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ETE Camp

Empowering Through Education (ETE) Camp
Hinche, Haiti
Established 2009

Founded and directed by Shaina Gilbert (Brandeis University, Class of 2010)
8 Brandeis Students have been Camp Counselors, Advocates, & Organizers in Haiti

Empowering Through Education (ETE) Camp seeks to prepare Hinche, Haiti’s most vulnerable youth (over 110 participants ages 8-11 in 2011) to become future community leaders for social change by strengthening their academic skills, increasing self-confidence, and actively building community and parental support.  The project achieved its aim by (1) strengthening their academic skills via critical classes like Math, English (verbal/writing), Leadership Building, (2) increasing self-confidence by promoting teamwork and encouraging youth to express themselves in class discussions, and (3) actively building community and parental support by connecting them with respected community leaders like their mayor and hosting community-wide events that allow parents to witness the development and great potential of their children through education.

Undoubtedly, ETE Camp’s most critical source of support was Brandeis University. Fortunately, with the funding-raising efforts of the Brandeis Haiti Initiative (BHI) ETE Camp received in 2010, they were able to host 72 campers (ages 8-11) who consisted of displaced youth living in Hinche due to the earthquake, domestic workers who usually can only attend school from 3-5 PM because they work in the morning, and students from the poorer schools in the province. According to ETE Camp 2010 newcomers’ assessments, 42% of their parents are illiterate, 0% met their mayor before, and 47% could not tell time on a clock. We were able to offer these students an opportunity to be the first in their families to receive quality education. Gilbert shares that “I still remember in my leadership class from ETE Camp 2009, the children were building a 3-D model of what they wanted their community to look like. During class, we brainstormed the logistics of the project. These 8-11 year olds all agreed that they had to have a museum in their community that would preserve their Haitian Heritage. They also agreed to have churches. One little girl said, ‘Yes, we’ll have churches, but only Catholic ones’ and immediately, another responded, ‘No, we cannot have only Catholic churches, what about the Episcopalians, Seventh Day Adventists, Baptists, Jewish people (I told them about Brandies)?.’ I was proud to hear the children discuss what it means to be a strong, communicative, and inclusive community.”

A factor that makes this project, ETE Camp, so unique is that they offer their youth participants productive activities to do with their idle time. Also, ETE provides a free academic package that includes discussion-based, critical classes like Leadership Building, English Verbal, Math, and English Writing and Reading. It is important to note that English is such a commodity in Haiti that ETE 8 year olds were teaching their 50 year old grandfathers the English they learned at the camp. Also, by the end of the summer camp, illiterate children were now able to write their names while others were sounding out English words for the first time. The package also includes free breakfast, lunch, school and art supplies, and daily recreational activities.

The camp is also unique because it actively seeks to build parental and community and support for the children which will continue post the youth’s camp experience. We achieve this by going on a parade throughout their community, which ends with a visit to City Hall to speak with local leaders. There is also a closing ceremony that is open to parents and the public where the 43 youth participants receive certificates of completion and had the opportunity to share what they learned at ETE Camp via projects and presentations they created together. At the ceremony, several local leaders, including the mayor of Hinche, attended and offered words of support to the ETE youth.

The project impacts the community at large by providing seasonal jobs for unemployed Haitians such as ETE cooks and custodian. In addition, local teachers, impressed by how fast the children are capable of learning via ETE, shadowed ETE teachers to learn teaching methodology that includes a discussion-based classroom environment (where students are more vocal and engaged, increasing self-confidence). These teachers also expressed interest in incorporating activities related to leadership skills and civic engagement into their curriculum and school setting. The community members also appreciate ETE’s commitment to their youth because a local school offered the camp free space to host ETE. They expressed that it was the first summer day camp of that caliber or sophistication that they have ever witnessed outside of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. Lastly, ETE impacted the community because all of their local expenses such as for counselors’ lodging, per diem, camp groceries, closing ceremony, etc. contributed the economy of Hinche. Successfully launched July 2009 and succeeded July 2010 this project has proven impacts for its participants and their community at large however could not have continued in July 2010 without resources and financial support.

Because of the Brandeis community, ETE Camp able to sustain, improve, and further develop the camp. During ETE Camp 2010 and to be continued in 2011 (ETE Camp’s third year), they have already established partnerships and training with local young (qualified yet unemployed) college graduates to be counselors and host an ETE Saturday programming. They have also established a free ETE Adult English Learners’ Class that hosts 60-70 adults on average every weekday afternoon; created a productive ETE Alumni Network through which we continue to provide the tools and opportunities for productive growth as individuals and as a group who went through a powerful experience together. Lastly, after meeting with Dr. Paul Farmer, ETE has developed a partnership with Partners in Health where doctors can give our youth health screenings.

ETE Camp works with the single most effective individuals with the power to give Haiti the peace of mind it so desperately needs, the children. They give them the support, appreciation, resources, and tools (English, math, and leadership classes) that they need to become the leaders who will be able to advocate for their community domestically and with the international community. To find out ways to continue to support ETE Camp please contact BHI, visit our site (, and/or email (