ACE and generous Notre Dame Benefactors advance the mission of Haitian education

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Article originally published through the Alliance for Catholic Education News Feed.

In April 23, 1879, a massive fire destroyed the Main Building of the University of Notre Dame and destroyed virtually the entire fledgling university. In what would become an iconic moment of Notre Dame’s history, Father Sorin addressed the stunned survivors: “Tomorrow, as soon as the bricks cool, we will rebuild, bigger and better than ever.”

It is this same spirit of zeal and hope – especially in the face of adversity – that has characterized the Congregation of Holy Cross and the University of Notre Dame throughout their histories. This same spirit enlivens the work of the Holy Cross community and Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) in their efforts to rebuild and renew education in Haiti.

 
Now four and a half years since the devastating earthquake in Haiti destroyed Holy Cross schools and infrastructure, Notre Dame and Holy Cross have rebuilt, bigger and better than ever.  With more than $1 million in support from the Notre Dame and ACE communities, Basile Moreau School, which had been reduced to rubble, has been rebuilt. This shining new facility now serves 1,000 K-12 students, twice the number as before the earthquake.  Situated in a slum neighborhood of Port au Prince called Carrefour, the beautiful school and campus present a stark contrast to the shacks, tents, and trash of the surrounding neighborhood.  In the words of Rev. Rosemond Marcelin, C.S.C., the principal of Basile Moreau, “We rebuilt this school to be beautiful and expansive so that the children who come here could see beyond the trash and squalor that they live in and dare to have beautiful and audacious dreams for their lives.”

Advancing Basile Moreau’s mission to serve the poorest children and families in this community, one third of the students receive major tuition assistance, and another third attend the school at no cost.  ACE, working with generous Notre Dame benefactors, has provided 100 scholarships for each of the next five years to increase access for the poorest students. ACE has also partnered with benefactors to beautify the campus, with landscaping and the addition of a soccer field. 

Holy Cross and ACE leaders are now adding new computer labs, strengthening the English language curriculum and instruction, and developing a health clinic to serve the students, many of whom lack access to regular medical care, eyeglasses, and adequate nutrition.  This summer, Basile Moreau hosted more than a dozen Notre Dame faculty, staff, students, and alumni, including ACE graduates leading English language camps and a medical team to coordinate a health screening of nearly 1,000 students and teachers. 

“The transformation at Basile Moreau School is simply breathtaking,” said Rev. Tim Scully, C.S.C., founder of the Alliance for Catholic Education.  “From the rubble, a beautiful school has emerged and is now bustling with activity and exciting and innovative programs.  Basile Moreau is a beacon of hope and a testament to the power of the Gospel in service to our most vulnerable children.”

Health.Screening.PhotoBut knowing the needs of their country, the Holy Cross leaders in Haiti and their partners in ACE have not stopped at rebuilding Basile Moreau School.  They are making great strides in constructing a new school in a growing neighborhood of Port au Prince called Tabarre, located near the international airport, with funding and construction management from the Digicel Foundation.  The new school will have an innovative English focus and will open its doors this September, eventually growing to serve an estimated 1,000 students.  This school will become the 16th that Holy Cross priests and brothers operate in the country, serving over 5,000 students, with a reputation for excellence.

ACE’s work in support of Holy Cross schools is only a small portion of the powerful impact ACE is making in Haiti.  ACE’s initiatives include working with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Haitian Catholic Church to train thousands of teachers, as well as transforming educational outcomes through an innovative literacy program that benefits over 7,500 students in impoverished Catholic schools.  Notre Dame’s ACE Haiti effort and the work of its partners represent perhaps the largest, most impactful, and most promising set of projects currently under way in Haitian education. 

The ACE in Haiti website illustrates the breadth of initiatives transforming this hard-hit country’s future through quality education for its next generations. Notre Dame’s Committed to Haiti website describes the University’s even broader efforts, integrating education, health care, and overall sustainability to support human development in Haiti.

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