Two C-5 cargo planes out of Travis Air Force Base took off headed for Haiti Monday morning to deliver some long awaited school buses that once belonged to the Sacramento City Unified School District.
In the past decade, Haiti has been devastated by two of the worst natural disasters recorded in the country's history, crippling infrastructure and devouring the impoverished nation's economy.
The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit the country in 2010 left at least 100,000 dead. Six years later, Hurricane Matthew swept across the southwestern part of the country, killing hundreds and causing nearly $2 billion in damages.
While many in Haiti still work to rebuild, a strong push to reestablish easy access to good education in lieu of essential services and utilities has taken root in at least one part of the country.
Claude Joseph, founder of Those Angels, Inc., an Oakland-based non-profit working to help support and enrich communities in Haiti, recalled a conversation he had with a family in Carrefour on one of his last visits to his native land.
"We can stay in the dark," the Haitian told Joseph. "What we want to do is send our kids to school."
In 2015, Joseph, with the help of the local community, volunteers and financial supports, opened the Ecole Communautaire Foyer Des Anges (ECOFA) elementary school, which 115 students now attended.
But just building a school wasn't enough. Joseph needed a way to get the kids there, and when he returned to the United States, he "went on a manhunt for school buses."
Using his connections in Sacramento, Joseph was able to buy seven retired school buses from the city's school district at a $100 a pop.
That was two years ago.
As he searched for a way to get the buses to the children in Haiti, Joseph had to find new places to store them—a cheerleading gym, auto museum, manufacturing company, pastor's house.
Finally, earlier this year, Joseph got the call he'd been waiting for. The U.S. Air Force had accepted his application to transport the buses for him as part of their Denton Program, which provides transportation for humanitarian assistance commodities.
"I'm excited, I'm ecstatic, I don't even know how to describe it," Joseph said. "Besides the economic relief on the parents, it's going to be relief on these kids."