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Shaping the Business of Vocational Learning
August 1, 2015

At the vocational school that is one of UPLIFT Haiti’s partner organizations in Haiti, students dream of a wide variety of job- or business-related goals. But they have almost no exposure to the ins and outs of starting and running a business or finding a job. That’s why integrating business topics in the curriculum is one of UPLIFT Haiti’s two new priorities for the Fr. John Maxwell Vocational School in Baradères, Haiti.

The Maxwell School was founded in 2010 by the Little Sisters of St. Thérèse, a Haitian community of women religious. Maxwell is the only vocational school in Baradères, a rural town in a region where the primary occupation is subsistence farming. The student body in the school’s 2-year program in cooking and textiles has exploded from 17 in 2010 to more than 110 today.

Along with business training, the other new priority for UPLIFT Haiti at Maxwell is to focus more on training future trainers. In March, UPLIFT Haiti volunteer Evelyn Brewer gave two students, Guedette Nicolas and Marie Ode Desardrouin, about 100 hours of intensive training in crochet. This autumn, the school will pay the women to lead a 2-week introductory course for about half of the school’s students. UPLIFT Haiti is covering the trainers’ stipends.

Guedette and Marie Ode are not the only Maxwell students to take on a teaching role. After Wesline Vitale graduated in 2012, she moved to Port-au-Prince for more intensive training in sewing techniques. Last fall, she returned to Maxwell as a full-time teacher.

In March, UPLIFT Haiti volunteer Jim De Quattro interviewed five students—two men and three women—to learn their hopes and plans after graduation. “Mostly, their plans consisted simply of their hopes,” he says, “and that points to a need for the school to provide business training and job-seeking skills. Still, I was impressed by the diversity of their goals and the optimism in their voices.”

For example, Kervens Jean says that he will create fine garments in his own shop after he graduates from Maxwell. But the shop will not be in Baradères; Kervens says few locals could afford his high-end tailoring. Instead, he will live with relatives in Port-au-Prince and have the shop inside their home. He's got loads of talent and energy, and a solid goal. But not a plan.

Peter Clebert envisions a goal similar to Kervens’, but Peter wants his tailoring business to be in Baradères, and in partnership with a few friends. Peter attended a local primary school but completed secondary school in Port-au-Prince. Then he returned to Baradères, where he wants to stay, along with his long-time partner and their three children. He says Maxwell School is helping him learn a lot. And he wants to help the school in the future, perhaps by hosting an apprentice.

Bertha Sauveur, mother of three, wants to work in her home as a seamstress. She doesn’t know how she will raise the $1,100 she estimates she will need to buy a sewing machine and a starter set of cloth, thread and tools. Her “Plan B” is to find work in the textile industry in Port-au-Prince, leaving her children in her parents' care.

On May 1, Haiti’s president announced a new, higher, minimum wage in the textile sector: $5.00 per 8-hour workday. That’s a whopping 30-cent per day increase.

Maxwell student Betty Macon may soon learn just how hard it is to save money while working in Haiti’s textile industry. She hopes those savings will finance her true goal: to become a nurse. Nursing school means tuition costs—unlike Maxwell School, where Betty can freely learn the skills she will use to earn her nursing school tuition.

Betty would learn more about nursing and nursing school from a fellow Maxwell student, Naomie Cajuste. Naomie already works as a nurse--at the Baradères medical clinic, also operated by the Little Sisters of St. Thérèse and located a few dozen steps from the school. So why does Naomie study gourmet cooking? “In life,” she answers, “everything is important.” Savings from her nursing job will finance start-up costs of the catering business Naomie wants to operate in Les Cayes, a city 35 miles away.

Naomie is among a few Maxwell students who already have a job. But in Haiti, wages are low--some say criminally low. And unemployment may exceed 70 percent. Few people can earn enough from one occupation to sustain themselves and their families. So: “Everything is important.”

UPLIFT Haiti relies exclusively on tax-deductible donations to carry out projects such as our assistance to the Maxwell School. We are grateful to our volunteers and other donors for joining us in believing that the people of Haiti have not given up on their country and we will not give up either. You can donate online at http://uplifthaiti.org/donate.htm.

Maxwell School
Fr. John Maxwell Vocational School in Baradères, Haiti.


Marie Ode, Evelyn, Guedette
Left to right, Marie Ode Desardrouin, Evelyn Brewer, Guedette Nicholas.


WEsline and Evelyn
Evelyn with Wesline Vitale, a former student now teaching at Maxwell School.


Future tailors Kervens Jean (left) and Peter Clebert.
Kervens Jean and Peter Clebert


Bertha Sauveur
Bertha Sauveur.


Betty Macon
Betty Macon.


Naomie Cajuste with teachers
Naomie Cajuste being fitted to produce the outline for a mannequin of her own form by Maxwell teacher Josue Joseph and UPLIFT Haiti volunteer Maria Jose Leon-Martone. 

Unite People to Learn, Inspire and Form Together."

© UPLIFT Haiti