The people who need the most help are the people we don’t see,” says actor Jimmy Jean-Louis (“The Haitian” in Heroes and the lead actor in the film Toussaint Louverture) of the people in the Cadet area in Haiti, deep in the countryside of the Petionville zone.
“They don’t exist for society,” he passionately reflects, “but they do!”
Jean-Louis was in Brooklyn at Milk Restaurant upstairs, last week, to raise money for the Déléard School (primary) he built following the earthquake. Jean-Louis and his friends including diva Emeline Michel and singer Wanito came together drawing attention to the needs of the school.
In a region with thousands of people, 40 minutes by four-wheel drive from a road, there was no school. Now, a six-classroom school, opened one-year after the earthquake, educates 150 children, ages 5-16.
“Our teachers are certified,” says Jean-Louis. “And, some of the graduating children have passed the national exam,” which is a very big deal and speaks to the standards in the school.
Where do teachers come from? “Some commute up to three hours each way, every day. They have to, it’s a job,” he says, acknowledging that the $200 monthly salary in Haiti is a prevailing wage. “Some come from Port-au-Prince and stay during the week, making sleeping arrangements.”
When Jean-Louis was asked what do the region’s residents do, he answered, “They were in agriculture, but now there is no water,” suggesting they eke out the little they can from the earth and similar to many areas in Haiti, they have no water or electricity. (“That’s why many leave for Port-au-Prince,” he said, which also is not much of an alternative.)
Jean-Louis had visited this remote locality 30 years ago when he was growing up in Haiti, brought there by friends. He was able to harness the good will after the earthquake to provide this resource for the community. For this “invisible” region, he pooled funds from organizations and donors and built and opened the Déléard School.
The school is tuition free, books and supplies are paid for, and students are fed one hot meal each day. Eventually, the school will accommodate 300 children.
Five years since the school opening, the main patron for the school has “moved on” and Jean-Louis is asking others to join him in his concern and support for educating Haitian children, particularly helping the children of these unseen Haitians.
Emeline Michel and Wanito performed at the cocktail fundraiser and Jean-Louis spoke to press about his concerns.
The monies raised will pay for food and supplies, books, teachers’ and administrative salaries, and for the maintenance and improvement of the campus.
Jean-Louis founded the non-profit Hollywood Unites For Haiti to promote sports and cultural activities for underprivileged youth of Haiti. Since the 2010 catastrophic this mission has widened including building the Déléard School.