SUNY Announces Sustainable Village & Learning Community to be Developed in Haiti

September 25, 2017

W.K. Kellogg Foundation Awards Grant to Support the Project

10 SUNY Campuses, 5 Not-for-Profit Organizations Partner for the Launch 

New York City – The State University of New York today announced a statewide collaboration involving 10 SUNY campuses and five not-for-profit organizations to establish a sustainable village and learning community in Akayè, Haiti. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation recently awarded SUNY a nearly $800,000 grant to support the project, which will develop educational, economic and social programs, resources, and other needed services on 40 acres of land donated by a Nassau Community College professor emeritus.

Students, faculty, and staff from SUNY campuses will bring specific expertise to the project as follows: University at Albany (international development for management), Binghamton University (public administration), University at Buffalo (social work), Buffalo State College (performing arts), SUNY Cobleskill (agriculture and fisheries), SUNY-ESF (landscape architecture), Nassau Community College (nursing), SUNY New Paltz (disaster mental health), Stony Brook University (health sciences), and Upstate Medical University (public health).

“It is SUNY’s honor to be able to extend our hand in friendship to the people of Akayè through our shared focus on education while providing valuable learning opportunities for students, faculty, and staff from throughout our System,” said SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall. “This project began with a generous donation of 40 acres of land in Akayè from Nassau Community College Professor Emeritus Dr. Carmelle Bellefleur, whose vision has led us to today’s announcement. It is an enormous point of pride for SUNY to collaborate with the people of Haiti as we establish a sustainable learning community to farm the land and provide food, build a medical center to increase health and wellness, and deliver much-needed services and economic development across many sectors.”

“Chairman McCall, Kellogg Foundation President Montgomery Tabron, and I recently had an opportunity to travel to Haiti to survey the land where the SUNY village will be developed and, more importantly, to hear first-hand from the people of Akayè about how our colleges and organizations can support the health, wellbeing, and successful development of their community,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. “SUNY’s capacity to serve communities throughout New York State and around the globe knows no bounds. Thank you to each of our campuses, which will each provide distinct expertise to the project, to our partnering organizations, and to the Kellogg Foundation. This project will provide immeasurable opportunity for those in Haiti as well as the students, faculty, staff participating from across SUNY.”

“The people of Akayè know what it will take for their children and families to thrive,” said Montgomery Tabron. “We believe through this strong collaboration with SUNY, the people of Akayè, and we hope others, that this community will realize their vision,” said Montgomery Tabron.

“Working in Haiti is an extension of how SUNY collaborates with other educational and cultural institutions to better fulfill its mission of education, research, development, and services,” said Nassau Community College Professor Emeritus Dr. Carmelle Bellefleur. “New York State is home to the largest communities of Haitian decent in the country. Working in Haiti is in service to the diverse student body, faculty, and communities SUNY embodies. As a nurse and professor of nursing at Nassau Community College, giving back to our communities in the U.S. and in Haiti has been central to my career, and a personal and professional endeavor.”

Photos from the August trip to Haiti can be seen here.

The five not-for-profit organizations partnering on the project are: African Methodist Episcopal Church Service and Development Agency (AME-SADA), Effort Commun Pour Le Developpement de L'Arcahaie (ECODA), Haiti Development Institute, Hope on a String, and YouthBuild International.

Pierre A. Noel, JD, Executive Director, Haiti Development Institute said, “We’re happy to be part of this collaborative because the complexities of the issues in Haiti requires broad range of skills, expertise, and experiences to solve from technical expertise, to regulation, to monitoring with different players to bring distinct core competencies. What sets this apart is the sustainable village and learning community is an implementation of a community visioning plan making community input a primary actor in the process. Sustainable development requires a thriving ecosystem of actors working together for collective impact at scale. The sustainable village and learning community presents a unique opportunity in Haiti for achieving this feat.”

Bennett Rathbun, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Hope on a String said, "Hope on a String is thrilled to join the community of Akayè and the assembled institutional partners in envisioning a brighter future for this historic region in Haiti. United together, we have the potential to create a lasting and collective impact that will benefit youth and families for generations to come. Each stakeholder brings to the table a unique perspective that will help forge a truly innovative approach to sustainable community development, cultural exchange, and international learning. For the last seven years, Hope on a String has harnessed the creative power of music and the performing arts to empower thousands of youth and help revitalize communities in Akayè, all while working hand-in-hand with the Haitian people who comprise our constituency. We are honored to leverage this experience to help strengthen the sustainable village and learning community going forward."

Tim Cross, President of YouthBuild International said, "The Akayè community has identified vocational training and education as key priorities for the region. YouthBuild International looks forward to continuing its work with community stakeholders, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, SUNY, and the other partners to build a vocational training center within the sustainable village and learning community that offers programs to prepare young people for productive livelihoods and leadership roles in their communities.”

About the The W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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