Who We Are & What We Do
The Haiti Plunge and its partners focus on teacher training, developing and executing educational programs for students, and providing the population with seminars on agricultural development and vacation camps for the children.
The mission of Haiti Plunge, Inc. is to educate, challenge and empower both American and Haitian youth in social, educational and agricultural sustainable development in rural Haiti. The organization is committed to enabling young people to make a difference with their lives and be of service to others.
The Haiti Plunge takes place 58 miles north of Port au Prince in the mountainous area of the Cabaret Region, the only area of Haiti that the organization invests its resources. The cooperative is in the second stage of sustainable development. This means that Haitian leaders are at the forefront of all community decisions and project implementation. With the partnership, guidance, and leadership development provided through the Haiti Plunge, these leaders have the necessary skills to continue the progress within their communities.
In addition to its work in Haiti, the Plunge has brought 50 Haitian students to work at a camp in the Berkshires of Massachusetts so that they can earn money to go to university. This program has since stopped due to difficulty in obtaining visas for young Haitians–however, many of the youth who have traveled to the US are still currently working as leaders within their communities and with the Haiti Plunge.
The Haiti Plunge, as a nonprofit agency, is overseen by a Board of Directors. The 2021 Board includes Ruth Harrison, Alex Daugherty, Nick Raschdorf, Kathy Morrissette, Justin Harrison, Madeline Nesbit, Spencer Moser, Robert Petricca, Ian Warren, Susan Yates-Mulder and Daniel Warren. Ninety percent of Board members have participated in at least one on-site Plunge; the other 10% plan to do so in the future.
Develop & Execute Educational Programs for Students
Agricultural Development Seminars
Provide Vacation Camps for Children
Eighty percent of Haiti’s nine million people live in the mountains and work at farming small family gardens to grow their own food. The average Haitian farmer makes less than $400 USD per year.
Since 1984, the Haiti Plunge has been sending teams exclusively to Cabaret Region of Haiti for the purpose of building village partnerships.
The nine bush villages served by The Haiti Plunge span a 25-mile radius. Both American and Haitian students have built the physical infrastructure, located in the village of Desab. There is now a four-building school, a clinic, a church, team residence, bakery and co-op office. Another school was built in Brely, and a new bakery in 2011 to replace one demolished by the earthquake. The bakery provides bread for thousands of people living in the higher mountain regions. The organization has also invested in building a six-mile road connecting five of the villages to each other and to the main highway.
One of the first projects of the Haiti Plunge was to cap a mountain spring to provide clean drinking water for the people living in the area. Running water and electricity is still nonexistent in the rural mountains.
The teams have also invested in multiple projects for erosion control including a reforestation project and the planting of vetiver grass and fruit orchards. Haiti loses 1% of its topsoil annually, as it is washed down the mountainside during the rainy seasons, and it is over 87% deforested because trees are cut down to make charcoal, a cash crop. More than 2,000 fruit trees have now been planted around their gardens to hold the soil. In May and June 2012 the Mango Tree initiative was started, in which 264 fruit trees were planted on property in the village of Galgal. In five years these fruit trees were able to provide a cash crop to help sustain the schools.
The village of Desab has moved forward independently. Village leaders have taken charge. One of their first projects was to recruit an organization that provides clean water to recap the existing spring and to provide a cement housing to protect the water supply from animals. The Desab community also added two additional classrooms to their school.
Haiti is one of the most media-maligned countries in the world. Most information that is published focuses on what is happening in the city of Port-au-Prince.
Haiti’s needs are overwhelming. The people have had to overcome so many natural disasters that getting ahead seems to be an impossibility. In spite of what has befallen them, the people never lose hope. Because of their resilient spirits, the Haiti Plunge teams continue to work side-by-side to help them to rebuild their country and their lives.
Without outside organizations providing some assistance this area of Haiti would never develop. Because there is no public education in Haiti, the country is slow to grow out of its welfare status. Less than fifty percent of the children in the mountainous areas attend school because there are so few schools and all schools are tuition-based. Less than twenty-five percent of primary school students attend secondary schools because of the cost of higher tuition, renting a space to live and purchasing food.
In September and October of 2008 four major hurricanes destroyed homes and farmland in the area we served. Over 1,000 people were killed many of them children who were washed down the mountains by the force of the water. The Plunge was focusing on the rebuilding process from these hurricanes when an earthquake struck the island in January 2010. Several of the cooperative buildings were destroyed including the primary school and bakery. The quake also caused extensive damage to the team residence and church. Generous donations made it possible for the Plunge to rebuild the structures and to put in a new road.
And 2020 brought even more challenges with the pandemic and Hurricane Laura.
The Haiti Plunge serves a population of 40,000 living in the nine partner villages which spans a 25-mile radius. By focusing on sustainable development, we can help empower the Haitian people to take charge of their own future and their country.
The people of the Cabaret Region farm inherited patches of land passed down through generations. The land is overworked, the clean water supply extremely limited, and erosion is a constant problem. One percent of the land is washed away annually. Reforestation through education was started 15 years ago, and great strides have been made in planting trees and vegetation for erosion control.
Sustainable development requires education for both cultures. We need to provide the Haitian people with the tools and information they need, being careful not to advance beyond what they can manage at any given point. This is why we have begun to teach the teachers. In 2013, we began to put technology—computers and Internet access—in the teachers' hands so that they could further their own learning through Khan Academy, an online educational resource.
The education of the next generation is critical to Haiti's future. Learn more about how, through its child sponsorship program, the Haiti Plunge sends children to school and subsidizes the school in order to minimize the tuition for parents.