The Haitian Project plans to expand network of Catholic schools in island nation

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PROVIDENCE — The Haitian Project, founded in the early 1980s by St. Joseph Parish in Providence and dedicated to providing educational opportunities in Haiti, is embarking on an ambitious plan to develop a national network of Catholic schools in that country.

The schools will be modeled on the organization’s successful Louverture Clearly School, a tuition-free Catholic secondary boarding school in Port-au-Prince that teaches students to learn four languages and has sent more than 75 percent of its graduates to university.

“Education helps people from the margins all over the world,” said Deacon Patrick Moynihan, president of The Haitian Project.

Deacon Moynihan said The Haitian Project will be appealing to philanthropic organizations to help start up the envisioned network, which will require an initial investment of a little more than $73 million for the construction and start-up costs. The Haitian Project would then need to raise more than $10 million each year to operate the schools.

“We don’t expect to raise it through American dioceses, bishops and parishes. It’s not the job of U.S. Catholic parishes to build schools in other countries. This has to be done through philanthropy,” Deacon Moynihan said.

The Haitian Project’s position is that education is a central factor for economic and human development, and that major philanthropic organizations such as the Gates Foundation or Bloomberg Philanthropies should consider donating a larger percentage of their annual giving to educational initiatives.

“What we hope to do in building the network is not just to allow these young Haitians to be leaders and allow them to improve their own country, but also to put a focus on philanthropy, the way we help developing countries, and that’s looking to education as something that really makes a real difference in people’s lives,” said Angela Mascena, the associate director of institutional advancement for The Haitian Project.

“We talk about how we can be driven by empathy, wanting to solve easy-to-fix issues like feeding the hungry or giving shelter to someone who doesn’t have a home to stay in, but something like education, as our founders knew, actually changes someone’s situation for good and allows them to take care of themselves to help their families and the larger community,” Mascena said.

Louverture alumni come from families earning less than $1,000 a year, and earn an average annual salary of around $12,000 a few years after graduating from university. And in a country where 70 percent of college graduates leave, about 90 percent of Louverture college graduates stay in Haiti to build their communities.

“They commit their education and talents to bettering their own country, and that’s where you see long-term change happen,” Mascena said. “It only makes sense that you would try and do more of something that works.”

Deacon Moynihan said the plan is to build the first three new schools by the end of 2022, and then to expand every five years until there is a Louverture Clearly School in each of Haiti’s ten Catholic dioceses.

“The schools will be privately funded… However they’ll be under the auspices of each of the bishops, as we are in Port-au-Prince, in the same way that any congregational school is in the United States,” Deacon Moynihan said.

In the same way that Catholic schools in the United States today continue to provide needed high-quality education, especially to students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, Deacon Moynihan argues there is a similar need in Haiti.

“We’ve put together a very strong intellectual argument for this based on our work, based on actual evidence, real data and based in the tradition of the Church,” said Deacon Moynihan, who called education the Church’s second-most successful mission after evangelization.

“Catholic education has been one of the great drivers of GDP in the United States,” said Deacon Moynihan, who added: “Everybody believes in the value of Catholic education.”

In June 2010, The Haitian Project became an Association of the Lay Faithful after a long discernment process, and marked by its charism and spiritual conversion the non-profit organization received formal recognition as a religious community under the Diocese of Providence.

For more information, including on how to donate, visit www.haitianproject.org.