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Virgin Islands Resident Raises Funds Locally to Build a School in Haiti
Mathilde Wilson, of St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, is building a new school in a remote region of Haiti, thanks to funds collected from the Virgin Islands public through a local non-profit organization, Haiti Community Support (HCS).
HCS is doing rural development in one of the neediest communities in the Western Hemisphere. Wilson, HCS president says its "one community reaching out to help another."
Mathilde and her husband Bruce Wilson own and operate Mount Victory Camp, an eco-resort on St Croix' west end that was voted by Outside Magazine as one of the "10 perfect adventure lodges" in the world. Mathilde loves her St. Croix home and the success that she and her husband enjoy running Mount Victory Camp, but she never forgot where she came from.
Her roots go back to the tiny hamlet of Au Centre in the remote Beaumont region, in the southern mountains of Haiti. She explains it this way: "If Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, then Au Centre/Beaumont is the most impoverished part of Haiti, a place forgotten even in Haiti. There is no infrastructure of any sort, no electricity, no running water, no government presence and no assistance from any international humanitarian organizations. The people there work very hard on their crops, which yield less than what they need to survive."
Mathilde is one of the few lucky ones who got an education. In 2004 she returned to the village to visit her mother and family who continue to live in Au Centre. Seeing the many children who could not afford to attend the small local elementary school, Mathilde and Bruce gave scholarships to a few children. Back on St. Croix, Mathilde pondered how those few dollars made a world of difference for those children, and imagined the possibilities. Before returning to Haiti in 2005, Mathilde and Bruce held a fundraiser at Mount Victory Camp featuring Jamesie and the All Stars and a succulent Crucian Pig Roast. The community responded enthusiastically and Haiti Community Support was born.
Today, Haiti Community Support has raised enough funds to renovate a rundown village building into a temporary schoolhouse providing education and a hot lunch to 125 children during the last two years. They bought land for a new school building with construction now half complete for a new 8-room school house that will educate 175 children. "The school construction is a challenge in itself," explains Mathilde. "Without infrastructure, we build from local materials using village labor. Workers first make the concrete blocks for construction with sand and gravel carried on villager's heads from mines near the town. Mules bring cement and rebar 2 miles uphill from the nearest road head and a squad of women and kids bring buckets of water from the spring a half mile away."
Mathilde adds that the school project is a double blessing for the village. It brings a sense of hope for the future to the whole village, and with everyone involved in the building project, the hot meal and $3.00/day buys urgently needed food during the dry season.
In December Mathilde and Bruce will return to Haiti to oversee progress on the school construction, which they hope will be completed in March 2008. Meanwhile, they are building awareness of Haiti Community Support and raising funds to complete the school project.
Mathilde has put together a slide show with vivid photos of the heroic life and struggles of these peasant farmers, and documenting the feat of building the first municipal structure in this forgotten region. That it is all made possible by Virgin Island residents is part of the compelling story of Haiti Community Support. She is available to show to schools and local organizations with an interest in helping.
For more information please visit http://www.haitisupport.org
Mathilde phone: 340-772-4380 cell 340-473-8651
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Haiti Community Support assists remote communities in Haiti through programs that improve education, health and quality of life of its people. And ultimately, through economic programs that make the communities self-sustaining.