Yorba Linda man still fundraising for Haiti schools

Posted on January 27, 2011

After using $34,000 in donations in earthquake stricken Haiti, Harris Lalanne, founder and CEO of the Lalanne Foundation, is asking for more contributions to complete his biggest project – rebuilding a school that was destroyed in the quake.

A few months after the earthquake struck in Haiti, Francia Franezy, a 12-year-old girl Lalanne has been sponsoring through Compassion International, sent him a letter asking him to rebuild her demolished school, Ecole Mixte of Papette.

While Lalanne, a Haitian native and Yorba Linda resident, has been working with three other schools in Haiti, he said he chose to take on the project because of how important he thinks education is.

“If I wasn’t educated, I don’t think I’d be in the position I am today – a manager at my company,” Lalanne said. “I want to give the children in Haiti a better future, a way to make it in life. With an education, they won’t be on the street.”

With the money the foundation has raised so far, he’s paid teachers to continue teaching at Ecole La Providence, donated school supplies to the Institution Saint Louis de Gonzague and helped clean up College Saint Thomas d’Aquin of Port-au-Prince, a school his family built in 1973, and has been involved with ever since.

But that isn’t enough, he said.

“They still don’t have a school,” Lalanne said of the students at Ecole Mixte.

So far, the foundation has been able to construct an $11,000 wall around the property of the school to keep the students and property safe. The residents of Artesia Christian Home of California gave most of the money for the construction of the wall, Lalanne said.

The Lalanne Foundation also donated the school’s very first laptop and other school supplies.

Originally, Lalanne planned to rebuild his family’s Port-au-Prince school, but the Internal Revenue Service told him he would have to “spread the wealth” in order for the Lalanne Foundation to be a 501 (c)(3), he said.

He hopes to have the Ecole Mixte school finished by August or September, when the academic school year will resume. Ecole Mixte is open to students now, but classes are held outside where trees are the children’s only form of protection.

The project can be finished in six months, Lalanne said, if the right people step forward.

The entire project will cost more than $300,000 and will include seven classrooms, auditorium, parking lot, administration area and playground.

For more information about fundraising and the organization, visit www.lalannefoundation.org.

Originally published in the Orange County Register.

Posted in: Features, News