It began with a conversation between friends, as any story worth telling and retelling does.
It was the beginning of the Ecole Shalom yearbook project at the Haitian American Caucus in Croix Des Bouquets, Haiti.
In the fall of 2015, Melissa Daniel Bain, the founder of The 610 Project, asked former yearbook representative Sihwa Sussman to join her to discuss a proposition. At lunch, Bain described the work she was doing with her non-profit organization.
“Melissa asked if I could help start a yearbook program for the students at a school in Haiti,” Sussman said.
When the project was presented to Mike Parker, VP of Sales for Balfour, it was a no-brainer. He was eager for an opportunity to share the joy and importance of yearbooks with the children of Haiti.
To kick off the project, board members of The 610 Project and Sussman traveled to Haiti in February 2016.
“The experience working with the staff and students in Haiti was beyond words,” Sussman said.
In addition to providing the students with school yearbooks, The 610 Project recently returned to the school with printed school portraits for each of the 450 students. Something that U.S. students take for granted, having portraits to chronicle their development, validated Haitian students’ individual importance.
“Being a part of the yearbook process and having photos creates an ownership of education for these students,” Bain said. “It helps validate and create the framework for a better future.”
Just like a yearbook staff in the US, the Haitian students were trained on layout and design principles, photography techniques and Balfour’s online software, StudioWorks, where they designed their pages.
“They were eager and fascinated by what they could do,” Sussman said. “It was an opportunity to become unbound from their circumstances.”
Bain’s passion for outreach and service inspired her to create The 610 Project, a community-driven project that is dedicated to empowering the Haitian people and helping communities succeed.
The project originated in The Shoals area of Alabama. Through their partnership with Haiti, the project provides physical and financial assistance for self-sustaining education and micro-enterprise development.
The students will receive their first shipment of yearbooks in August 2017.