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A documentary about the construction of an elementary school in rural Haiti and its impact on the local community. Read more

Chicago, IL Documentary
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This project was successfully funded on February 27, 2014.

A documentary about the construction of an elementary school in rural Haiti and its impact on the local community.

Chicago, IL Documentary
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About this project


As many of you know, Kickstarter is an all or nothing proposition. That's part of what makes it so alluring. With that said, we set the goal of $15,000 knowing that our amazing old friends, new friends, and people who are passionate about aid, Haiti, education, and children would come out and support us.

We have made the $15,000 goal and have now set a STRECH GOAL of $30,000.

This money will go directly towards hiring an editor to start work on a rough cut. The sooner we get a rough cut, the sooner we get the film done. The sooner we get the film done, the sooner we can hope to have a more enlightened conversation about how we do international economic development. 

The kids in school right now only get one chance at 4th grade or 5th grade. Shouldn't we hustle to get this done?


This documentary tells the story of Tim Myers, a well-intentioned construction manager and his attempt to completely fund and construct a school in rural Haiti. Shot over more than three years, the documentary follows one project as a case study in international economic development and a portrait of the impact this kind of work has on the recipients and agents of international aid programs.

We are using this Kickstarter to fund the remaining trips to Haiti as well as start the post-production process on the film.


When a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake leveled half of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, on January 10, 2010 the survivors were lucky to be alive. After the initial shock, people flowed into the street, waving their hands to the sky, screaming ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!’

Haiti slowly began recovering, and journalists flooded in to cover the event. Two reporters from NPR’s Planet Money podcast, Adam Davidson and Caitlin Kenney, came to look at how the economy was affected; donations hurt the local farmers who needed to sell their rice at market. 

This leads them to the village of Villard in Haiti’s rice-growing region. Outside of the economic devastation brought on by the donations it was completely untouched by the earthquake. They meet Anselme Saimplice the principal of the local school and pastor of the church, which they discover is the same place at the end of their village tour. 

In the ‘school’, the students cram into church pews and cracked blackboards lean against the wall. Making an eloquent case for donations to buy supplies, the school receives $3,000 after the report is broadcast, an amount that takes an average Haitian ten years to earn. With this windfall, Saimplice decides to build a whole new school. 

Four months later, the money is gone, with only a rock foundation laid. On a follow up trip, the NPR reporter laments the turn of events, claiming the school met the same sad end as many developing world projects. 

Thousands of miles away in Carbondale, Colorado, a semi-retired construction project manager named Tim Myers heard the story about Saimplice’s aborted construction. Having over four decades of experience in construction, he thought he had the skills necessary to build the school himself. 

Education Can Lift Children out of Poverty 

Inspired by Bill Clinton’s directive to “build back better”, Tim works with American engineers to design a two-story, earthquake resistant school. He would hire local crew and teach them American construction techniques that would then be marketable skills. Paying local workers would inject cash into the local economy, supporting local businesses. 

Tim’s decision is met immediately with the reality of modern Haiti. Government is absent and construction techniques are substandard: the workforce uses hand tools, have a lax view of safety and timetables, and permits are informal at best. 

This documentary follows the construction of this school and the impact the new building has on the community of Villard. The film is a longitudinal portrait that reveals the complexities that arise when doing this type of international economic development work. 


HOW TO BUILD A SCHOOL IN HAITI has the ability to appeal to a wide audience, anyone who has given to an NGO or understands that their taxes support the efforts of USAID. Following one aid worker and his project, the film pushes viewers to contemplate the results of their own actions, and their own place in the modern world. 

Countries like Haiti tend to appear in mainstream media only after tragic events, dominating the news cycle until the public’s attention moves on. This film has the promise to make the nuanced reality of developing world poverty clear. The documentary presents Tim’s story in all its complexity, inviting viewers to contemplate the exploration of the initial aspiration to help. In creating this portrait, audiences will be better informed on the issues that shape people living in poverty. 

