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HomeFeaturesEducating Young Haitian Refugees

Educating Young Haitian Refugees

Children under 18 years old make up almost half of Haiti’s population of 9 million. As many as 8,000 schools that served 1.8 million children have been destroyed or damaged in the Port-au-Prince area alone, according to the United Nations. Pierre Michel Laguerre, director general of Haiti’s Education Ministry, said all of the schools on the western side of the city were totally destroyed, while 40 percent in the south were severely damaged. A preliminary U.N. estimate calls for at least 4,000 temporary classrooms.
As the U.S. welcomes thousands of Haitian children fleeing the devastation in their country, schools with French programs are facing increasing enrollment demands from parents concerned about continuing their children’s education in French. Already at capacity, these schools will only be able to admit a few dozen newcomers without additional help. Fortunately, the French Embassy’s highly successful French Heritage Language Program (featured in April 2009 edition of Language Magazine) is ideally suited to the critical task of providing Haitian refugees with French-speaking classes, and they are seeking support in order to meet such a large influx of new students.
The French Heritage Language Program, which was launched in 2005 in New York, is primarily funded through private donations from individuals or institutions, and additional funds are urgently needed. Donations are tax deductible, and can be made easily at They will be put towards hiring new French-speaking teachers, purchasing teaching materials, and coordinating with local school authorities and the Haitian community. Funds will be directed to the New York program, which is already well established, but they will be used especially in order to accelerate the launch of a Heritage program in Miami (which is home to a large Haitian diaspora), following urgent requests for help from Miami’s Haitian Cultural Alliance. The Embassy plans to help in other cities with sizeable Haitian communities as well, such as Washington D.C. and Boston.
Created by the French Embassy’s Educational Service, the French Heritage Language Program is administered by FACE (French American Cultural Exchange), the nonprofit foundation partner of the French Embassy in the US. The program seeks to address the linguistic needs of students of Francophone backgrounds. Launched in 2005 in several New York City public schools, and in 2009 in Miami, the FHLP promotes English-French bilingualism and biculturalism by offering free, for-credit French classes that build on the cultural heritage of the students by providing them with a key asset in today’s globalized economy (French is spoken in over 50 countries). Please, help make a difference in the education and the life of these children. Donate today.

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