UCL student and alumni Haiti school project reaches crowdfunding stage

29 November 2013

Haiti school girls

Haiti’s education system was thrown into disarray after the 2010 earthquake displaced nearly a million people from their homes and turned tens of thousands of buildings into rubble.

Thinking Development is the brainchild of Linda O'Halloran, a former UCL Philosophy research student. After failing to find organisations that could offer sustainable disaster recovery consultancy to her former educators, she set about creating an organisation that could. The NGO aims to build a local, sustainable and replicable three-storey girls primary school in one of Port-au-Prince’s biggest slums.

The complex will also include an adult education centre, a community kitchen and canteen, a multi-functional community space, and an urban garden and playground. The idea came after one of the country’s largest educators of women, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, called for global assistance following the earthquake.

After years of planning and development, the project has gone live with a crowdfunding campaign called ‘Thinking Girls’ which can be seen here. It aims to raise £40,000.

“If we meet our target we'll have much-needed leveraging capital,” said Linda. “Currently, the main grants for our kind of project require that we bring a base-fund of 5% to 15% to the table. It's a chicken and egg situation. You need money to get money! This campaign will secure that and help us communicate all the great work done.”

UCL was extremely fertile ground to quickly gather people with the right expertise to help establish what was important, to warn of the main failings of previous disaster responses, and to understand the difficulties of trying to support a community very far away.

Linda O'Halloran (UCL alumna)

The project will enable increased school capacity in one of Port-au-Prince’s most disadvantaged communities. The long-term hope for Thinking Development is to see the model replicated across urban Haiti, creating sustainable learning environments that can survive natural disasters.

Linda is quick to differentiate the project from what she deems “quick fix charity.” In a country where 40% of the population are now below the age of 18 and 4,000 schools have been destroyed, this is an increasingly important cause to secure a brighter future for Haitians.

The interdisciplinary nature of the scheme has also given Thinking Development a fully-rounded edge to get this far. Staff and students from across different departments at UCL have helped provide assistance and expertise across areas such as structural and geotechnical engineering, architecture, urban development planning, disaster mitigation planners, videography and participatory planning.

“It's essential to see our challenge from multiple perspectives for the solution to stand a chance at serving its many purposes. UCL was extremely fertile ground to quickly gather people with the right expertise to help establish what was important, to warn of the main failings of previous disaster responses, and to understand the difficulties of trying to support a community very far away. Just as important as the experts at UCL were the social networks, society mailing lists, Provosts newsletters, and spaces to meet, debate, present progress,” says Linda.

The UCL community are urged to get involved and help Thinking Girls meet its target before December 22nd. Members of the UCL community can support the project by:

- Donating money on the crowdfunding page

- Sharing the campaign on social media networks, using the hashtag #ThinkingGirls and linking to bit.ly/TDGirls

- Buying a 'reward' on the crowdfunding page, which includes anything from a digital download of Haitian music, a private concert from a contestant on the US version of The Voice, or having a classroom or library in the new school named after you.

- Make it your company's Christmas cause by contacting Thinking Development here.

Further Links

Crowdfunding campaign

Thinking Development

Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny