By Rhonda Smith
In 2016, Hurricane Matthew devastated the school building in Meloniere, Haiti. Three years later, students still sit in classrooms with crumbling walls and tattered tarp roofs to learn their lessons.
Meloniere is Haiti H2O’s newest community partner. We’ve been introduced to this remote village through our long-time partnership with Pastor Voltaire, who moved here with his family from our partner community, St. Martin. Meloniere is located along a river surrounded by rolling hills. Seasonal flooding often cuts off access to this area. The main occupation in the community is farming and tending small herds of livestock.
When Pastor Voltaire arrived in 2014, church attendance was down to 15 members and the school was in disrepair and struggling to progress. Pastor Voltaire reached out to the community by visiting every person that lived nearby, building up trust and sharing the love of God with everyone. Now the church has 75 members and 200 regular attendees.
In addition, Pastor Voltaire shared his vision of education for the children which inspired the community. The school has grown to more than 200 students, with nine classes, kindergarten through 6th grade. Parents struggle and sacrifice to send a child to school. They see education as the only path to a better life for their children and family.
When the hurricane hit, it further damaged the school building, but it did not stop the progress that had begun with educating the students. Teachers and students persisted. They continued to meet—with make-shift tarps for walls and a roof, outside under a tree, in the church building, and in any space that they could make work.
When Pastor Voltaire invited Haiti H2O to partner with Meloniere in 2017, the repair of the school was the top priority. Our founders and in-country staff visited the community to assess the situation. They determined that the school needed to be replaced—the foundation was too weak to be re-used. Pastor Voltaire worked with them to identify a nearby site that was available and began to plan what would be needed to build a new school building.
Then the next crisis hit—the Petro Caribe oil crisis and ensuing protests. The unrest (that continues today) prevented two of Haiti H2O’s mission teams from visiting Meloniere, where they had hoped to help start the construction of the new school building.
However, the Church of the Ascension youth group took up the challenge to continue to care for the community of Meloniere by fundraising for the school through their Bike4Haiti trip. They raised and sent $5,000 to fund the building of a new school.
The community, students, parents, teachers, and Pastor Voltaire are all so grateful and they are working hard with the funds that have been sent. Our Haitian staff just sent photo and video updates, showing the first stages of progress—footers have been dug and poured, and the initial foundation wall has been built.
This is really encouraging, especially given the continued turmoil that Haiti is experiencing. The fuel shortage and protests have created a serious food shortage as well. We are so grateful that Haiti H2O has been able to send funds that not only allow the rebuilding of a school, but also create job opportunities for the Haitians doing the construction.
We continue to look for teams and churches to partner with Meloniere and our other communities to help to transform their hope into real opportunities, especially during this time of crisis and hardship when we are unable to visit in person.