The MaineLine business coalition has settled on its first project to help earthquake-stricken Haiti, and plans to build 10 schools/community centers in towns and villages there over the next year.

The non-profit coalition was formed soon after the January earthquake that destroyed Haiti’s capital of Port au Prince. The group was organized by Preti Flaherty, Unum, Kennebunk Savings Bank, Reed & Reed, CD&M Communications and Mainebiz, and includes dozens more businesses as members.

Since February, the group has been studying the needs on the ground, tapping into the expertise of Darcy Pierce, a local international aid expert.

Pierce said Friday that one of the main problems with Haiti remains the fact that funds aren’t coming through as promised. A large part of the problem is because of political issues in Haiti, he said.

The group Samaritan’s Purse has privately raised $50 million, and has moved ahead on projects, said Pierce. The group got $5 million in grant money to pay teachers’ salaries in Haiti, and has set about trying to build hundreds of schools for the teachers to work in.

MaineLine’s efforts will complement those of Samaritan’s Purse. Each school will double as a community center. Each will cost about $50,000 to build, and MaineLine hopes to have construction on the first one start in October. The group plans to complete all schools in about nine months.

The first will be built in Cabaret, a village an hour north of Port au Prince. The village has grown to a population of 7,500 people with refugees from the capital. Cabaret’s school was heavily damaged by the earthquake, according to MaineLine, and there are no community or government buildings. The school will accommodate about 300 students, grades one through six.

MaineLine has not yet started fundraising for the $500,000 needed to complete the 10 schools.

“We purposely have not raised funds until this point,” said Pierce. “The whole premise of MaineLine is we don’t want to take resources until we know exactly what we want, what we need.”

The group got the school designs put together and estimated each project out at $50,000. The design is modular, said Pierce, and easily adaptable for different communities’ needs.

The first major fundraiser is a golf tournament set for Sept. 13 at Nonesuch River Golf Club in Scarborough. Pierce noted that Nonesuch is donating all the labor involved in the tournament, and other businesses are donating food, drinks and other necessities, so all the funds raised will go to the Haiti project, not to fundraising costs.

Graham Smith, president of Macdonald Page & Co LLC, a member of MaineLine’s leadership committee, said the group chose to focus on projects that would help education and children in Haiti.

Maine business has long been involved in disaster relief, said Smith, but MaineLine’s efforts give companies a direct connection to concrete projects — rather than just sending a check to a large international aid group.

“I always felt Maine people were very genuine in what they try to do. If we can actually see our donations at work, our efforts at work, you can take a little more pride in that,” said Smith.

“We can sit there and watch these schools being built, and know we had a direct impact in that project.”

 

Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: [email protected]