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One day in October 1996, Conor Bohan stepped through the trash-strewn dirt streets and over the open sewers of Cité Soleil, a teeming slum on the harbor in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to visit a promising former student at the Catholic high school where he was teaching. The student, Isemonde Joseph, asked Bohan if he would give her thirty dollars to attend secretarial school. Bohan briefly considered Joseph’s request, but declined. She was too bright, he thought, to waste her talents typing and answering phones.

Instead, Bohan offered to sponsor Joseph’s lifelong dream of becoming a doctor. Bohan covered Joseph’s tuition—just over $1,000 for a year of medical school—with his $200 monthly stipend from his job and a little help from his parents.

Bohan realized many similar students could never afford the tuition to attend college, so the next year, he offered scholarships to two or three additional students. The year after that he expanded his search for top students throughout Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area. In his free time, Bohan began soliciting friends and other family members for scholarship donations and set up a small committee to award the money. As the number of students expanded, Bohan dubbed the organization H.E.L.P., the Haitian Education & Leadership Program. This year the program sponsored twenty-eight undergraduate and graduate students, making H.E.L.P. Haiti’s largest university scholarship program, according to Bohan. “For the cost of one Brown diploma H.E.L.P. can offer thirty-five kids the opportunity to basically fulfill their potential,” he says.

H.E.L.P.’s success, meanwhile, brought new challenges. By 2002, Bohan and the program’s board of directors were faced with the dilemma of either freezing the number of scholarships or raising the money to hire a professional staff. Bohan, who was hoping to return to the United States, also feared the program would collapse without him. In April, H.E.L.P. won an $80,000 grant from the London-based Rausing Trust to hire its first full-time executive director and to double the number of scholarship students. The money will also be used to open a small office and computer center and to improve student support.

Bohan, who now works to strengthen democratic institutions in Haiti as the deputy director of the local office of the National Democratic Institute, hopes H.E.L.P. will produce some of the doctors and lawyers the country desperately needs. “It’s not like I was here to save the world,” he says, “but I saw an opportunity where a little investment could reap a huge benefit.”

 


For more information, go to haitianeducation.org.





Comments (5)
11/30/07
 
great news filled with hope- unlike the usual negative coverage of Haiti and the other so called third world countries.
 
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08/21/08
 
greetings to you in the name of the lord jesus christ. 
brother reading the paragraph, i felt very happy, and was much encouraged to serve the best for the society. your work is not small or simple but infact it is a great revolution you are bringing . may god bless you abundently and may his grace be with you all time.  
i am 27 years old living in INDIA, and since my college iam educating many students,and iam very happy today that god blessed me many students studying under me.
 
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08/21/08
 
it was superb,and from this story i learned to help people with out any intrest,keep helping people.
 
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08/21/08
 
I'm glad that there are people out there who have hearts for the bright and the less fortunate, I extend my sincerest gratitude to Bohan and his organisation. I on the other hand feel that not only the extremely bright desrve this great help, it's time we extended this to other not very bright students in our societies we all need this kind of help because nobody chooses to be bright or not. Anybody feel me out there?
 
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08/21/08
 
I am excited to hear your story. Am Linet and am from Kenya, after my high school i could not raise enough cash to join university though I was bright enough and had passed, and I know what it means if I could get someone to help me. 
 
I help people in a small way whenever am able to. 
 
My special request is that if anyone out there can be able to support me in any small way for me to complete a course in computer networking I will appreciate. 
 
I hope God will touch someone. 
Thanks.
 
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