If you've ever donated money through Zynga while killing time on Facebook, you may have helped a local DePaul University professor build a school for impoverished children in Haiti last year.
The l'Ecole de Choix (School of Choice) opened in October 2011 thanks to those Zynga funds and the efforts of Laura Pincus Hartman, a Chicago mom of two and professor of business ethics at DePaul. The school provides food, water and education to more than 180 children ages 4-10 who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford to go to school or have a healthy meal.
But Hartman is hoping the school does more than fill minds and bellies. She sees education as a way to create future leaders of Haiti who can help guide the country to a better future. Even children from the most dire circumstances can grow up to change the world if given the opportunity, she says.
"We believe that there are all types of leaders and we don't expect all 183 children will be president or a CEO, but we believe that they will all be leaders in whatever they choose to do," Hartman says.
Hartman has been a professor at DePaul for 23 years. Her work has focused on global labor issues and the balance between employee and employer rights. She decided to take that knowledge, along with her fluency in French, and focus her attention on Haiti in 2003. In 2009, she worked with DePaul to create a microfinance initiative. She's adamant that people understand the work she does in Haiti, including the school, is not part of a charity but provides financial resources to help people lift themselves out of poverty.
"The people doing the work in Haiti, they're not a charity, they're partners," she says. "These people bring resources to the table, too."
But the most important way to help Haiti is to educate its children, Hartman says.
"I believe that education is the key. It opens the treasure chest."
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.