Charitable Giving: ORT school off to promising start

Since the beginning of Haiti’s school year on Oct. 1, World ORT–NPH’s vocational school — the only school of its kind in the capital, Port-au-Prince — has been bustling with 175 students, more than twice the enrollment from its preliminary session in April.

The students are divided among four streams: paramedics and telecom for those who have graduated high school, and electricity and plumbing for those who are post-grade nine. All are learning essential skills that should provide graduates solid careers so they can contribute to the country’s reconstruction.

“There is still some work to be done but we stand on solid foundations which permit us to be confident looking ahead,” said Daniel Kahn, the director of World ORT’s international cooperation office in Geneva.

“Our goal is to train 300 students a year. We offer them what is a new vocational model to Haiti but one which is used to tremendous effect by the ORT vocational school in Rue de Rosier, Paris,” he said. “Students alternate weekly between the classroom and the workplace. The workplace experience not only enhances the training, it helps graduates to find a job.”

Funded by the Mexican Alliance for Haiti and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the school is part of a 4.5 acre campus belonging to World ORT’s local partner, Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH). The average age of the students is 25; most come from poor families, many of them referred to the school by NPH institutions, such as orphanages.

The new school is World ORT’s second project in Haiti. Its program to train construction workers in earthquake-resistant building techniques gaduated 1,400, thanks to partnerships with UNESCO, Inter-American Development Bank and the Fondation de France.