Jean Herard Charles was born and raised on the north coast of Haiti near Port-de-Paix, where he still lives and raises his family. In his late teens and early twenties Charles lived in Florida, where he learned English. Back in Haiti, Charles met Dr. Tracee and Dr. Janine Flood in the early 2000’s and began to work as an interpreter for visiting Healing Art Missions (HAM) volunteer teams. It didn’t take long for doctors Tracee and Janine to realize that with his intelligence, work ethic, and trustworthiness, Charles was the perfect candidate to be trained as an eye technician. Dr. Janine, a Granville, Ohio based optometrist who created HAM’s eye clinic began his intense training. Charles now travels from his home in Port-de-Paix to Dumay one week a month to open the eye clinic and for vision screening and fitting of glasses as well as screening infections, cataracts and glaucoma. He consults with an ophthalmologist one day a month. He continues to work as an interpreter when HAM volunteer teams come to Haiti, and also serves as HAM’s in-country Project Coordinator. Charles is always interested in improving his own education, and just this fall completed a Haitian leadership training course.
By the mid 2000’s Charles was using his HAM paychecks to purchase land and build a home for his growing family in the neighborhood of Baudin-Gros Sable on the outskirts of the Port-de-Paix. There were no schools in the neighborhood so he sent his children to a private school in Port-de-Paix. Charles saw that many of the children in his neighborhood were not in school because of the lack of accessibility and cost (up to 80% of Haitians lack steady employment; therefore, the ability to pay for school.) Realizing that without an education or anything productive to fill their time, many children in his community could easily get into trouble, be recruited by gangs and eventually threaten the safety of the community. So, Charles decided he would start his own school in the neighborhood in 2008, and the Charles Salomon Primary School (CSPS) was born.
Funding the school through his own paycheck and a modest tuition from the students, by 2009 the school was holding classes from Pre-K through third grade and was running out of space. Having demonstrated his abilities and commitment to his community, HAM began investing in Charles vision and assisted in funding both the physical expansion of CSPS and teachers salaries. Today, through Charles continued hard work and personal investment, along with regular funding from HAM, CSPS, is a Haitian certified primary school offering Pre-K through 9th Grade classes with annual enrollment of around 350. In addition, CSPS offers adult literacy classes for parents of their students. One Hundred percent of the 9th Grade graduating class of 2019 passed the Ministry of Education National test, demonstrating the effectiveness of the CSPS education.
By 2017 Charles was able to purchase land in the Baudin-Gros Sable neighborhood and build a rudimentary two story building for the school, but the exposed cinderblock construction was unfinished, and the only light in the classrooms was from venting in the cinderblock construction. With grants from the Larson Legacy Foundation, over the past two years the school has undergone major improvements with wall plaster and paint, as well as electric lighting and outlets in all classrooms, powered by a brand new rooftop solar system.
CSPS is a perfect example of how HAM empowers Haitians by providing the resources to help themselves.