Empowering Through Education
Written by: Nerlande & Bijoux Augustin
Interviewed by: Kathia JB Pierre
Photographed by: SnaprobePhotography
Shaina Jean-Pierre is a Haitian American born and raised in Boston, MA. Shaina is a proud graduate of Brandeis University with a Bachelor’s in Public Health and Sociology and a Master’s in education from Boston University. Shaina has worked in the education field for the last 13 years as a middle and high school English teacher for youth migrating from Haiti.
In 2009, Shaina Jean-Pierre founded and directed ETE Camp (Empowering Through Education Camp) alongside her father, Garry Gilbert. ETE Camp is a non-profit organization that focuses on educating and empowering the youth in Hinche, Haiti, to become future community leaders. The organization hopes to accomplish its mission by creating an effective curriculum that provides the adequate education to build future leaders, including math, engineering, leadership skills, and literacy. In addition, the organization also believes and focuses on building and increasing self-confidence and fostering connections amongst the people within the community.
“In a country where nearly 50% of the population is under 18, they are not the next generation but the next people within this decade to lead Haiti. Therefore, we must invest in their growth and success.”
ETE Camp has served over 300 children with the help and support of over 30 volunteers between Haiti and the U.S for the last 13 consecutive summers. ETE Camp is currently run by its alumni, the youth participants who started with the program initially. Shaina is motivated by witnessing the organization’s impact and watching how they run the show. Though the work is challenging, seeing the difference the organization makes in these young adults’ lives makes it all worth it and continues to inspire her to keep Garry Gilbert’s Legacy.
One of the most significant challenges ETE Camp faces is sufficient funding to host these programs, given that they are free of charge to the children. Therefore, thereIn addition, the is a great need for funding to host these programs.
The organization is compelled to budget for necessities outside of what most may see as standards, such as generators, gas, etc. The country’s state of insecurity, lack of resources, and natural disasters also hinder the program’s effectiveness, causing delays to the organization’s ability to function at its highest capability.
“It doesn’t get easier, but we always find a way to make things happen with support and encouragement.”
Although working in Haiti brings its challenges, Shaina finds motivation and the drive to keep thriving in the children there. “I love the children; they are just phenomenal people.” Shaina gets the opportunity to work with Haitian kids from all walks of life; seeing their resilience and work ethic, she now has a tremendous amount of respect for them. It has also helped shape her into the person she is today; patient, understanding, compassionate and non-judgemental.
ETE Camp foresees an all-year-round school that includes trade and skills-building and academic classes. As a result, the children can learn a skill that they can utilize to launch a career and support themselves.
“No matter what challenges may come, keep going – because the challenges will come.”
“My life mantra – faith, family, and friends – they uplift and inspire me–I go back to those three things, and I know I’ll be alright.”
Shaina embodies what it means to be a Fanm Potomitan; Shaina Jean-Pierre took a leap of faith and stands firm despite the many difficulties encountered during this journey.
watch the interview here!