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Haiti is a land of resiliency and optimism. It is also a nation that faces frequent disasters — including the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, which deeply affected the lives of already vulnerable children in poverty. But at the Compassion center, there is hope.
51YEARS SERVING HAITI
A teenage girl reads the Bible to younger girls.
A group of children in a rural community smile and hold up glasses of clean water.
Two girls lean against a wall and smile.
A group of children engage in the classroom activity at their child development center.
A young girl holds her hands together to pray.
A teenage girl sits happily in her classroom.
Three teenage boys read together.
A group of young women learn vocational skills at their child development center.
A young girl swings on the playground at her child development center.
When do children visit the Compassion center?
Issue: In Haiti, only 10% of primary schools are public. The remaining 90% are private — and many people cannot afford to pay the required fees. Inability to pay school tuition and family pressure to start earning income cause many children to drop out before secondary school.
Response: Compassion centers partner with Haitian parents to help cover part of children’s fees to attend secondary school. In addition to tutoring, these centers also provide vocational training activities so older children can explore economically sustainable careers.
Prayer Point: Pray that students will learn to value education, dream of a successful future, and find a career path that lifts them out of poverty.
Beneficiaries get to spend time learning in a safe, educational environment.
Visit the Compassion blog to learn more about our work in Haiti.
Conches are one of the most important parts of the underwater ecosystem in Haiti. They are also very popular to eat!
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Official Name: Republic of Haiti
Form of Government: Semi-presidential republic
Official Languages: French, Creole
Area: 10,714 square miles (27,750 square kilometers)
The Spaniards used the island of Hispaniola (Haiti occupies the western part and the Dominican Republic occupies the eastern) as a launching point to explore the rest of the Western Hemisphere. French buccaneers later used the western third of the island as a point to pirate English and Spanish ships. In 1697, Spain ceded the western third of Hispaniola to France. As piracy was gradually suppressed, some French adventurers became planters, making Saint Domingue -- as the French portion of the island was known -- the "pearl of the Antilles" and one of the richest colonies in France's 18th century empire.
During this period, African slaves were brought to work on sugarcane and coffee plantations. In 1791, the slave population revolted and gained control of the northern part of the French colony, waging a war of attrition against the French.
By January 1804, local forces defeated an army sent by Napoleon Bonaparte, established independence from France and renamed the area Haiti.
With 22 changes of government from 1843 to 1915, Haiti experienced numerous periods of intense political and economic disorder.
From February 1986 -- when the 29-year dictatorship of the Duvalier family ended -- until 1991, Haiti was ruled by a series of provisional governments. Most of those governments had been ruled by a member of the former army forces (general or colonel). In March 1987, a constitution was ratified that provides for an elected president to serve as head of state; and a prime minister, cabinet, ministers and supreme court appointed by the president with parliament's consent. The Haitian Constitution also provides for political decentralization through the election of mayors and administrative bodies responsible for local government.
In December 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a charismatic Roman Catholic priest, won 67 percent of the vote in a presidential election that international observers deemed largely free and fair. Aristide took office in February 1991, but was overthrown that September in a violent coup led by dissatisfied members of the army and supported by many of the country's economic elite. The coup contributed to a large-scale exodus of Haitians by boat. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a total of 41,342 Haitians at sea during 1991 and 1992, more than the number of people rescued in boats from the previous 10 years combined.
With his term ending in February 1996, and barred by the constitution from succeeding himself, President Aristide agreed to step aside and support a presidential election in December 1995. Rene Preval, a prominent Aristide political ally, was sworn in to a five-year term, during what was Haiti's first-ever transition between two democratically elected presidents.
After an armed rebellion in February 2004, an interim government organized new elections under the auspices of the United Nations. Continued instability and technical delays prompted repeated postponements, but Haiti inaugurated a democratically elected president and parliament in May 2006, followed by contested elections in 2010.
A massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010 had its epicenter about 15 miles west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Estimates are that more than 300,000 people were killed and some 1.5 million left homeless. The earthquake was assessed as the worst in this region over the previous 200 years.
Source: The World Factbook, 2014.
Haitians make beautiful artwork out of found objects, such as old tin, which they cut into scenes of birds, flowers and other subject matter. Woodcarving, painting, dance and storytelling are also popular.
The music of Haiti is influenced most by French colonial ties and African immigration (through slavery), as well as by its neighbor, the Dominican Republic. American jazz has also influenced Haiti; the country first experienced recorded music in 1937, when jazz was recorded noncommercially. The national dance is the méringue (similar to the Dominican version).
French: Bonjour (Hello), Comment-allez vous? (How are you?), Je m'appelle... (My name is...)
Creole: Bonjou (Hi), Kòman ou ye? (How are you?), Mwen rele... (My name is...)
Sports & Games
Soccer is played year-round. Boys use anything round or oval for a soccer ball. Kites are popular, especially at Easter time. Children also like to play many versions of hide-and-seek.
Haitians eat rice, beans, corn and bananas. Coffee is a popular drink.
The typical school year runs from September to June. Primary education is compulsory, but families must pay school fees. Most children do not pursue secondary education due to family and economic pressure.
Education in Haiti is seen as a trademark of success in life and opens doors for privileges, social rank, travel and better jobs. For example, Haiti has two official languages: French and Creole. Those who are uneducated can only speak Creole; those who are educated can speak both, but French is the preferred and necessary language of commerce.
There are three recognized classes of people in Haiti: elite (wealthy), intellectual and proletariat (working class). Someone who is educated is considered part of the intellectual class.
Restavèk is a Creole word for a Haitian child who stays with and works for another family, typically an affluent family. A restavèk child can be a boy or a girl who is given away by a poor family in order to survive. Frequently, the restavèk’s most basic rights to health and education are denied.
The 1987 constitution grants freedom of religion. Goods brought into the country for use by registered churches and missionaries are exempt from customs duties and registered churches are not taxed. Foreign missionaries can enter on regular tourist visas.
Less than 20 percent of schools are public. In some of these schools, Catholic and other clergy play a role in teaching and administration. Church-run schools and hospitals are subject to government oversight.
The government does not interfere with the operation of radio and other media affiliated with religious groups. In addition to the many radio stations operated by religious (mostly Protestant, including evangelical) groups, religious programming is a staple of commercial broadcasting.
Source: International Religious Freedom Report, released in 2012 by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
Independence Day: Jan. 1 — Thanksgiving and night services take place. It is a time of visiting with friends and family. Pumpkin soup is traditionally shared to celebrate the end of slavery.
Good Friday: April 13
Christmas: Dec. 25 — Houses are repainted and tree trunks are whitewashed. Families attend church services and midnight supper, then children play in the moonlight.
Visit the Compassion blog to read posts about Christmas in Haiti and Easter in Haiti.
Compassion has been working in Haiti since 1968. These Haiti facts and statistics provide a good picture of the reality of poverty and how child sponsorship through Compassion is making a difference.
Poverty is a problem in the country of Haiti but with your support, Compassion is working to change this. The Haiti facts tell a difficult story, but Compassion is bringing hope in the midst of the difficulties. Our programs are changing the statistics one child at a time.
Don't let the hopelessness of poverty overwhelm you. You can make a difference to a child in Haiti today!