From Homelessness to Hope in Haiti: Salesian School Provides Trade Skills to Rebuild a Country

By MissionNewswire at September 13, 2011 | 6:02 am | Print

From Homelessness to Hope in Haiti: Salesian School Provides Trade Skills to Rebuild a Country

(MissionNewswire) As Haiti continues to rebuild nearly two years after the devastating earthquake, efforts are underway to meet the growing and changing needs of reconstruction by training students in programs specifically designed to meet the most critical labor needs in the country.

In September 2011, a record 71 students graduated from the Salesian Timkatec 2 trade school in Pétion-Ville, just outside of Port au Prince. There, the students received a vocational education preparing to rebuild their country while developing the skills to be self sufficient. The majority of students trained as masons, builders, electricians and plumbers while others trained to be tailors and shoemakers.

Many of the youth, who were once young, homeless children taken in by the Salesians, will now play an important role in the reconstruction process in post-quake Haiti.

“We are adjusting the training curriculums to increase construction-related jobs while also increasing the tailoring courses since clothing production has been an important industry that provideds good job opportunities,” says Father Joseph Simon, Timkatec founder.

According to a Reuters’ news report, the clothing sector accounted for about 75 percent of Haiti‘s exports and employed more than 25,000 Haitians before the earthquake.

“Every single one of these graduates has the same goal – to make Haiti a better country,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. arm of the global Salesians of Don Bosco. “We know that the future of Haiti lies with its youth, and these graduates are ready to get started.”

To help graduates make the transition to full-time employment, the school is planning to equip each trade school graduate with a set of tools necessary to begin work in their chosen trade. Efforts are currently underway to raise the $16,000 needed to provide each trade school graduate with a $225 tool kit required to begin work.

“We must make finding students jobs as great a priority as their actual training and education,” explains Fr. Simon, noting that purchasing the tools needed to begin work would prevent many of the students from working in their fields.

“We are constantly looking for ways to improve job opportunities for youth,” adds Fr. Hyde. “Whether it is through existing programs, helping graduates overcome obstacles to enter the workforce, or researching the needs of the marketplace.”

Salesian Missions is currently undertaking an in-depth study of the employment situation in Haiti to better understand the needs of the marketplace and determine what opportunities are available to students.

“With this study, we’ll ensure that the training in our various centers across Haiti puts graduates to work in the areas where they are needed most,” says Fr. Hyde. “We’ll use the results to develop an effective, country-wide training plan.”

Plans are already underway to expand Timkatec, which includes the trade school and also a girls’ school (to be called Timkatec 3) for 186 day students and an overnight shelter for 40 children. The trade school area will expand by more than 50 percent in 2012 adding 40 students to the current 190 students. The girls’ school area will also expand by more than 50 percent in 2012 to serve an additional 50 girls.

Overall, Timkatec has grown since the January, 2010 earthquake. Prior to the earthquake, the student population was 430. Directly following the earthquake, the student population dropped to 320, but grew to 505 last year. For the 2011-2012 school year, more than 600 students are expected.

Fr. Simon, a Salesian priest, started Timkatec (“timoun k’ap teke chans” meaning “children who try their luck to survive”) more than 10 years ago – opening its doors to homeless children long before the 2010 earthquake.

Timkatec is part of the global Salesians of Don Bosco, along with Salesian Missions, which was designated as the coordinator of relief and reconstruction efforts in the wake of the disaster. The Salesians are fully committed to rebuilding their educational infrastructure in Haiti. Since 1935, Salesians have worked to educate Haiti’s most vulnerable youth and trained the best and brightest to become teachers and leaders.

To make a donation to recovery efforts in Haiti, go to www.SalesianMissions.org, click on “Donate Now” and select “Haiti Recovery Fund” from the available options.

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