The Haitian Education & Leadership Program provides merit- and needs-based university scholarships in Haiti to straight-A students from disadvantaged backgrounds. HELP’s mission is to create, through merit- and needs-based scholarships, a community of young professionals and leaders who will promote a more just society in Haiti.In 1997, Isemonde Joseph, a native of Haiti’s notorious Cité Soleil slum and the top girl in her high school class, asked her former teacher, Conor Bohan, for $30 to register for secretarial school. Conor encouraged Isemonde to pursue her dream of studying medicine and paid for the first year’s tuition and books. Realizing that many high school graduates never reached their potential due to extreme poverty, Conor began matching sponsors with deserving students. Isemonde received her MD degree in 2005 and began work as a staff physician at the Gheskio Center in Port-au-Prince with a starting annual salary of $14,500.
From 1998 to 2004, HELP had neither salaried employees nor physical space. In 2004, with 40 students, HELP moved into our first Student Center, which eventually accommodated 110 students. The HELP Student Center was destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake, and we moved into a new building in July 2010. Today, HELP us the largest university scholarship program in Haiti, supporting 120 students for the 2012-2013 academic year.
In the early days, a HELP scholarship covered only tuition and books. Today’s HELP students receive a range of additional services, including living stipends, housing, English, IT, and leadership classes, computer and library access, advising and counseling, internships, career services, and access to short-term international exchange programs.
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