In contrast to aid efforts whose handouts end, Act-For-The-Future was started in an effort to provide sustainable ways for teenagers and young adults to continuously earn money to support their education and their families. Through teaching sewing and, in the future, other trades, we support a school that will contribute to individual, professional, and community development. As a non-profit organization in the United States, Act-for-the-Future exists solely to support the school and students in Gros-Morne, Haiti. We are governed by a Board of Directors that is 100% volunteer.
The school began in 2013, three years after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that resulted in the deaths of over 220,000 people, over 300,000 injured, and further infrastructure collapse (Oxfam International). Even three years after the earthquake, the needs were great. Many Haitian teenagers and children in Haiti are motivated to learn yet unable to attend school because their families are unable to afford school tuition. Unfortunately, opportunities for teenagers to earn money to pay for tuition are lacking. Yet professional tailors are in high demand in Haiti. Many Haitians utilize tailors to create outfits for weekly church attendance and all Haitian schools require uniforms yet there are few retail clothing stores. Fabric is typically bought off the bolt and then the fabric is brought to the local tailor. Thus, the school was started in order to bridge the gap between uneducated teenagers and community needs.
The school started in with one instructor and classes held in one room of the instructor’s house. The room held one chalkboard, one table, chairs, and two manual sewing machines. The sewing machines were manual, foot-powered machines bought from a local tailor secondhand for 400USD total. In 2013 there was no electricity in the city of Gros-Morne and although there is some unreliable electricity in the city now, our students still rely on manual machines. Classes were held three days per week with optional practice on the weekends. A two-year curriculum was created by our volunteer instructor in the form of hands-on projects and a final exam to design, sew, and wear a completed and functional outfit.
The 17 original students completed their program in 2015 and are now considered tailoring professionals in the community. The graduates are allowed to use the school’s sewing machines to tailor clothes in order to complete any orders they receive. The majority of these students have continued their education and are well on their way to becoming independent, self-sufficient adults. As we continued, it was clear that teenagers were not the only people in Gros-Morne that could benefit from learning a trade. Our second class added young adults–mothers and fathers–in order to continue our mission of community development. The second class of students was two times as large as the first. A second volunteer instructor also joined staff in 2016 to ensure that each of the 34 students is able to receive individual attention.
Our full-time volunteer instructor, Nadege, is a professional tailor and has taught sewing in other sewing schools in Haiti. Our new instructor, Josue, owns a tailoring shop in town and is able to impart real-world knowledge and skills as he volunteers part-time. In September 2016, a new group of 30 students started the program, which gives the school a total of 64 students. This year in June of 2017, a group of 25 students will graduate. We are so excited to see our students succeed and our school grow to reach more people.