The Union Christian of Haitians School was started in 2001 by Pastor Christian Almezy and Bryan Sturtevant.Their goal was to provide an education for the poorest children in the town of Ouanaminthe, in northern Haiti. Classes started at pre-school and went up to the 6th grade. The school accommodated 217 students with 5 teachers.
During the construction of the school building, Mike and Maria DeRiso learned that the school lacked the funds to complete the last section of the roof. Mike and Maria decided to get involved in 2005 by contributing funds to help complete the final section of the roof. With their contribution the school was completed. Mike first saw the finished building when he traveled to Haiti in June of that year. His first few days in Ouanaminthe were a challenge, but once he met the school children he knew he wanted to help make a difference in their lives. After that first visit, Mike and Maria committed to help fund the teachers’ pay. Their vision with Christian was to open a middle school, high school and trade school sometime in the future.
The School started September, 2000. The main building was completed in 2005, the warehouse in 2009, the kitchen in 2010 and the cafeteria in 2011. The warehouse was built in order to enable the school to qualify for the UN’s Surplus Food program. After the kitchen and cafeteria were built, fundraising was begun to allow the purchase of a propane stove. Switching from charcoal to propane fuel resulted in fuel-cost savings of over $900 per month.
Recently, we raised funds to pour a concrete floor in the classrooms. The teachers are happier with their working environment: no more mud floors during rainy season and dust-filled classrooms during the dry season. We also built a security wall around the school, which has cut down on the overnight disappearance of valuable things, like doors.
The school now accommodates over 800 students with 26 teachers. Classes range from Pre-school through ninth grade.
Mike DeRiso and Pastor Almezy became good friends and continued to explore ways to improve the school. Two of the biggest needs are to provide lunch for the students (which may be their only meal for the day) and to supplement the teachers’ salaries. In 2013 over $ 9000 was raised to purchase a Tap-Tap (open truck-taxi) to support the school. The ongoing income stream helps underwrite the school lunch program and pays a portion of the teachers’ salaries.
Our Latest Initiative: Desks for the Teachers.
These are the new desks. Prior to this, teachers had a chair only, and had to leave their teaching materials and books on the classroom floors. Now they have a place to sit and teach the children and somewhere to store their belongings. These prototype desks will cost about $55 each and will be revised with the addition of a support leg.
Mike and Christian also implemented Scholarship and Micro-Loan programs designed to give adult members of the Ouanaminthe community opportunities to improve their standard of living. Several of the recipients’ stories can be viewed on the Micro-Loan and Scholarship pages.
Good Neighbors International, Inc. was founded to give more fortunate people the opportunity to support these programs. It is designated a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity by the IRS. Donations are tax-deductible. 100% of donations are used to fund these initiatives.