Over 40 international Artists for Peace and Justice members and supporters traveled to Port-au-Prince to celebrate the first graduating class of the Academy for Peace and Justice on June 19th.
Along with APJ Founder and Academy Award winning filmmaker Paul Haggis and BOVET owner and APJ supporter Pascal Raffy, Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor, Susan Sarandon and Maria Bello were among those who made the trip to celebrate the Academy for Peace and Justice’s first graduating class and the opening of its newest building. They are all regular visitors to Haiti and have been dedicated advocates for the project since its inception.
Pascal Raffy was an early supporter of the APJ cause. At the end of 2013, he was so moved by what he experienced working with APJ that he pledged an official, long-term partnership between his company and the charity. BOVET would contribute $1 million of support annually for at least five years to ensure that 100% of all public donations to APJ would go directly to their programs in Haiti. Mr. Raffy made the trip to Haiti in 2014 after signing the long-term partnership to see first-hand where the students lived and the efforts being made at the Academy. He returned resolute in his decision to support the children and their families together with APJ, ensuring that they receive the resources and education necessary to rise out of poverty.
APJ was created immediately following the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti when Paul Haggis gathered Hollywood friends in the backyard of his Santa Monica home. He had just returned from delivering humanitarian relief to Haiti and saw first-hand the enormity of what needed to be done next. Knowing that one-time, short-term commitments would not create the new institutions that the country so clearly needed, Haggis asked friends to make five-year commitments to build a dignified middle and high school for the very poor of Port-au-Prince.
With overwhelming support, the Academy for Peace and Justice was built over the following years in partnership with The St. Luke Foundation of Haiti and Haggis’s own Artists for Peace and Justice foundation. It was in these early days that Bovet supported their first fundraiser with APJ in LA at the beginning of 2012. The Academy was then just beginning, but growing by 400 students per year, it reached capacity in 2015 and now serves 2,600 students on full scholarship. The Academy also provides its students with year-round access to free medical care through St. Luke’s hospital.
On June 19th, 2016, Mr. Raffy returned to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to join Paul Haggis and other long-term supporters of the school to celebrate the Academy’s first graduating class. Mr. Raffy said of the momentous occasion, “I met the great Artists for Peace and Justice family during an evening on Sunset Boulevard. I then discovered Sun City [Cité Soleil in Port-au-Prince] with Father Rick [of The St. Luke Foundation of Haiti], this giant, who inspired my indefectible will to feed Haiti’s children’s hope based on education, perseverance and pride. June 19th, 2016 celebrates our collective integrity, the sunrise of a new generation of excellence. They said it was impossible, but all together we did it. Congratulations to all the teachers, without whom this dream could not become a reality.”
Following Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, a whopping $10 billion in foreign aid commitments were made but the delivery of that assistance and much of the reconstruction and development process had been mired in broken promises, short term investments and failed projects, leaving Haiti with very few new institutions and infrastructure. APJ, however, has not faltered in its dedication to building important new learning institutions dedicated to helping Haiti’s youth rise from poverty with dignity. BOVET continues to stand in support of APJ’s ability to make real progress and continue the efforts into the future.
Founder Paul Haggis says, “What a long way we’ve come from the devastation of the 2010 earthquake. The broken buildings and shattered hopes have been no match for the tireless work of Father Rick [of The St. Luke Foundation for Haiti], our staff, all of our supporters and our students. The day has finally arrived—we welcome our first ever graduating class at the Academy. I cannot begin to convey the pride that I have for their hard work against unbelievable odds to reach this monumental day. The pride of a nation will walk with our students into a brighter future.”
The long-term charitable commitment made by BOVET and its owner, Pascal Raffy, represents the efforts of a member of the luxury market contributing back to the world. Pascal Raffy stands firmly with APJ and its supporters in their aim to grow a new generation of Haitian leaders by providing access to quality secondary and higher education. The model and guiding principles of the Academy are simple: that a primary school education is not sufficient to break the cycle of endemic poverty. This is true as a global philosophy to raise others from poverty through access to education and that even luxury spending, when conducted through a principled House like BOVET, can contribute to betterment of communities around the world.