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École du Village in Haiti: Close to the epicenter

News ,  Current news ,  Waldorf worldwide

On 14th August, a powerful earthquake shook the island state of Haiti. The École du Village Waldorf school in Torbeck is located only a few kilometres away from Les Cayes, the town most affected by the quake. The epicentre of the earthquake, measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale, was only about 40 kilometres from the harbour town of Les Cayes - the town hardest hit by the earthquake. More than 2,000 people died and almost 10,000 were injured. In addition, more than 37,000 houses were destroyed - countless people were left homeless and unprotected by Storm Grace, which hit the island a few days after the earthquake with strong winds and heavy rains.

Just outside Les Cayes, in the municipality of Torbeck, lies the École du Village, founded by Myriam Silien and some of her friends, who wanted to create a place of loving learning. In opening their school, the three founders not only created a safe learning environment for their own children, but also for the children of the surrounding area, most of whom live in abject poverty. The small school with its kindergarten, which is based on the principles of Waldorf education, is constantly exposed to the forces of nature, as are all the islands in the Antilles. There was a major earthquake in 2010, and then in 2016, the school was hit particularly hard by a hurricane and a large part of the school was destroyed by the storm and rainwater. Thanks to an immediate appeal for donations, the Friends of Waldorf Education were able to help quickly, so that teaching could be resumed after some makeshift repairs. An emergency education team from the Friends travelled to Haiti and worked with the children to help them deal with their experiences of the disaster. The last phase of construction was completed in January 2018. As is often the case when we hear about disasters in the region on the news, we asked the École du Village how badly the staff, the children and their families, and the grounds and school buildings, had been affected. The answer was immediate and there was good news and bad news. Myriam Silien from the school's founding team told us in an email on 17th August: "The situation is indeed catastrophic, but the school is still standing thanks to its earthquake-proof construction. And so, we can protect ourselves and the people in the neighbourhood, because at the moment nobody dares to go into the houses. Many houses are damaged, some are destroyed, and many people are injured. The delivery of food is only possible with great difficulty, as the streets in Port-au-Prince have been cut off by gangs, making it impossible to send out supplies and materials." The gang fights around Port-au-Prince already led to the flight of about 15,000 people in June.

The political situation in the country is unclear. Since 2015, elections have been manipulated, or prevented by violent protests and postponed again and again. News about corruption and misappropriation of funds involving members of the government, poverty, rising prices and the failure of the authorities and the police are leading to strong discontent among the population.

The storm "Grace" reached the island on 17th August, and although slightly weakened, this made the situation considerably more difficult for the many people in Les Cayes who had to spend the night in the open air, or in makeshift tents on the streets. As soon as we have found safe ways to support the school and the people, we will immediately forward donations to the school. The people, students and parents who have found temporary safe shelter in the secure school buildings are in desperate need of help, food and medical care.

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