A SHORT HISTORY
Established in the year 2000, the American Haitian Foundation ("AHF") is a United States-based non-profit, 501c3 charitable foundation whose vision is to build a better future in Haiti through education. AHF is dedicated to fighting illiteracy and malnutrition.
The Foundation operates (CESA) Complex Educatif St. Antoine School in Petite Riviere de Nippes where it educates 1,000 students, from pre-school through grade13. CESA is consistently rated as one of the best private schools in Haiti with a challenging traditional liberal arts curriculum. It is sustained by the support of donations from churches and private individuals, student sponsorships and fundraising efforts and is an exceptional steward of its donations.
"Education is what, in the end, changes the community, and has a permanent impact. We also appreciate that the proportion of money goes directly to the kids with almost no administrative costs."
-Drs. Steve and Marian May, 2018 Medical Mission Physicians
St. Antoine School is an educational complex called CESA (Complex Educatif St. Antoine), painted Caribbean pink, situated on top of a hill overlooking the ocean to take advantage of the most natural light possible. The property consists of a large main 3-story academic building, a separate one-story Pre-school, a kitchen and cafeteria and a residence for boarding faculty. The school serves 1,000 students from a Pre-school of 3-4 year olds to grade 13. Students follow a rigorous liberal arts curriculum learning to read and write in Kindergarten, then moving on to study modern languages (English & French), grammar, physical and chemical sciences, social science and humanities, mathematics from basic to Trigonometry and Calculus, computer science, art and music. Students are provided with classrooms, books, supplies, a dedicated faculty and a hot daily meal. Classrooms are very simple cement walls with desks, chairs and a chalkboard. Tests are conducted throughout the academic year to assess progress and needs. At the highest level, students take a national test to qualify for graduation. AHF employs 78 Haitian employees that include an administration, director, principal, supervisors, teachers, kitchen staff, cleaning staff, maintenance staff, security and others. Most are local citizens that have a positive impact on the community. The school is very proud of all their graduates, many of whom go on to further their education, and earn scholarships to study abroad. Several teach at St. Antoine School and at other schools in town and are employed in other occupations; four are dentists and one is a priest.
LOCATION AND CULTURE
The American Haitian Foundation’s mission is concentrated in the southern rural communities of Petite Riviere de Nippes and Miragoane which are located about 68 miles west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital city. Haiti is consistently ranked as the poorest country in the western hemisphere by the International Monetary Fund. Educational, utility, and sanitation standards are poor or non-existent, especially in the rural countryside. This is where the American Haitian Foundation has focused its efforts in the municipality of Petite-Rivière in the Nippes Department of Haiti. It is a small fishing village of almost 30,000 inhabitants with a sustenance life style located between the mountains and the sea. There is a lack of electricity and no clean public water supply and the literacy rate for adults 15 years plus is only 61% and the average annual income is only $240. When building its school, AHF hired a Haitian architect who sourced building materials in Haiti and employed local townspeople to construct their school by hand.
The American Haitian Foundation’s involvement in Haiti began as a social justice initiative at St. Augustine Church a small Catholic parish in Signal Mountain, Tennessee. Father Herve Granjean, a Haitian priest at St. Antoine Parish in Petite Riviere de Nippes, Haiti recognized the need for a high-quality Catholic school in his community. Through a parish twinning program, he received an invitation from St. Augustine Parish in Signal Mountain, Tennessee to visit for the first time in July, 1992. The following June, Pastor Paul Valleroy & Jack Davidson, the Social Action Ministry Chair, visited Petite Riviere to explore needs for the local church and community and reported back to the parish. In June of 1994, the Parish Council Chairperson, joined by other parishioners and Jack Davidson, visited Father Granjean in Haiti where he explained his vision for building a private Catholic school. Upon their return, the project was presented and accepted by St. Augustine Parishioners and work began in earnest with a fundraising campaign to raise $400,000 to build St. Antoine School.
CONSTRUCTION AND DEDICATION
Beginning in 1994, a Haitian architect designed plans for St. Antoine School to be built using Haitian labor and construction materials produced and sourced in Haiti in order to create sustainable development in the community. Almost every block used to build the school was made by hand on site by people from the town of Petite Rivere de Nippes with sand drawn from local rivers. Many adults worked together for four years to construct their school, giving them a sense of pride and ownership resulting in a long-lasting partnership that continues to bring hope to the community.