In August, 2011, the Parliament Foundation of Quebec announced its decision to award Universal Learning Centre a second grant of books in French. This second grant is slated for sites in Ouanaminthe and Ferrier, Haiti. The grant resulted in a gift of 18,000 books in French. ULC-Ouanaminthe will hold approximately 15,000 of those books and ULC-Ferrier will hold the remaining 5,000.
Ouanaminthe is a northern border town with over 250,000 residents. With the help of the Mayor Rony Pierre and a handful of wonderful local business leaders, we located a fantastic site near the town center, on a major thoroughfare. The leased facility is nearly 2,500 sq ft with a nice sized yard in the back (perfect for a playground!). Ouanaminthe has received recent international attention as the government of Canada committed $4.2 million to renovate and improve the police headquarters, the largest stronghold along the northern border.
Ferrier is just a 30-minute drive from Ouanaminthe but is significantly smaller and very different. The dusty little agricultural town has an estimated 20,000 residents. The proximity of Ferrier to Ouanaminthe will allow patrons to travel periodically to ULC-Ouanaminthe to access the larger collection. There is just one road into Ferrier, and it is unpaved. We were pleased to find a site near the main street, with great foot traffic, offering easy access to the community.
At both sites, the landlords made renovations to suit our needs, and our locally hired carpenters have built shelving and other furniture using local products. The site in Ouanaminthe is pre-wired for electricity, and so ULC-Ouanaminthe will have electricity to a certain degree, but will require a generator for those times when the utility is unavailable, which is a fairly regular occurrence. The town of Ferrier offers no electricity so ULC-Ferrier will require a generator and wiring. Evergreen Electrical Contracting of Mansfield, Texas will provide electrical engineering and project management at both sites after we secure funding for the electrical projects.
While in Haiti this summer, the team interviewed candidates for employment at the new sites. We were impressed with the level of enthusiasm from the candidates, and in fact, from each of the community members with whom we spoke. From the pool of candidates at each site, we selected two individuals to manage each library. One month prior to opening, the new staff will begin setting up the libraries to receive the books, and will begin public awareness campaigns to establish relationships within the communities and begin to attract visitors to the new sites.
The new staff will be trained during the upcoming trip prior to hosting grand openings at the new sites. Training will include such basic information as how to navigate and maintain the Dewey Decimal System, as ULC sites are the first libraries the community, and therefore our staff, have experienced. However, volunteers traveling with ULC offer expertise in areas such as management, education (k-12 and higher), academic research, event planning, marketing and finance, and will share their expertise with the new staff at new staff training to ensure a well-rounded training program. Staff from ULC-Pilate as well as the ULC-Haiti Logistics Manager and ULC-Haiti Regional Manager will attend the training to supplement their knowledge.
In addition to training the staff, among trip goals are to install the 18,000 books and to conduct needs studies to ascertain from the community what their perceived areas of need are. The trip is planned for February 2013. Expected guests at the grand openings include:
- Haitian Minister of the Diaspora, Daniel Supplice
- Mayors from both Ferrier and Ouanaminthe
- Internationally acclaimed musician and candidate for the Haitian Senate Jacques Sauveur Jean
- Delegate of the North East Department and representative of President Martell
- Superintendent of Ouanaminthe
- Leadership from international NGOs based in Ouanaminthe
- School principals, clergy and local business leaders
If you are interested in traveling with us, please email Dana Jean. We would be thrilled for you to travel with us and can always use the help!