Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. The word Haiti means “land of the high mountains.” Haiti relies heavily on agriculture, mainly subsistence farming. It has been heavily influenced by Spain, France and the United States but they finally won their independence in 1804 from the French and became the first free black republic in the world.
Natural disasters, such as the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, frequently afflict the nation of Haiti. The economy and infrastructure have been severely affected, and much rehabilitation and long-term development are necessary. The unemployment rate in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is currently estimated to be at 40.6%. Destitution is the norm, as the minimum wage is $3.50 a day and a living wage would be $28 a day. Limited business and employment opportunities force many to scramble through traffic every day to sell anything they can - mangoes, water, phone cards, used clothing, etc. It is no surprise, therefore, that most families cannot afford to send their children to school or eat more than one hot meal a day as they struggle to pay their living expenses.
WCF sponsors teams to run intensive English camps, computer camps, and vocational skills camps (i.e. sewing and construction) and conducts business seminars on topics such as Ethics, Business Plan Development, Marketing, Budgeting, and many other relevant topics. These development projects are aimed at empowering individuals with skills that will enable them to work and support themselves and their families.
WCF is in the pre-planning stages of establishing a Life Center in Haiti with our partners to offer these programs on a more continuous and permanent basis.
Lack of access to education is a key obstacle to economic development in Haiti. The majority (85%) of primary schools are privately owned and require tuition fees. Due to the widespread unemployment and an extremely low minimum wage, most families cannot afford to send their children to school. The average Haitian 25 years or older has less than 5 years of schooling. 60% of children drop out of school by the sixth grade. Very few Haitians receive higher education, which severely limits their ability to succeed in the labor force. Haiti has one government university and approximately 200 private higher education institutions, of which less than 50 are accredited. Through English, computer, and vocational skills camps and business training, WCF aims to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary for success.
WCF has been involved in Haiti since its inception in 2007. WCF began by primarily sponsoring medical clinics as well as funding community projects with our partners in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel. Over time, WCF began supporting existing food and nutrition programs in those two locations. The combined food programs feed approximately 250 children five times a week, all year long.
The number of Haitians facing food insecurity has more than doubled in the past year due to the continuing natural disasters that continue to plague the country such as the 2016 Hurricane Matthew. More than a third of the country is being put into greater poverty and hunger. WCF is sponsoring a food and nutrition program for needy children in two partner locations in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel. WCF has in the past sponsored medical clinics, earthquake disaster relief, and business development projects with our partners.
WCF is in the process of launching the Haiti Life Center, a permanent community center designed to provide job skills to members of disadvantaged communities in partnership with our partner Caribbean Grace Tabernacle (CGT), founded and led by Haitian national Elsie Lherisson in Port-Au-Prince since 1996.
English has become the universal language for the Internet and business in general. Proficiency in English is now highly valued and in much demand in Haiti, a French and Creole speaking nation situated very near English-speaking America, Canada and other English speaking Caribbean countries.
Many employers in Haiti are now asking for English proficiency as a job requirement. For example, the tourism sector is growing with several new hotels in Port-au-Prince and an increase in international travelers by nearly 20% in the last couple of years. Other businesses must interact with English language based businesses around the world.
WCF aims to empower young people, particularly those in difficult life circumstances, with English skills essential for their success in the labor force.
Other technical training that will be added to the Life Center will include Business English and Computer skills.