It's the Economy

Top: Philo (U.S. Senior +1) students learn about the exportation of Barbancourt rum; tour the factory where Itala pasta is made; and listen to a presentation on coffee production at the REBO headquarters. Bottom: Philo students tour the Topco warehouse, which stores garlic, bouillon cubes and herring; speak with former THP board member Patrick Brun at his company, Durabloc; and pose with Volunteer Kristin Soukup, who taught the Philo Economics class this year.

If improvement in the quality of life of its citizens is what a country is after, it's the economy that matters most. Having the experience of growing up in the world's largest economy and working for nearly two decades in one of the world's poorest has burned that principle into my brain. My experience also tells me that it is far better to describe Haiti's economy as “severely undersized” than simply as "poor".

The inadequate size of Haiti's economy is implied by its low GDP per capita. However, I fear that until one really thinks in terms of "undersized" or "too small" when contemplating Haiti's current difficult economic circumstance, it is easy to miss the solution--a much bigger economy. 

Economies expand when businesses expand. That is why we have put efforts in helping LCS grads learn about business. At LCS, as I have written about in the past, we have added an Economics course based on Mankiw's introductory text. A number of years ago, we launched a sister non-profit, EGI for Haiti. EGI helps graduates who have finished university and been working for a few years learn how to start formal sector businesses.

Below you can read about the field trips we made this year from their economics teacher, Volunteer Kristin Soukup, in addition to comments from the students themselves.

As a part of the Philo economics course, each student had the opportunity to go on one of five different field trips to a local factory or company. They visited Barbancourt, a rum factory; Itala, a pasta factory; Topco, a business that imports, stores, and sells products such as garlic and herring; REBO, which sells coffee, peanut butter and sugar produced in Haiti; and Chabuma – focusing on the production part of the company, Durabloc, which produces concrete blocks for construction.

In each visit, various topics were discussed, including importation and exportation, rate of production, costs of production (such as electricity and water), technology and taxes. Through the field trips, students explored the relationship between business and economics, seeing these economic concepts used in real business situations and asking questions to the owners and managers. The field trips offer a very valuable opportunity for the students to apply the concepts they learn in the classroom while learning about how businesses function.

-- Kristin Soukup, Volunteer and Economics teacher

Being able to visit Barbancourt made me prouder to be a Haitian. It’s a national company so it employs a lot of people and it exports its products, so it is helping the economy of Haiti and has the opportunity to expand on that.

-- Djim Geurrier, Philo student

At Topco, I was very impressed by the technology. They need technology and electricity to keep their products at the right temperature. If they didn’t have modern technology, they would lose their products. They told us about how they pay taxes as a company. A company like this is interested in both the country and their buyers.

-- Lovely Joseph, Philo student

I had the privilege of visiting REBO. Through this visit, I was able to realize the importance of what we were learning in economics class. Since Haiti’s economy is struggling, it is important for us to become acquainted with businesses in order to improve the overall situation.

-- Lithza Joseph, Philo student



Court Wisdom

Top: Providence College students Emily Mitchell and Sam Ross sift compost; PC student Alyssa Zannella and Segond (U.S. 11th grade) student Jeffly Cadet crush rock with PC Chaplain and THP Board Member Fr. James Cuddy, O.P.; Coach Bob Simon shovels compost with PC student Shane Fitzgerald.

Bottom: Fr. Cuddy celebrates Mass for the community, assisted by THP President Deacon Patrick Moynihan; Junior staff member Obed Gilles (LCS ’10), Fr. Cuddy, Coach Simon and Deacon Moynihan play a friendly game of basketball.

This week, we have the pleasure of welcoming a group of eight students from Providence College to join our community. The group is led by THP Board Member and PC Chaplain, Fr. James Cuddy, O.P., and PC Basketball Assistant Coach, Bob Simon, who is making his first trip to LCS.  

Before I go on, I have to admit, in all humility, that in the overly flattering picture above--I did not make the shot. I think it is also an optical illusion that I got any height on the jump. 

First impressions are always fresh and informative. After a morning of compost turning and rock crushing, I asked Coach Simon to jot down some thoughts on his first take on LCS, Haiti and, of course, the intensity of our basketball games.

Upon arrival at LCS two days ago, it was significantly noticeable that life inside these walls is completely different from what I saw outside.  Separate from all the confusion and disarray we encountered on the streets during our ride from the Port-au-Prince airport, there is complete harmony along with a valued sense of community for the 350+ students, Volunteers, and faculty here at LCS. There is a unique friendship and love within these boundaries. This nurturing love and encouragement must support the constant reminder that change will happen. This change will take time. Everyone has a spirit and value of true purpose for life development and growth within a community. There is a meaningful understanding that organization, discipline, leadership and trust can co-exist within a country that some may feel has so little to offer the outside world. In my eyes, the youth here at LCS have so much to gain from the training, knowledge, and ability to think independently and without fear that they are given at LCS. Standing up and being heard will be the beginning of a truly inspired and independent economy here in Haiti.

Students have a rigorous and daily routine here at LCS.  Their schedule is not typical, nor is it normal compared to that of most US students attending school. Here, each day starts with a 5:00 am wake-up bell, followed by intermittent bells from 6am until 7am for breakfast. Then it’s off to class. Following breakfast their day consists of school work, individual and group related chores (every student has a role in keeping the campus clean and functional), tutoring and peer tutoring, leadership by the older students, recess or free play, and religious obligations. From sun up till sun down, there is inspired activity and education. There are specific goals and direction. People here are rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty. And they love it.

As in my profession as an assistant basketball coach, preparation is the key to success. In order to be great, you must prepare to be great. Winning is not easy, winning is hard. When the sun rises in the east, LCS is preparing and winning every single day. God bless the people here making a difference.



Hope Begins

Left: Principal Marjorie Mombrun (LCS ’07) speaks with prospective incoming students and their parents after Saturday’s exam; Right: Faculty and staff begin correcting the exams. Pictured from left to right are Esther Paul (LCS ‘00), Director of Operations-Haiti; Principal Marjorie Mombrun; Junior Staff member Obed Gilles (LCS ’09); librarian and French professor Marielle Laprès (LCS ’07); and Direction staff member Daëlle Edmond.

Each year in May, LCS becomes a flurry of activity. Hundreds of eager students arrived early in the morning last Saturday to take our entrance exam. This is the second step in the selection process for the incoming sizyèm (U.S. 7th grade) class. Those who finish in the top 100 will go on to have personal interviews. From those 100, sixty will be chosen to continue LCS's mission of empowering leaders for Haiti's better and stronger future. I have had the opportunity to witness both the joy of those who enter and the sadness of those who do not. Bittersweet couldn't have a better example. However, what makes the disappointment of those who do not enter more bearable is knowing that those who do are not at LCS for themselves but for all Haitians--in fact, for all of us. 

I have invited Obed Gilles, LCS graduate of the class of 2009 and current Junior Staff member, to share how he sees Exam Day today as an alumni, versus what he remembers from his experience.

The day I took the entrance exam in May 2002, I was very stressed because there were so many students waiting outside the gate. I was so nervous I couldn’t even finish my juice. I remember the proctor of the exam was very strict and the campus was not as complete as it is today; the building I took the exams in did not have tiled floors yet. After I finished, I was certain I was going to be a student at LCS. I rode home in a tap-tap with other students who had taken the exam and was very confident in my performance.

As a staff member I see the importance that the test has for the future of LCS. These students who are chosen will eventually be the best leaders. They will even lead the students of Haiti who do not get the chance to go to LCS.

--Obed Gilles, 2009 graduate and current Junior Staff member



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