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Our Founder

Michaëlle de Verteuil

Michaëlle, known to everyone affectionately as “Mica” - was born in Port-au-Prince on the 1st of March 1937. For the past forty-one years, Mica has been on a wild adventure; an adventure that has found her devoted to making a better world in a small forgotten corner of Haiti. From the moment she was born, she was just like her father, Rene Moravia, fanciful, creative and fearless. Mica was destined to be a force to be reckoned with. She herself will tell you not to be impressed. She will insist that she deserves no accolades. She will further maintain that she is just an ordinary woman, achieving every day, normal things. However, it seems, despite all her vehement rejection of talk of her heroism and humanity, no one ever chooses to agree.

In 1970, on a flight headed home to Montreal, Mica met a young nurse from British Columbia. This young woman, with no ties to Haiti, had just completed two years volunteering at a hospital in Port au Prince. The nurse explained that she was on vacation at the moment, but, that she had joyfully signed up again and would return to Haiti for another year as soon as her holiday ended. Mica was stunned; Stunned that a foreigner could be so devoted to Haiti’s people while she herself led a carefree life in Montreal with her family and all the comforts the modern city had to offer. 

Mica could not get this woman out of her head. She wanted desperately to one day return to Haiti to help her fellow citizens.  Mica constantly talked of this desire to her husband, Patrick. For years, Patrick, a man of few words, listened quietly to her monologues, never appearing to accept her folly, yet never attempting to dissuade her.  Suddenly one day, Patrick said - “I’m ready, you can go explore.”  And that is how, in August 1975, at the age of 38, Mica and her beloved husband Patrick found themselves in a small wooden boat with luggage in tow on their way to a new life in Abricots, Haiti.

Almost instantly upon arrival in Abricots, Mica set out to open a small school for the less fortunate children who wandered the streets of the village.  So dreadfully poor, these children were denied an education because their families could not afford to dress them appropriately for school each day.  Mica’s first school house was an arbor covered by stubble with a bamboo partition used to separate the area into two classrooms.  Why, after all, would anything more be necessary?  This quirky little school, where they dared to teach in Creole, proved itself successful.  Its first graduating class passed the mandatory official national exams of the Education Ministry with high marks.

Now came the next challenge, although students had graduated with diplomas, nothing much had changed; they remained empty handed like before.  What could she do?  Well, she created industry, of course! Rather than offering work to a few privileged people, Mica conceived a plan to create small jobs for many allowing each the luxury of managing a small budget to organize his or her life and that of their children.  Mica launched a handicrafts business of painted pebbles in the shape of turtles, embroidered pillowcases and tablecloths, African style ceramic pearl necklaces and, the now famous, coconut shell and ceramic nativity.  First these goods were thought to be destined only for select Haitian cities like Petion Ville and Port au Prince. But, now you can find these goods all over the world!

Mica, never one to sit back and rejoice for too long, allowed herself only seconds to celebrate this triumph. There were children in the nearby mountains that did not have the same opportunity offered to the village students. And so, began the next phase of her incredible journey. After over five years of persistence and tenacity, Fondation Sogebank of Port-au-Prince agreed to finance ten schools scattered in the Commune of Les Abricots.  Using sand and rocks brought by local parents who supported the efforts on behalf of their children, schools were built.  Teachers were chosen from amongst the most educated in the areas near the schools.  They received intensive training in preparation for their new jobs. Within months of receiving the funds from the bank, ten Mountain Schools were operational.

Today, the schools enroll 2,492 students and employ over 200 teachers, administrators and support staff.  These numbers increase every year.     

With each problem solved, another problem takes its place. At each turn, you’ll find Mica, at the lead, pursuing the next solution.  For the problem of hunger – tree grafting, a gristmill for corn, farming classes, seed distribution, community garden development, banana tree projects, dried fruit and vegetable production. For the problem of deforestation and soil erosion – Environmental education, tree planting and seedling programs. For the problem of water scarcity – wells were dug at each school location. The list goes on and on.

As much as you will want to applaud this extraordinary woman, she would never allow this to be published without passionately and profusely thanking her husband and the armies of friends, family and organizations that have supported her throughout the past 41 years. The list is long, and as we create it, we run the risk of forgetting a few, but please know that each and every one of you has played a part in building a better world. For that, Mica will forever be eternally grateful.