Haiti earthquake aftermath

A group of boys sit on the rooftop of a home damaged by the 2010 earthquake, across from the Jean Marie Vincent camp where they now reside, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. There are nearly 360,000 people still living in the encampments that sprouted throughout the city after the earthquake.

WASHINGTON TERRACE — A nonprofit group founded in Utah now runs two schools in Haiti and plans to open a third, striving to help more children to rise above the Caribbean nation’s crushing poverty.

“Education beats poverty, period,” said Chareyl Moyes.

From her home in Washington Terrace, Moyes works as executive director of Haitian Roots, which in 2005 started a school, teaching 25 children.

The charity has since grown to operate a pair of schools together educating about 500 children. It plans to open a third school soon, and wants to start a trade school in a few years.

Chareyl Moyes of Haitian Roots

Chareyl Moyes of Washington Terrace, co-founder and executive director of the Haitian Roots nonprofit, with two Haitian children. The organization operates two schools in Haiti and plans a third.

Her two co-founders, Shannon Cox of Dallas and a Haitian, Isson Joseph, direct the nonprofit’s work toward educating Haitian children — and trying to protect them from the all-too-common fates of abandonment to orphanages, de facto slave labor or becoming victims of international sex trafficking.

“If kids could go to school, first off it gives their parents an opportunity to go to work,” Moyes said. “Then our whole purpose is, we educate and protect and empower children.”

Moyes and Cox became interested in Haiti while working for adoption programs there. In working with Joseph on adoption matters, the Utahns asked him what was missing, what else could they do.

“He said education is what is lacking in Haiti, and we said let’s start there,” Moyes said.

The Haitian government advocates “school for all,” Moyes said but provides no funding.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 60% of the population living beneath the poverty line, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Moyes said all staff members in the schools come from the local population and the group provides ongoing training for the educators.

“We try not to have this mentality, ‘We’re a bunch of foreigners and we know best,’” she said. “We hire all Haitians. What we need is people in the U.S. to support them.”

Parents whose children attend the school are required to pay a fee or volunteer there, Moyes said, so they are invested in the program.

Haitian Roots has several priorities over the next few years. Projects include reworking an orphanage into a transition home; adding music education; opening a third school; and acquiring land and building a trade school.

The group is hosting a fundraising event 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 7, at Forrest Waters Park, 5191 Old Post Road in Ogden. It’s billed as a back to school breakfast and carnival.

Moyes said fundraising needs include $33,000 to provide food for students for a year; textbooks, $30,000; rent, $25,000; teacher training, $15,000; repairs to schools, $50,000; and school staff salaries, $110,000.

“We would like to get more community support and teach children here how lucky they are to get an education, so they can get involved with educating children somewhere else,” Moyes said.

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at mshenefelt@standard.net or 801 625-4224. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt.

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