Merline and John Engle, the co-directors of the Children’s Academy and Learning Center in Haiti, and their children, Leila and Daniel, gather at Haiti Partners
headquarters in Vero Beach. In the foreground is Haitian hot sauce that Merline makes and sells to raise money for the school and six partner schools in Haiti.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Vero Beach-based nonprofit Haiti Partners promotes an
innovative, community-led approach to education
EBY JANIE GOULD
ven though mass demonstrations have shut down
Haiti’s government and kept virtually all schools
closed for months, it’s been business as usual for one
small primary school in the Haitian countryside that
has strong ties to the Treasure Coast.
The Children’s Academy and Learning Center, supported
by Vero Beach-based Haiti Partners, has remained open in a
village five miles from the capital, Port-Au-Prince, despite
anti-government protests that have paralyzed the country.
The demonstrators, angered by rising gas prices and severe
food shortages, have blocked roads in major cities, set fires
and even harassed children wearing school uniforms to
frighten them into staying home.
John Engle, co-founder of the Children’s Academy with his
wife, Merline, said one thing has changed at the school since
the most recent wave of unrest. The students no longer wear
“Our parents are doing the right thing,” he says. “They
know their children need an education. We won’t turn our
backs on people who are trying to do the right thing and
educate their children.”
John Engle, who grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania, was
working for Panasonic in Chicago in 1991 when, at the age
of 26, he realized there might be more to life than the corporate
world. Panasonic gave him a two-year leave of absence
to go to Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the Western
Hemisphere. There he worked for a small group supporting
improved education for Haitians.
“I determined that this was going to be a new direction for
me and that I was going to stay,” he says. “I never went back >>