What does hope look like? A 225-student elementary school where once there was only a bean field? A road to the nearest town where there was only a rocky footpath? A water system providing potable water to replace a polluted well? A clinic providing health care for the first time in the remote mountains of Haiti?
It is all of these things and more. An epidemic of misery carried Haiti to where it is today, but we believe that an epidemic of hope can make that heavy wheel of history eventually turn in a new direction.
Au Centre, in the Macaya Mountains in Southern Haiti, is a farming region of shade trees over small coffee plantations; a place of great scenic beauty ranking also as one of the world’s poorest places. Yet it is also a place of hope, pride and determination.
Haiti Community Support offers a unique approach to community development. We’re helping remote mountain areas where no other organization or government ever went to help. Our support funds go directly into the village to a proven team of community members who know what their village needs.
We believe that the solution to Haiti’s worst problems lies in empowering Haitians themselves. By believing in what Haitians can accomplish, we consider ourselves a partner, not a patron; a neighbor, not an outsider.
Haiti Community Support today remains focused on our core mission: delivering education, nutrition and health care to children in the rural mountains. Most of our $60,000.00 annual budget comes from private donors. Those donations make possible the education of 225 children, a nutrition program, a health clinic, and other community development projects such as our water project and road building.
A village of mostly illiterate impoverished parents is making this happen. Surely, then, there is hope for Haiti.
Haiti Community Support, Inc. (HCS) is a USVI 501(c)(3) Not-for-Profit organization, serving some of Haiti’s poorest communities for more than eight years.
Mathilde 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. “If Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere,” Mathilde explains, “then Beaumont is the most impoverished part of 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 and her husband Bruce Wilson owned and operated Mount Victory Camp, an eco-resort in the Virgin Islands that has been voted by Outside Magazine as one of the “10 perfect adventure lodges” in the world. In 2004, during a trip to visit her family in Au Centre, Mathilde was saddened to see the many children who could not even afford to attend the small local elementary school. Mathilde and Bruce donated scholarships to a few children. Seeing how just a few dollars made a world of difference for those children, they imagined the possibilities. Before returning to Haiti in 2005, Mathilde and Bruce held a fundraiser at Mount Victory Camp, and the local community responded enthusiastically. Haiti Community Support was born.
Their goal was to bring the most benefit to Au Centre with the small amount of funds available. From the outset, they administered the program so that the funds went as directly as possible to helping the community. Key to the program was getting a really competent and trustworthy administrator onto the job in Au Centre. They were fortunate to find Israel Montina, a lifetime resident who graduated from high school in Port au Prince, and then obtained advanced study degrees in Accounting and Civil Engineering.
In 2005, HCS opened the first elementary school in the village, in a small concrete structure. They then purchased a 10-acre plot on a hillside and began designs for a school that would accommodate over 200 students. Construction began in July 2007, and at one point employed more than 120 villagers.
In September, 2008, HCS opened the Renaissance Elementary School, a 4000 square foot structure that has eight classrooms. The school also had something Au Centre had never had before – electricity, provided by solar panels. HCS hired six teachers, a principal and two cooks.
In 2009, HCS opened The Au Centre Health Clinic, the only such facility in the whole section of southwestern Haiti. Health care at the clinic is free to all. The clinic has a full-time nurse, weekly doctor visits, and a pharmacy. Medicines, antibiotics, vitamins, bandages and other medical supplies are now available for the first time.
In early 2010, work was interrupted when a massive earthquake hit Haiti. HCS, with its on-the-ground presence and its connection to the local community, was able to move fast, setting up emergency tent clinics in Port au Prince.
In 2010, to bring fresh water to the village for the first time, HCS purchased the land surrounding a gushing spring high in the mountains, and completed the field work and engineering drawings for the pipe, valves, pumps and storage cisterns. A team of engineers and villagers constructed a 1500-gallon catchment tank needed to collect and settle water from the spring, dug a two-mile trench and laid PVC pipe all the way to the village. Work to complete this massive project continues.
In 2013, Bruce and Mathilde sold Mt. Victory Camp and relocated to Portland, Oregon, where they continue fundraising and supervising the activities of Haiti Community Support. They continue to believe that that the solution to Haiti’s worst problems lies in empowering Haitians themselves. And they continue to focus on their core mission: delivering education, nutrition and health care to children in the rural mountains.