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“What can I do to help?” Was the question that Peter Hesse asked himself on his first visit to Haiti as a tourist. 

The crowded streets lined with vendors selling anything and everything from clothes which were hung on walls or spread out on the ground, to a variety of foods prepared by the food vendors on charcoal stoves. Dirty stagnant water clogged the drains, which were filled with plastic and heaps of garbage; unpaved narrow lanes, cramped houses, and crowds of people manoeuvring their way through the melee. He felt uncomfortable in a resort while just beyond its twelve foot walls people were struggling to survive. 

Just as he was having these thoughts, he was approached by a man who had been making his way down the beach asking tourists to make a donation to his orphanage. And just like that his question “What can I do to help?” was answered. 

Peter spent the next three years going to Haiti, not as a tourist. Instead he spent his time going to villages and funding many small community projects, from sewing machines to school feeding programs, preschools and even importing a garbage truck from Germany to help with the mountains of trash in the streets. But he was concerned that donations to these smaller projects was not making a lasting impact. He turned his attention to the children, seeing them as the hope for the future. 

By another coincidence he had the good fortune of meeting a Montessori teacher by the name of Carol Guy-James, who was able to convince him that the Montessori Method would be the best way to provide a future through education. Armed with a suitcase full of Montessori materials, Carol went to Haiti to introduce Montessori to one of the preschools funded by Peter Hesse. As a consequence of wanting to help in a more sustainable way, Peter founded his own foundation, and together with Carol launched a Montessori teacher training programme. This was the beginning of a life’s work of bringing Montessori education to areas with limited resources. 

After the first year of teacher training, the Foundation sponsored three new graduate teachers to open and operate their own schools in their villages. This brought high quality education to rural areas where there were no schools, and where some of the children attending the school would have been the first in their families to be literate. With the assistance of the Peter Hesse Foundation, every year more schools were opened by graduates. To date, the Foundation has provided better education and hope for a better life to over 600,000 of Haiti’s most vulnerable children. 

The Foundation assured the quality of education for those children by training teachers to an international standard, and then supporting the successful teachers to open their own schools. Over 2,000 teachers have attended the teacher training courses. The Foundation has also trained teachers in Ivory Coast, and launched three new schools with the graduate teachers there. The Foundation is also collaborating with schools in Senegal and Mali. 

Just one thought “What can I do to help”, turned into Montessori schools in four countries: Haiti, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Mali.

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