The New Grace School, located in Simonette, Haiti, a small coastal town of about 4,000 residents, is run by Pastor Elysse, who founded the school in 2008.
Initially constructed with plastic sheeting and coconut leaves, the school has been built brick by brick—literally—with many individual bricks and other found materials donated by community members. Despite the setback of the 2010 earthquake, construction of the school has carried forward, due in large part to Pastor Elysse’s determination and faith.
Since state support for education in Haiti is virtually nonexistent, Elysse fundraises in the community, and has received support from U.S. organizations including Headwaters Relief Organization. He has invested all he has in his school and sacrificed his own interests for the children he serves.
Elysse is a man of integrity, believing that he is steward of the resources he has been blessed. “When I have a penny, I be sure to spend it on the reason that I received it,” he says.
“I believe that when God gives you people to care for, he also give you the resources,” says Pastor Elysse. This faith sustains his vision, which, coupled with his charismatic determination, has inspired others to be a part of his plan to build a school that will serve children today and future generations.
Like caring for an egg that becomes a chicken, he says.
It has been very hard to pay his teachers, and on several occasions the school has nearly closed. But from encouragement from the community and parents, and teachers sacrificing little or no pay, Pastor Elysse and the New Grace School have persevered.
“It is my vision to have a school of quality. But without teachers there is no school. I could find some people to give $30 a month for one student that would help to pay our teachers. The leaders of my church and I are the nucleus for the school—and we are determined to find money to pay the teachers.”
While Pastor Elysse’s vision is inspired by his faith, he is also cognizant of the reality of Haiti today, where only about half of the people over the age 15 are able to read. He believes that providing resources at even the most basic level—to provide access to education and to teach children how to read—that the world will open up for them.
Headwaters Relief Organization has supported the New Grace School since 2011, including recently helping to build a new roof on the school. “When I met you, Rebecca [CEO of Headwaters Relief] it was like a miracle,” says Elysse. “Because of you, there is a real sense of school. There is paper and pencils. There is some stuff to work with. The kids work better—and have improved their knowledge and education because they practice.”
“Headwaters is a part of my vision for the school,” he says. “I want to thank you and your staff and all the people, the builders and others in the states that are involved and contribute money. I think that God will bless you all.”