"In the debates over international aid and ending global poverty, the real underlying issues on the ground are often ignored. Working in an impoverished country such as Haiti is hard, and most of all for the people who actually live there. By building a real understanding of the challenges and the stakes, this film can play an important role in fostering real change." - Jonathan M. Katz, author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster


Filmmakers have spent the last three years shooting with Tim and the people of Villard, and production is approximately seventy percent complete. Outside of some important cosmetic touches, the school is done. In February 2014 filmmakers will document the ribbon cutting of the school. In early 2015 filmmakers will follow up to see the impact the school has had on Villard. 

We have been invited to pitch the film for funding support at the 2014 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival’s Pitch session in Missoula, MT at the end of February. 

Post-production began the fall of 2013 and the film is scheduled for a 2016/17 film festival & exhibition run. 


We are raising funds for our remaining trips to Haiti as well as the beginning of the post-production process.

Making a film like this is resource intensive. Over 80% of the film takes place in Haiti and because of that there are some costs that we cannot get around:

  • Plane Tickets 
  • Hotel Stays 
  • Haitian Translator 
  • Gas/Truck Rental in Haiti 
  • External HD's 
  • Gear Rental 
  • Shots/Medication 
  • Post-Production Transcribing
  • Post-Production Translating
  • Post-Production Services
  • Post-Production Rentals

Official Website 



Some Press About the Kickstarter:

WBEZ Worldview - Jerome McDonnell

Chicagoist Article - Jessica Mlinaric

DNAinfo Article - Paul Biasco

Gapers Block - Brian Gersten 

IMPORTANT NOTE - Fundraising for this documentary is different than the fundraising for the school. If you want to donate to Haiti School Project, please go to their website -

Risks and challenges

Shooting a documentary in a foreign country is rife with potential pitfalls. Over the past three years we have successfully overcome all the obstacles that have come our way and are well prepared and experienced to deal with new issues that may arise as we finish the production phase of the documentary.

But, let’s be honest, making films is a high-risk venture. I don’t think you could ask for a much higher risk project than this; international travel to the third world where worst case scenario you get malaria or cholera, best case scenario you get diarrhea. Additionally, when shooting documentary you either get the moment or you miss the moment. The very nature of documentary is high risk / high reward.

In addition to the travel to Haiti and around the US for interviews and follow ups, we have a long road ahead of us to complete the film and once it’s done we face the challenge of getting it out into the world.

Post-production on this project presents a lot of very unique challenges from translating 50% of the footage into English to dealing with the multiple digital formats that we have shot on. Once we overcome the technical problems, we then have to make a film that is worth watching.

Money helps make these problems much easier to solve and that’s why we are asking for your support now.

We are working to overcome these problems by hiring good people to do the work at all stages of the creation of this documentary. While in country we are safe and never take a risk that would endanger anyone’s life. The crew members we've got on board are top drawer talent and are committed to the film.

For the part about making a good film; we promise to make the best film we are capable of and completed in a timely manner. That’s the best offer you’re gonna get.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter


  • We get this question a lot. There's no good answer outside of the fact that the filmmakers were just trying to have fun. What we can tell you is that the film has the potential to really challenge the way international aid is delivered. It's a subject we are very passionate about and have dedicated the last three years of our lives capturing. The film will be a thoughtful and compelling portrait of a specific aid program that we can use to hopefully draw conclusions for how to eradicate global poverty.

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  • So much has happened! We wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for your support! Because of the overwhelming support in March of 2012, we have been back to Haiti three times to film the progress of the school.

    Your support last time has allowed the project to continue and thrive and we can’t thank you enough for that support. Now we need to ask for your support again to get us through production and into post-production / editing.

    Also, last time there was a Kickstarter, it was just Jack, but because of your support the project has been able to continue and attract some top level talent.

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  • Co-producing and shooting the film is Dinesh Sabu. Dinesh is currently directing and producing his first feature-length documentary Unbroken Glass with Kartemquin Films. He has served in a variety of capacities on such Kartemquin Films as No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson and A Good Man, in addition to shooting part of the forthcoming American Arab.

