SEATTLE — Actor Rainn Wilson, best known for his role as Dwight Schrute on the hit TV show The Office, has shifted his attention to his new role as co-founder of LIDÈ. LIDÈ, which translates to “leaders” in Haitian Creole, was created in 2014 as an educational initiative aimed at building resiliency among at-risk adolescent girls in rural Haiti.
The program combines the arts and literacy with female empowerment to help girls unlock their full potential. These main elements of the program make it stand out among other developmental aid initiatives for girls’ education in Haiti.
LIDÈ Focuses on Haiti’s Most Impoverished Communities
In the 2010 earthquake, 500 schools were destroyed, which has had long-term impacts on the livelihoods of the affected communities. Private schools are the main source of girls’ education in Haiti, but tuition fees remain an obstacle for many of the six million people living under the national poverty line. LIDÈ takes this into consideration by collaborating with these rural communities to address the specific needs of their girls.
Poverty is rampant in rural Haiti, with 75.2 percent of people in rural areas living below the poverty line. Girls aged nine to 22 are disproportionately affected by poverty and are typically pulled out of school to pursue domestic labor jobs in cities.
Girls participating in the program meet one or more of LIDÈ’s criteria: they are behind in age-to-grade, out of school, live in an impoverished community, are employed in domestic labor, have experienced trauma or abuse, are food insecure or have a disability. LIDÈ focuses on girls living in these circumstances, as they are at greater risk of living in poverty.
Increasing Literacy a Key Part of Improving Girls’ Education in Haiti
In 2015, the literacy rate for females in Haiti was 57.3 percent. In other Latin American and Caribbean countries, the average literacy rate is 93 percent. Literacy is crucial for success in the workplace, especially for non-domestic labor jobs.
LIDÈ has created programs for girls’ education in Haiti that integrate the arts with informal education to improve proficiencies in basic reading and writing. Students that show exceptional determination can receive scholarships so that they can complete their basic education in a more formal environment.
LIDÈ’s Meal Program Helps Girls Avoid Malnourishment and Stunting
The World Food Programme reports that 50 percent of the population in Haiti is undernourished. The prevalence of moderate to severe stunting as a result of this undernourishment is 21 percent. Stunting can lead to a reduced capacity to learn because of the significant effects it has on IQ.
All LIDÈ programs include a meal because many participating girls only eat one meal a day. These meals are prepared locally by women in the communities and contain a variety of healthy foods like vegetables, beans and whole grains, all of which are locally sourced.
Training and Apprenticeship Opportunities Help Students and Teachers Achieve More
USAID reported in 2015 that 80 percent of teachers in Haiti do not receive pre-service training, and in the public sector, half of teachers lack basic qualifications. LIDÈ recognizes the scarcity of qualified teachers and trains locals in rural communities to be facilitators of the program. LIDÈ trains people who are enthusiastic about serving their communities; this can include anyone from academic teachers to eager youths.
In addition, girls aged 17 or older who have participated in the program for a minimum of one year can apply for an apprenticeship. After completing the training, girls can go on to become full-time facilitators, helping to further the reach of girls’ education in Haiti.
While LIDÈ is not a formal educational institution like the private schools in the country, it provides invaluable support to girls’ education in Haiti. The initiative provides girls with the opportunity to test their limits and reach their full potential by building their capacities in reading and writing. By giving girls the tools they need to rise out of poverty, this inspiring generation of leaders will have a brighter future.
– Taylor Jennings