Zornows speak on relationship between education and poverty in Haiti

Laura Streyle

The third installment of the
Volunteer and Community Service
Center’s Social Justice Series was
a presentation titled “Education,
Poverty & Natural Disasters.” The
presentation took place Feb. 18
at 6:30 p.m. in the Warch Campus
Center Cinema.
Lawrence seniors Oliver and
Rebecca Zornow delivered the presentation,
which focused on the
relationship between Haiti’s educational
system and the country’s
overwhelming poverty levels.
Four years ago, 17-year-old
Oliver Zornow traveled to Haiti for
an independent senior capstone
project that was originally designed
to deepen his understanding of
Haiti’s poverty via observation and
cultural immersion.
From his research, Zornow discovered
that 80 percent of the
population lived below the poverty
line, with 54 percent living
in extreme poverty. He learned
that half of the Haitian population
could not read, that only eight
percent of the schools in Haiti are
public and that the public education
expenditure in Haiti is 1.4
Once he arrived in Haiti and
these statistics became a tangible
reality, Zornow aimed to change
the goal of his project from learning
about poverty to doing something
about it. Zornow created a
free school in Caneille, Haiti that
offers education to over 120 firstto
fifth-grade students.
The school building was constructed
by local Haitian builders,
and the six teachers at the school
have the country’s equivalent of a
teaching certificate. In addition to
providing a space for learning, the
Zornows have worked to organize
community seed distributions,
fund a medical truck for transportation
to and from hospitals and
to provide kids with free lunches
during the school day.
Zornow raised the initial funds
for the school and became the
founder of the Caneille Regional
Development Fund, a program that
works to provide continuous financial
support for the school.
Feeding into this fund are
smaller fundraisers that the couple
continues to put on. Their fundraisers
range from craft sales, to
sponsoring a booth at SWAHP’s
Alternative Giving Fair, to cutting
seatbelts out of cars at junkyards.
“It costs a dollar to cut them
out and you can sell them for two
dollars, so we were making a one
dollar profit on each one,” Oliver
Zornow said.
In 2006, when Zornow asked
students at the school what they
wanted to be when they grew up,
he was met with puzzled faces.
They had not been shown ways of
life other than subsistence living.
In 2009, when Zornow posed
the same question to the kids,
students shouted that they wanted
to be lawyers, doctors, community
leaders or the president.
Especially during a time when
Haiti is hurting from the aftershocks
of the Jan. 12 earthquake,
Zornow said that the kids’ leadership
skills will be key to getting the
country back on its feet.
For more information on the
Caneille Regional Development
Fund, go to http://caneille.wordpress.