I'd choose the word "foundation." The word represents two aspects of the past year 2022 for APA. First, due to the unrest in Haiti, remembering the importance of building on the foundation of our past years – ensuring we were leveraging our past strengths despite current moments of uncertainty. Doing what is core to APA, doing what is necessary so that our students and communities receive what they deserve. Secondly, setting up a foundation for our growth as we deepen our work across rural communities.
Our biggest achievement continues to center on student success. Our network of Haitian civic leaders have come together since day 1 of our movement so that all children receive their human right to a quality education. We continued to do that during 2022 despite unprecedented challenges, politically and economically in Haiti. We have now reached over 16,000 students. Our students are brilliant, and we were thrilled to see averages of 79% achievement rates across our teacher-leaders' classrooms (more than double the national average of 30% in primary schools) even in the midst of disruption and uncertainty.
To complement that, I'm grateful for the work done during 2022 to deepen socioemotional supports in our curriculum and school partnerships. So that our students, teachers, families are not just achieving – but are also truly well.
We believe in collective action, in konbit, in partnership at APA. I'm grateful that solidarity with others expanded during 2022, including:
There are several stories that come to mind, so it is difficult to choose one. But I think of Mirebalais as a strong example of what we mean to invest in "community proof points." The level of intersecting actions, collaborations, and collective action in Mirebalais has been outstanding this past year.
Teacher leaders, school leaders, and parent leaders in Mirebalais coming together to reopen schools as soon as possible despite unrest. Literally so much interest in our konbits – and too many people to hold in one space – that there was a day when 3 konbits took place simultaneously in different parts of the Mirebalais community. And even examples of our civic leaders spearheading what it means to intersect education with other fields – including environmental activism, IT learning, food security, entrepreneurship – so that justice and equity are community wide. I am in awe of all that a people, a community, a country can do when shared goals are the priority.
Yes, it was a very challenging year. Most students have already missed 4 months of school for 2022-2023 school year, because it was not possible to open schools during September 2022. Not to mention the intense, double-digit inflation that has raised the cost of living, fuel, food, and transportation. Physical safety is also a concern as violence has spread beyond urban areas. To name a few of the challenges.
And yet, still we stand. More than stand, we thrive at APA. The strategies we used were centered on doing what was most important for our students and communities. We couldn't do it all, we had to say "no" to some new requests, and we had to postpone some activities if ever safety was a concern.
One important approach was to have a regional approach to operations, so that we didn't travel unnecessarily. We deepened our staff, office operations, and supplies in each of our 2 regions (Artibonite and Plateau Central). To mirror our increased emphasis on socioemotional supports for students, teachers, and families, we also partnered more closely with a team of local psychologists and social workers to support our staff. Yet another important strategy was to always have a "plan B" – and maybe plan C, plan D, plan E – for every community activity. We are a solution-oriented team.
APA is in "phase 2" of our 3-part strategic plan to contribute to liberation in Haiti. 2023 is the year we hope to complete the launch of the initiatives that will represent our "phase 2" priorities. After the parent leader cohort and school leaders cohort additions to our programming (since 2019), we are now eager to launch a new coach residency program as well as a new data platform to track community-level wellbeing in 2023. These initiatives are complementing what continues at APA related to student achievement, classroom and school level impact, as well as the network of our civic leaders working together in the community.
In the next 3-5 years, we would be honored to enter the 3rd phase of our movement. The 3rd phase is APA being a blueprint for national-level system change and influencing transformation beyond our 5 rural partner communities.
Solidarity still matters. Fighting for justice still matters. Haiti has led the way in what justice, equity, and freedom can be once before – and I truly believe that Haiti will do that again, this time through a revolution in our education system. Join us in that effort. If some of us are not free, none of us are truly free.