Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ) is thrilled to announce the opening of the first free middle and high school to serve the children of the slums of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. On October 18, 2010, 50 grade seven students were welcomed into their new classrooms at The Academy for Peace and Justice. The school is managed by pioneering doctor and priest Father Rick Frechette and St. Luc, a program that provides education and meals in the poorest areas of Haiti.
A fundraising effort founded by Oscar-winning writer/director Paul Haggis and friends in 2008, APJ has been working towards this day for more than two years. While education is the priority at the school, food, drinking water and medical care are also being provided to every student-making the campus a much-needed source of comfort and security.
“Haiti has, by far, the lowest enrollment, completion, and literacy rates of any country in the Western Hemisphere,” says Haggis. “Up until this point, if you were a child born in Cite Soleil or surrounding slums and you were lucky enough to go to school-which maybe 20% of kids were-you could go as far as grade six, and that was it. Then you were out on the street, with almost no chance of getting a job or making a decent living.”
APJ hopes to change this by making higher education accessible to the children from the slums. “No child will ever be turned away from the Academy because they don’t have the money,” says Haggis. “Father Rick has found that education is valued more if it’s earned, and so many of the families will ‘pay’ for their child’s tuition by picking up trash or plastic bags.”
The Academy is fully dependent on private donations to APJ from individuals, corporations and organizations. “We are thrilled to be partnering with We Are The World Foundation, which is funding the Quincy Jones/Lionel Richie Music Academy,” says Haggis. The music school is currently in the design and planning stages, with the goal of breaking ground in the next few months.
The students at the Academy for Peace and Justice were selected from APJ-supported street schools and St. Luc primary schools. In addition to the required Haitian curriculum, the school will provide additional programs in music, art, film, computers, as well as vocational training in agriculture, accounting and medical support. Each class is expected to have between 250 and 400 students for a student body that will grow to roughly 2,800 over the coming years (additional students may be enrolled in arts and vocational programs). When construction is complete, the school will utilize solar and wind energy, and include an amphitheater, basketball courts and an edible garden.
The Academy of Peace and Justice is not only giving the youth of Port-au-Prince brighter futures but, because the campus is being built by a team of Haitian architects and construction teams, the local economy is experiencing a boost and a new group of skilled workers is being created. Even the school’s uniforms are being made on campus at the vocational school.
“There is an urgency to help Haitians rebuild their country,” says Dr. Reza Nabavian, executive director of APJ. “We strongly believe that education is the key to a sustainable recovery of this devastated nation and that this school will serve as a best-practice model for the ongoing education initiatives in Haiti.”
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