Rebuilding Haiti, One School at a Time
Anne Alexander in Education Design, Education Research, Los Angeles

In the wake of Haiti’s worst earthquake in two centuries, people around the globe sought ways to assist the devastated island nation. At Gensler, we began by tackling a single project: rebuilding a school. My colleague Wendi Gilbert explained, "There is a saying in Haiti about taking steps: 'piti piti na rive' - 'little by little, we will arrive.'  Although this project will not solve all of the issues in Haiti, contributing to education is a solid first step."

In the aftermath of the quake, most reconstruction efforts focused on the extensive damage in Port-au-Prince. But the disaster had an equally catastrophic impact outside the capital. In Jacmel, a city on Haiti’s southern coast, nearly 70% of the city's homes were damaged or destroyed. Gensler partenered with Operation USA and Honeywell Corporation, a philanthropic organization, to reconstruct the Ecole Nationale Jacob Martin Henriquez primary school. The new facility will serve over 700 students (grades 1-7) who couldn’t otherwise afford to go to school. The project is strongly supported by Edwin Zenny, Mayor of Jacmel, who is a nationally recognized anti-corruption figure and committed activist for Jacmel's future. 

Nila Leiserowitz, Managing Director/Principal of Gensler Los Angeles says: "We view learning as an opportunity to foster community and define the future. Rebuilding this school has been such a fulfilling experience for our team, and enables us to live up to the social responsibility we have as architects and designers."

We donated all design services for the new Ecole Nationale Jacob Martin Henriquez primary school, and the Gensler team includes myself, Wendi Gilbert, Audrey Handelman, Charrisse Johnston, James Kelly, Nathan Kim, Nila Leiserowitz, Valentin Lieu, Brianna Seabron, Nupur Sinha, Colette Smith, Konstanze Valdez, and Evangelique Zhao.

The groundbreaking was on August 10, 2010, and the school is scheduled to officially open in January 2011, on the first anniversary of the earthquake.

Anne Alexander is a graphic designer on Gensler’s marketing team, and founder of our Los Angeles office’s gServe initiative. gServe targets community outreach in LA, and to date has completed projects ranging from donating an edible garden to a local children’s center to renovating 20 transitional housing units for battered women. Today, she’s on the team rebuilding the Ecole Nationale Jacob Martin Henriquez school in Haiti. Contact her at
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