Dreams: Educating the Future of Haiti

Yunus Social Business Centre @ Becker College (in association with the Seven Hills Foundation) and the Be Like Brit Foundation             

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In 2010, Becker College established a global partnership with the Be Like Orphanage in Grand Goave, Haiti.

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This partnership was especially significant and meaningful as Len Gengel, co-founder of the Be Like Brit Foundation, Inc., graduated from Becker Junior College (1984) and was a former member of the Board of Trustees.  Dr. Debra Pallatto-Fontaine, Professor and now Executive Director for Global Initiatives, began taking students on service learning trips to Haiti in 2011.  Both Becker faculty and students helped with the construction of the orphanage; painting walls, building furniture, and laying bricks.   Since that first trip, Becker students have been traveling to Haiti every year to immerse themselves in the culture, to work and play with the children at the orphanage, and to help build sturdy, permanent homes for people on the mountain behind the orphanage.

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Over the past six years, Dr. Pallatto-Fontaine has made more than a dozen trips to Haiti leading groups and providing training for Be Like Brit’s teachers and caregivers.

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Background

Britney Gengel was a beautiful, fearless, and compassionate 19 year-old when she decided to travel with her college, Lynn University, to the country of Haiti. Upon arrival, Britney was overwhelmed by the devastating poverty visible everywhere, but the love she received from the children she met, despite their conditions, inspired her to send the following text to her mother:

“They love us so much and everyone is so happy. They love what they have and they work so hard to get nowhere, yet they are all so appreciative. I want to move here and start an orphanage myself.” ~ Britney Gengel sent this text to her Mom on 1/12/2010capture6

Shortly after sending the text, a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti. Its impact killed an estimated 300,000 people, including Britney. Her family could not let her die in vain so in loving memory they started the Be Like Brit Foundation, Inc. Over the course of two years, a 19,000 square foot earthquake proof orphanage was built in Grand Goave, Haiti — the town where Brit was supposed to travel to the day after the earthquake.

 

Today there are 33 girls and 33 boys living and thriving in the orphanage. The number 33 is symbolic of the 33 days Brit was missing in the rubble at The Hotel Montana.

The majority of our children are true orphans or came from such horrific conditions that we couldn’t say no. The Be Like Brit Foundation is raising the next generation of leaders in Haiti.

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Becker College Global Initiative:  Education/Training Program for Be Like Brit Staff

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and the second most densely populated.  Urban and rural poverty rates have risen with overall poverty at 77%.  In the rural areas, where the Be Like Brit Orphanage is located, 88% of the people are poor with 67% of the people living in extreme poverty (less than U.S. $1.25 per day).  Unemployment in Haiti is currently over 40%.

Be Like Brit is now considered to be one of the largest employers in rural Haiti, bringing a sustainable lifestyle to over 100 women and men.  In order to help fulfill Be Like Brit’s Vision to Raise the Next Generation of Leaders in Haiti, The Yunus Centre Social Business Centre at Becker College is launching, “Dreams: Educating the Future of Haiti” for Be Like Brit staff living and working in Grand Goâve, Haiti.   Selected teachers and caregivers from the orphanage will enroll in a two-semester, six-module, education/training program and will receive a certificate upon successful completion of module objectives.  This new program will complement and advance training for staff in leadership positions at the orphanage.

Teaching modules consist of theory and practice in leadership, child/adolescent psychology, social and emotional intelligence, and learning and social competence.  Social impact metrics will be utilized throughout the program.

This project is considered a social enterprise under Becker’s Yunus Centre focusing on building the social good, the common good, and addressing social issues to create positive community change.  Goals of social enterprise include generating revenue to pursue a mission (such as Be Like Brit’s commitment to raising the next generation of leaders in Haiti), and the training and/or employment of people who are typically excluded from the mainstream economy (Be Like Brit staff).

The initiative aligns with Dr. Yunus’ call to alleviate poverty and unemployment worldwide through education and the development of social business and social enterprise.  Becker is committed in helping to achieve a more prosperous, equitable, and sustainable world through the work of global citizenship and the Yunus Centre at Becker and in addressing the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).   “Dreams” will focus on the following:

Goal #1:  No poverty

Goal #4:  Quality education

Goal #8:  Good jobs and economic growth

The staff at Be Like Brit will benefit from this new training program by enhancing their leadership skills and pedagogy, leading to employment security and expanded education.

During Spring Break in 2017, Dr. Pallatto-Fontaine will lead another group to Haiti to visit sites at Yunus Social Business Haiti and to meet with Mr. Philippe Saint Cyr, Haiti Country Director.