Hello and welcome to Universal Learning Centre!
Universal Learning Centre (ULC) is based on my own personal experience and journey through childhood in Haiti. Growing up, from kindergarten through elementary and high school, the only educational materials I was exposed to were the few books my parents bought me for the school year. I was fortunate. Those without the financial means for books simply do not get them. After the school year ends, there are no opportunities to continue learning and most children spend their summers playing in the street. In Haiti, the only time a child’s mind is engaged in a true learning environment is at school. Even then, the majority of teachers do not possess even the most basic educational materials to effectively teach their students. Forget laptops. Can you imagine going to school and learning without books, paper, or pencils?
In 1988, when I was 19 years old, I was fortunate to leave my home country to pursue higher education abroad. I remember the first time that I stepped into a library – the Brooklyn Public Library- and being so shocked to realize that we did not even have a basic version of the same thing in Haiti. I remember thinking that the library was such a beautiful and powerful place, an environment structured to nourish and challenge the mind. Right then and there, the ULC dream was formulated. I had never dreamt of such an inspiring place, but I made it my dream to one day build a library in my home country, so that all of the children in Haiti have a place to read and learn, rather than being isolated to the street, and all Haitians have access to educational materials to nourish and develop their minds.
Since then, I have spoken to hundreds of students and teachers across Haiti to find out that the dream I had 23 years ago is still alive in the heart and mind of every Haitian.
A few years ago, I traveled with a team of ULC volunteers to Pilate, Haiti, to open our first library. It was an incredible experience that truly validated our mission, and reinforced the reason we continue to focus on spreading learning centres across Haiti and developing countries. On the day we opened the library, approximately thirty children showed up. The ULC volunteers and I decided to work on a project with them. One of our team members asked a boy to draw a zebra. A 16-year-old girl kept staring at us, and when I talked to her I discovered that she had never seen a zebra in her life, not even in a video or book. So, I grabbed a book and showed her what a zebra was. Delighted, she gave me a huge hug, and we both cried. She said, “Thank you so much and what a blessing!” It was an inspiring moment that I will never forget.
The basic foundation of any civilized society is education, and this has been the root cause of Haiti’s economic failure and political instability. Education is essential for an individual’s success in life. It provides skills that prepare one physically, mentally, and socially for the workforce later in life. Investment in human capital, lifelong learning, and quality education assist in the development of any society. Why should Haiti be excluded? Education must become the foundation for the new Haiti, and in return it will bring economic wealth, social prosperity, and political stability.
Education is more than classes and school. Education is access to information and resources. Many students around the world do not have that access. I firmly believe in the adage that if you teach a person how to fish, he will feed himself for the rest of his life. That has been my own experience, my own life. For countries like Haiti, resource centres are integral for teaching people not only how to feed themselves, but to flourish.
I believe that every life has a purpose and every action has a corresponding effect, just like my conversation with 16-year-old girl in Haiti who did not know what a zebra was. Lighting one candle at a time, and helping one student at a time, just imagine the ripple effects of our very first resource centre in Haiti. That’s the beauty of this work. The smallest action can spread outwards to change lives and entire communities. It all begins with just a few committed individuals. You can teach a student a lesson for a day, but if you can teach him or her to learn by creating curiosity, that student will continue learning for life, so long as he or she has access to information.
We cannot do it all alone. Please join the ULC team in transforming the basic pillar of society: education. We are creating opportunities for others around the world to hope, to dream, and to thrive. By joining, you yourself will become part of the transformation that opens doors to a more promising future for Haitians and students worldwide.
Every child deserves an education…
Jacques M Jean
Universal Learning Centre