As many of you know, Rebecca and I have just joined the US Peace Corps in Swaziland. While we will continue to remain involved in our work in Caneille, our board of directors has stepped up to take over many responsibilities that will simply be out of our reach while living in Africa. In conjunction with this departure, Rebecca and I have decided to broaden our contributions to this blog to encompass more than the regular fundraisers and progress reports from Caneille, but also to discuss Haiti and Development Economics in general. We hope you enjoy these additions, and welcome your comments.
The first subject that I would like to tackle goes back to the very beginnings of the Caneille Regional Development Fund. While there are a myriad of reasons why we chose our focus on education in rural Haiti, much of it can be explained by Poverty in Haiti (Sletten and Egset 2004). When we began in 2006, this paper proved influential as we chose how to maximize our impact in Caneille.
Initially, this paper served as yet more confirmation of what we already knew—that Haiti is the poorest country in our hemisphere, and among the poorest in the world. In addition to being situated in one of the most economically unequal regions, Haiti has the highest domestic inequality among its neighbors (evidenced by a high Gini coefficient of 65.0).
Next, this paper demonstrated that while poverty is rampant throughout the country, “extreme poverty in Haiti is predominantly a rural phenomenon” (10). People (on average) living in the metro area, are more likely to have access to the few services provided by the government and the focus of many development NGOs who already do great work.
The final contribution that this paper had on our path was the clear evidence that education is a key to unlocking this cycle of poverty. While it is likely that there are a number of other factors which contribute to these statistics, the importance of education as component of a successful development strategy in Haiti cannot be denied. In fact, the World Bank confirmed this in a 2006 report confirming that “education is the single most important determinant of an individual’s potential to escape poverty in Haiti” (44).
It was with these findings that the Caneille Regional Development Fund began its work to increase access to education in this rural region in 2006. Since that time, Lekol de la Grace de Caneille has successfully welcomed hundreds of students to take the future of their community into their own hands. While it is clear every time I visit Caneille the impact this opportunity for education has on the children and their families, I understand that it may be many years before the true impact of our work in this community is fully realized. I thank you for your continued encouragement and support—none of what we have accomplished would be possible without it.