MISSION:HELP’s mission is to create, through merit and needs based scholarships, a community of young professionals and leaders who will promote a more just society in Haiti.
HELP is at the forefront of the transition to the knowledge economy in the developing world. Because a nation’s educated class builds economic and social stability, the world’s poorest countries need to significantly increase university enrollment to escape generations of poverty and actively participate in the global economy. HELP is one of the only organizations building the new middle class in the developing world. HELP currently sponsors 126 university students in Haiti.
2010 EARTHQUAKE UPDATE: The devastating 7.0M earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12 affected HELP greatly. Two HELP students, Marc-Erline Dezulma and Evenson Jean, died in collapsed buildings. HELP has established a scholarship fund in their memory. The HELP Center also was completely destroyed, and four staff members in Haiti were injured. In the face of death and destruction, the staff and students moved to an undamaged dorm building and set up a temporary Center, working with recovered electronic and paper files and donated equipment. Following the quake, HELP placed over 80 students in the relief efforts, working as doctors and interns in hospitals around the country, as civil engineering interns, translators, work crew supervisors, etc. HELP students conducted focus groups and human rights investigations for former President Bill Clinton’s UN Office of the Special Envoy, The Lamp for Haiti Foundation and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. All students returned to school and finished the semester in August, though many universities operated on a limited schedule, with classes held in tents or in professors’ homes. The new HELP Student Center also opened in August, and welcomed 35 new students for the 2010-2011 school year.
RESULTS: In 2008, over 40% of HELP students made the Dean’s List, including seven who were #1 in their university class. HELP’s graduation rate is over 80%. HELP graduates have a 100% employment rate and an average annual salary of over $10,000. Haiti’s employment rate is 50% and the GDP per capita is $480.
Working full-time at an annual salary of $1,200 Jolene Coachy couldn’t afford college tuition. With a HELP scholarship, Jolene earned a business degree in 2005 and was hired as manager at a textile plant at $10,400 a year. She now works on a USAID project with the Ministry of Education, earning $16,000 annually.
Growing up, Dany Selme often went hungry and walked miles to school and back. Despite these hardships, she was #1 in her high school class and won a HELP scholarship. Dany earned her BS in economics in 2009 and was hired by the Voila cell phone company as a sales analyst. She earns $14,000 annually.
HISTORY: In 1997, Isemonde Joseph, the top girl in her high school class, asked her former teacher, Conor Bohan, for $30 to register for secretarial school. Conor encouraged Isemonde to pursue her dream of studying medicine and paid for the first year’s tuition and books. Realizing that many top students never reached their potential due to extreme poverty, Conor began matching sponsors with deserving students. Isemonde received her MD degree in 2005 and began work as a staff physician at the Gheskio Center in Port-au-Prince with a starting annual salary of $14,500.
CONTEXT: With 80% of the population living on less than $2 per day, Haiti is the 14th poorest country in the world and the poorest in the Western hemisphere. Haiti’s social indicators are on par only with war torn countries in Africa. Haitians’ life expectancy, literacy rate and school enrollment are the lowest in the hemisphere.
Provide opportunity for deserving students:With the lowest rate of school enrollment in the Western Hemisphere, most Haitians are denied access to education. HELP offers high achieving students an opportunity to fulfill their potential and contribute to their country’s economic and social development.
Break the cycle of poverty:With their substantial salaries, HELP graduates are able to educate their siblings and their children, allowing an entire family to join the educated class. Helping one person earn a university degree breaks the cycle of poverty for an extended family.
Build the professional class and the economy:Decades of repression and instability have drained Haiti of the professionals it needs to develop; 84% of Haiti’s university graduates have emigrated, and the weak education system has failed to fill the gap - Haiti’s university enrollment rate is 1%. The earthquake and its aftermath have revealed the striking effects of the absence of a professional class. The lack of urban planners, architects, civil engineers and policies for zoning, construction codes, etc. compounded the damage and tragedy. The lack of doctors, nurses and disaster response experts resulted in needless death and suffering.
Build a more just society:Education has measurable economic benefits for the students, their families and communities, but there are additional results that cannot be measured in dollars. The lack of opportunity in Haiti dates to the colonial era. Professionals raised in the slums break the cycle of poverty, provide role models for masses of disadvantaged youth and bring a new perspective to their professions, destroying rigid class barriers and mentalities that impede social and economic progress.
Admissions Policy: Only students with a straight-A average throughout high school are eligible to apply. HELP recruits throughout Haiti and evaluates candidates’ high-school transcripts, baccalaureate scores and an essay. Finalists are interviewed and must prove financial need. This year, HELP received 150 applications, and our current financial resources allowed us to accept approximately 30% of applicants.
What HELP Offers: HELP covers tuition, books, living stipends and housing as well as academic counseling, internship placement, career support, and mandatory classes in English and computer literacy. All students volunteer at the HELP center, tutoring and providing accounting services, IT support, library management, etc., and participate in a leadership-training program. HELP students attend internationally accredited universities in Haiti and must maintain a 3.25 GPA to retain their scholarship.
Gender Development: Conscious of the extra obstacles facing young women, HELP has a strong commitment to gender development. HELP recruits at all-girls’ schools nationwide, encourages girls to stay in school and educates parents, church officials and other local leaders on the benefits of education for girls.