Haiti. He wants the reputation to be far-reaching. Anyone who gets a diploma from this school will know to be well-educated and well-prepared to do the next thing in their life. I think that's a good goal.

After that, he is not sure. He thinks that people need to be trained in how to use computers. Not computer science (programming, developing computer programs, hardware or software). Rather, they need to know how to use the computer in their work, no matter what they are doing. They must be able to write letters, work spreadsheets, run databases, etc. There are other work skills that are needed as well around the town.

As an educator, he believes that people must be well-educated and prepared for what they will be doing in life.

The one thing that I haven't heard much about from leaders here that I've spoken with is job creation. How to generate work for those who want it. There are good, smart people who have very little to do. They stand around, sit around. Wander around. Waiting for something to happen. Whenever there is a project -- a building needs building, or a new paint job, or a washed car, or a fixed car, they are ready and willing to help. Some of them have the skills. We have a skilled carpenter and a skilled mechanic, but very little building and very few cars. So they languish.

How can we create good, sustained jobs for them?

I spoke with a local man, who is the mechanic, handyman, yard duty manager for the school, among other things. He shows me around the Jatropha Nursery. I see plants that are 2 years old, with mature pods and seeds. I ask to see the seedlings, so they take me through the mud. As I walk along, the plants get shorter, and shorter, and shorter, til they are only little tufts of green shooting up from the dirt. These are the seedlings, 9 days old. Then 2 months old. The ones I saw when I first came through the gate are 2 years old. I take a picture of the seeds, which are picked, then crushed to create glycerine, biodiesel, etc. Even the pods are crushed and used. Nothing is wasted.

The Handyman says "This is the best project." Why? From this we can make many things. And then we can sell these things. -- He is talking about job creation. More people can grow them. Work with them, sell them, make money. Is that how it works?

How else can we create jobs? I think I need to poke around some more and figure some things out.

That's all for now. I need to eat lunch, so that I can go to the airport (and wait for 2 hours til my flight comes).

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