Harvard University Health Services will be contributing $8,000 toward construction of a secondary school in Haiti after nearly two thirds of the 2,500 students who completed this year’s student health assessment chose to donate to the effort.
This year marked the first time that students were offered a monetary incentive to complete the health assessment survey, which was e-mailed to undergraduates in late March and is administered every other year.
Students were given the option of making a $5 donation to The Orphanage and School at Grison-Garde, Haiti or receiving a $5 gift card to J.P. Licks.
Raymond Ford, the charity’s founder, said that the Harvard donation would be critical in financing the completion of a new secondary school building in time for the fall.
The orphanage currently houses and feeds about 70 children, and the school expects to support about 700 local students this September, according to Ford.
He said that the Jan. 12 earthquake displaced so many Haitian citizens to cities near Grison-Garde that funds had to be diverted away from the construction of the secondary school in order to care for an influx of new orphans and students.
The resulting budget shortfall will be almost entirely offset by the Harvard donation, Ford said.
“When you talk about the importance of secondary education, it may mean everything to some of them,” Ford said.
He added that secondary education is correlated with lower rates of HIV infection and unwanted pregnancy in poor women, as well as higher employment rates among both men and women.
UHS officials selected Ford’s charity at the suggestion of UHS chief of pediatrics Maureen Lynch, who has been volunteering in Haiti for the past 10 years at a medical clinic near the orphanage.
“We see the kids from the orphanage in the clinic, and when you feed and educate these kids, they are beautiful and thriving,” Lynch wrote in an e-mail.
Director of Behavioral Health and Academic Counseling Paul J. Barreira added that he was surprised and pleased that so many Harvard students chose to donate their reward to the efforts in Haiti.
“Because we never offered this option in the past, we had no idea how many students would choose the donation,” Barreira wrote in an e-mailed statement. “We are delighted that the $8,000 will make such a huge difference.”
—Staff writer Evan T.R. Rosenman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.