Alumnus Creates Non-Profit for Children in Haiti

Olivier Bottrie
Olivier Bottrie (pictured center) and the students of Lycée Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable.

From Law, to business, to the military, Olivier Bottrie’s, MBA ‘87, career trajectory has been varied to say the least. “I was very open and flexible,” says Mr. Bottrie, who is currently President of Travel Retail at Estée Lauder Companies and co-founder of Hand in Hand for Haiti, a non-profit devoted to providing an education to poor children in Haiti.

“My education at George Washington University defined me,” says Mr. Bottrie. “The way Americans look at education and work is very different from France. I found the education at GW very pragmatic, geared towards real life. You want to excel because it’s motivating.”

It was this view of education that inspired Hand in Hand for Haiti, a non-profit that has built an education oasis in one of Haiti’s poorest communities, Saint-Marc. Mr. Bottrie states his passion, or “true north,” has always been to give poor children in poor countries the kind of schooling Americans are provided. When the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010 and there was a great movement to rebuild, he had the resources to implement his plan and set to work.

The school, Lycée Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable, aims to give the best education, similar to that of a US or French institution, to children who would otherwise not have access to one. The nursery to high school establishment admitted its first 150 students ages three, four, and five in October 2011 and continues to admit 50 children at three years old each year out of over 1000 applications.

The objective for this institution is to make sure every student is able to pass the French baccalaureate, a test in France that judges a student’s knowledge across multiple platforms such as history, math, science, literature and languages. The school follows the Haitian curriculum with a few modifications and the students will know four languages — French, Creole, English, and Spanish — by the time they graduate. The institution also hopes to develop the student’s athletic skills so that they may compete for athletic scholarships.

“We want these children to be competitive and be able to attend universities in France and the US,” says Mr. Bottrie, who oversaw the completion of the school’s sports stadium in May of this year.

The foundation of Lycée Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable has also had a positive effect on the community of Saint Marc, a city defined by its poverty. Life for the children and their parents has greatly improved since the earthquake in 2010 as building both the school and the stadium provided numerous jobs for many of Saint-Marc’s residents. Hand in Hand for Haiti chose Saint-Marc as the city for their school because it is less prone to earthquakes and tropical storms and has also committed to using clean and efficient energy to reduce the impact on the environment. Mr. Bottrie also hopes to establish wells and reforest the area around Saint Marc as early as next year.

Lycée Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable has become quite popular in Haiti and has garnered attention from the President of Haiti, Michael Martelly, who visited the school in May for the opening of the sports stadium. “It is very important and that’s why I take the time to support what [Hand in Hand for Haiti] does,” says President Martelly in a video showcasing the new stadium. “I value what’s been done here I even want to model it, to replicate it around the country.”

Towards the end of our conversation, Mr. Bottrie shows me a picture of his daughter, who attends a private school in New York, with one of the Haitian children who attends Lycée Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable. “I just want to them both to be awarded the same opportunities, the same chances in life.”

—Kelly Danver

Want to learn more about Hand In Hand for Haiti? Visit their website!