|The Dismantling of Popular
Education Under the new
U.S-backed Regime in Haiti
Urgent Action Request
for SOPUDEP School
Sept 7 2004
eMail letters of support to:
This is an urgent request for your support of the SOPUDEP School in Petion-Ville, Haiti.
At 11:00 am this morning, heavily armed police officers and members of the un-elected Mayor of Petion-Ville's irregular "security force" violated this school for the poor. The un-elected mayor, Mr. Figaro, entered the premises of the school with the appointed adjunct mayor of Petion-Ville Madame Rene. Entering the school in this manner was a case of blatant intimidation by show of arms and an inexcusable act. Upon entering, they refused to state the reason for their intrusion and rudely demanded to know the whereabouts of the school's director. On their way out, one of the armed men quipped that they were going to close the school.
This unique project which serves the poorest children in Petion-Ville barely escaped closure last March thanks to the pressure and support of its friends in the United States and Canada. We ask you to help SOPUDEP once again by responding quickly to demand that this resource of the poor remain untouched and to demand that the threats to close it cease immediately. Letters of support from individuals and organizations should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. For organizations that have the resources, it is best you write a letter on your letterhead, sign it then scan it as a jpeg document before sending it.
The appointed adjunct mayor Madame Rene has agreed to meet with a small delegation of supporters tomorrow morning at 10:30 am. We know it is short notice but we would like to enter the meeting with as many letters of support as possible. If you cannot do this in time for meeting, send the letter when you can and we will have it hand delivered with others as soon as possible.
Thanking you in advance. Your voice will make a difference.
The Haiti Action Committee
eMail letters of support to:
Here is background on the SOPUDEP School. As you notice from these excerpts, the enrollment has slowly increased to over 400 children today. That is a testimony in itself to the importance of the school for the poorest children in Petion-Ville :
Is the US Funding Haitian Contras?
A prominent U.S. journalist, recently working in Haiti, once said of his editors, "Hey, I am sorry but they are not interested in positive stories about Lavalas. I wrote it, submitted it and they told me they were not interested." What was the story? It told of how the government expropriated the former mansion of a notorious Duvalierist drug dealer and assassin named Lionel Wooley, a.k.a. "Ti Je," and worked with a local grassroots organization to convert it into a school for the poorest children in the township of Petion-Ville. The school now serves over 160 of the area's poorest children and tries not to turn down any child whose parents cannot afford to pay. With the torture chamber under the swimming pool sealed forever, the school stands as a beautiful symbol of transforming a gruesome legacy of the past into hope for the future for Haiti's youngest and poorest citizens. Yet you will never read about it in the mainstream media.
Report from Minneapolis delegation:
"Andre Jean-Marie was a member of a community group called SOPUDEP and founder of its school which our delegation visited. The school provides education for 350 needy children whose parents can not afford tuition or can not find a place for them in the overcrowded public school system. The school does not turn children away and provides one hot meal - sometimes the only hot meal a child will receive.
The school occupies the former residence of a Tonton Macoutes member. Tonton Macoutes were the paramilitary wing of Duvalier dictatorship and were known for their swift and cruel repression. The ousting of Duvalier, the dismantling of the Tonton Macoutes and the election of Jean Bertrand Aristide as president in 1990, signified a fresh change for Haiti. SOPUDEP and its school are a small indication of what is possible under the new democratic government. According to documentary filmmaker Kevin Pina, the location of the school "takes a symbol of a horrible piece of Haiti's history and turns it into a symbol of hope."
The leader of the delegation, parishioner Paul Miller, receives a plaque of appreciation from SOPUDEP. The visit to the school was a highlight of the trip. We were introduced to each classroom and were treated to songs in both English and Creole. We met Andre and many other teachers and administrators and heard their stories. At recess we had the opportunity to play with the children, take their photos and practice our Creole. With the support of the St. Joan of Arc Justice Fund and other fundraising, we were able to leave behind three suitcases of school supplies and $750 - enough to repair their second bathroom. The look of appreciation on their faces was heart-stopping and made us determined to forge an ongoing relationship with this wonderful school.
Two days after our visit to SOPUDEP, the rumblings of political dissent were in the air. Opposition groups, backed primarily by the elite, had taken to the street of Port-au-Prince to demand Aristide's resignation. In response, thousands of Aristide supporters also took to the streets, creating an explosive atmosphere in front of the palace.
Andre had been at the palace earlier that day for a literacy campaign meeting and returned to join the thousands of Aristide supporters. As he departed his car, he was struck and killed by bullets. The news of his death was shocking for our delegation and has rocked the school he founded. His death is tragic reminder of what can happen in an unstable political environment and when working for the poor can put one in danger. He leaves behind a wife and two children and dreams for a better Haiti."
This just in from Port-au-Prince: The SOPUDEP (Organization for the Socioeconomic Development of Petionville) school, which provides a free education and hot lunch program for over 400 of the poorest children in the community, is being threatened. Opposition thugs and former military have spread word through the neighborhood that they are planning to attack and burn the school very soon. The administration and staff take this threat very seriously and many of them have already gone into hiding until the situation changes.
September 9 2004
|©2004 Judith Scherr|
|©2004 Haiti Information Project - The SOPUDEP School also provides a hot lunch program for their children. For many it is the only hot meal they eat each day.|
|The St. Joan of Arc Church peace and justice delgation is just one of dozens of religious organizations that have visited the SOPUDEP School and continue to actively support its programs.|
|The Kindergarten Class at the SOPUDEP School in Petion-Ville. The majority of these children could not find a place in the overcrowded public schools nor could they afford to attend a private school. SOPUDEP trys not to turn down any child for lack of funds.|