    Dinesh is committed to youth education and youth media. After teaching at Community TV Network from 2006 to 2009, he served on its board of directors as president. Dinesh graduated from the University of Chicago in 2006 with degrees in Cinema and Religion. He is from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

    We also have the most important crewmember (don’t tell Dinesh) – The Editor – Nora Gully. Nora is a freelance documentary editor in Chicago. Nora joined Kartemquin Films' staff four years ago to learn the craft of cinéma vérité and the rich history of social-issue documentaries. Originally hired as the Assistant Editor on Steve James’ and Alex Kotlowitz’s The Interrupters, Nora ended up as Post Production Supervisor and Additional Editor, delivering it to PBS Frontline and broadcasters worldwide. She then worked on Steve James’ Head Games as Post Production Supervisor and on the highly-anticipated Finding Vivian Maier as Associate Editor. Nora most recently edited Unity Dinners, a film about bringing diverse neighborhoods together through food, which will air on Chicago's PBS affiliate WTTW in 2013. She studied art history and film studies at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris.

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  • No. This money is going towards the documentary we are making that is chronicling the construction of the school. The point is to make a film that is a case study in international development work that others can see and use a resource heading forward on their own international aid projects.

    So, while your contribution isn’t going to build the school, it is our hope that because of your support we can make a film that communicates this one story to the world.

    If you want to donate to help BUILD the school, go here:
    If you want to donate to held FILM the building of the school, go here:

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  • That's not technically a question, but I get your meaning.

    If you give at the $25 level or higher, we will send you a personalized account with pictures from the filmmakers (Jack, Dinesh, and whomever else) while in Haiti, Chicago, or Montana.

    It's a great way to keep in touch with us as we film.

    These digital postcards will be delivered through Kickstarter.

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  • If you are looking at contributing to the $500 reward level, what you'll receive is a limited and special Kickstarter Only Deal that will get the film and the filmmakers into the classroom, business, organization, or gathering of people of your choice.

    It's our opinion that a film is only as good as the conversation that it starts. The point of this documentary is to start a conversation in how international aid projects are executed and understood.

    This is a great option if you think that your organization, class, or group of friends would benefit from the film and teaching materials we've put together.

    Documentaries usually have 'outreach' or 'impact' campaigns that coincide with the release of the film. These campaigns are one of the ways that filmmakers make their money back on the project, by doing screenings, hosting talks, and engaging audiences. Giving at the $500 or above will get you this for a fraction of the value.

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  • Yes. If you gave to the kickstarter in March 2012, then the rewards are still good. These new rewards and this new campaign are in addition to your previous support.

    If you are bummed that you want something better for a reward because you gave before, email / message me and we can work something out.

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  • From the Kickstarter FAQ...

    A stretch goal is a funding target set by the project creator beyond the original Kickstarter goal. Stretch goals as a term and a practice emerged from the Kickstarter community as a way for creators to "stretch" beyond the initial, official goal of the Kickstarter project and raise more money (and often make cooler stuff!). Funds are collected whether stretch goals are met or not, as long as the project has met its Kickstarter funding goal.

    What happens when a project is overfunded varies depending on the project, and stretch goals are not right for every project. If you are thinking about stretch goals you should consider:

    Project complexity: Stretch goals can make a project more difficult to complete. Fulfilling rewards can be demanding, and any time you add new stuff (more songs on your album, better materials or options on your creation) the demands increase. More costs to consider, more things to ship — things can get complicated fast. It can be tempting to add stretch goals — especially if a project goes orders of magnitude over funding — but this shouldn't be done without careful planning.

    Communication: If adding stretch goals, think carefully about how to announce them to your community of backers. Take the time to explain your intentions, your motivations, and your plans. Any changes made midstream should be accompanied by an assurance that you are honoring your initial promises to backers. Simply proclaiming, “New goal!” without recognizing what you’ve achieved together can rub backers the wrong way.

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Funding period

- (29 days)