Port-au-Prince, HAITI – In Haiti’s capital city, Bel-Air is one of its poorest neighborhoods.
Like so many of the area’s young people, 24-year-old Kitcher Letang doesn’t work, doesn’t go to school and became involved in gangs at a young age.
“Imagine living here with no schools, no security,” Letang told theGrio’s Jeff Johnson recently.
But one of the community’s only schools, KOREBEL, is helping to restore hope.
“We put together our money to build the school,” said Lyron Smith, a Bel-Air resident and teacher. “And we [bought] materials and [gave] our time to teach the children.”
Nearly half of Haiti’s children don’t attend school. And to make matters worse, some of the country’s teachers are working for next-to-nothing.
“Some of our teachers are earning less than 40 U.S. dollars a month,” said Edzaire Paul, Director of Methodist Schools in Haiti. “How could you ask people to work in education and they cannot feed their [own] children? It’s paradoxical.”
Financially, Smith and the staff at KOREBEL can’t do it alone. Fortunately, more than a thousand miles away, they’re getting a boost from a former Bel-Air resident.
Haitian-born Jean Denis, a Brooklyn, New York tax accountant by day, has returned to Bel-Air many times.
Recently, he gave out much needed supplies to KOREBEL’s 500 students.
“You cannot imagine the way I’m feeling [when] you see the kids, the pictures,” Denis said. ”[The kids] feel like at least somebody…somebody’s there for them because, they’re on their own. Nobody’s looking out for them.”
With only 15 percent of Haiti’s schools run by the government, the efforts from people like Denis are invaluable.
Denis started a non-profit in KOREBEL’s honor and held a fundraiser in New York to send more supplies.
“The NGO’s aren’t the only people helping Haiti,” Denis said. “We want to let them know that we, as Haitians, we stand up for our people.”