In 2007, our Executive Director, Betsy Wall, wrote an article called, “A New Day Dawns in Fon Batis.” The article was about a graduation ceremony for literacy students in Fon Batis, central Haiti. Back in 2007, those community members spent three years attending literacy classes five days per week. They made great sacrifices to learn to read and write, sometimes rising as early as 4am and walking up to an hour each day to their classes.
The day of their graduation was a joyous celebration. Cooperative leaders, community leaders, and visiting dignitaries all attended this very special ceremony. There was music, singing, dancing, and praise for those who had worked hard to make the graduation possible. There were presentations and skits demonstrating how literacy had changed their lives. The graduates were proud that they no longer had to sign an “X” for their name. “There is now light in our head,” they sang. “We are not afraid of the X.” 190 graduates received their certificates that day.
Fast forward to December 2013 in the south of Haiti. In Duchity, cooperative members are also getting ready for a literacy graduation ceremony. Many of the features of the ceremony are the same as the one in Fon Batis back in 2007. These students also spent three years walking to school each day, learning to read and write. There is singing, dancing, presentations, skits, and immense pride and joy on the part of the graduates. The only real difference is that this time, there are over 1,400 graduates. So many that they barely all fit inside the building where the ceremony is being held.
I was there on the day of the Duchity graduation in December and was able to watch each inspiring person receive their graduation certificate. Three years ago, they were not only illiterate; they were a farming community living on subsistence, with few plans and little hope for how to improve their lives and their future. But on the day of the graduation, I saw an entire community of confident, educated, entrepreneurial individuals. They have plans, they know how to work together, and they have hope that they can improve their own lives.
This project was funded in large part by private businesses and individuals in Canada, such as Premier Equipment. The cooperative members of Duchity have repeatedly expressed their deep gratitude and thanks to those in Canada who helped them reach this goal. It has truly changed the lives of thousands. A new day has dawned, but not just for Fon Batis, for all of Haiti.
By Valerie Busch, Research and Project Development, FIDA