About the Renaissance Project

Since 2008, Gerthy Lahens has co-led Renaissance Project: Hope for Haiti with MIT Architecture Professor Jan Wampler.

One of the Project’s goals is to build a sustainable farming village in Arcahaie. The village could shelter a thousand people; provide jobs, education, and health facilities. With immediate action the settlement could be built in only 100 days. Although initially intended to help to be a center for education where not only children in the area would have access to appropriate educational facilities, but also would provide vocational training. It would be a green Community where local material would be used, renewable energy would be harnessed and solid and liquid waste would be reused.

After the devastating earthquake, this dynamic duo transformed the project aiming at long-term housing and economic development into a project responding to the emergency, while keeping in mind sustainability. As a result of the massive destruction by the earthquake, the Renaissance Project team expanded the plan to include housing for 1,000 people while providing jobs and education, and bringing hope to this devastated island nation. With immediate action and funding, the settlement can be built.

Now, the Renaissance Project has a local advisory committee of MIT and Harvard staff and local activists. The involvement of these universities would allow the project to develop its capacity to foster true development in Haiti. For example, MIT is working on a type of building that would use bamboo and other local material as much as possible over the use of imported materials. New building technologies will be introduced and local workers trained to use them. Currently, the project was approved by the Communal Council of Arcahaie and land required has been donated. The project needs to raise $700,000 to break ground.

Our Mission

As a result of the massive destruction by the January 2010 earthquake, there is a pressing need for shelter in the Port-au-Prince area.  With immediate action, the Renaissance Project can provide not only shelter for 1,000 people, but also jobs, education, health facilities, and hope for Haiti's future.

With your help we can:

green square  Establish a vital, self-sustaining resource for Port-au-Prince, including housing for 1,000 people.

green square  Develop the local skills required to foster microeconomies

green square  Create a place of learning for 400 Haitian students, including housing for at least 100 boys and 100 girls.

green square  Tap into or create sustainable resources for food, water, and energy to make a self-sufficient community off of the grid.

For full details, please see the Renaissance Project presentation.


Our Team Members

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Gerthy Lahens, a Haitian grassroots community organizer, human rights activist, and church leader, is the founder and Executive Director of The Friends of Petite-Anse. Inc, an NGO dedicated to helping under-served Haitian communities. Born in Port-au-Prince, she now lives in Boston, and the Boston Globe once called her and her four children “a volunteer army.” She was also a Boston Community Learning Practice Fellow in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. Past and present projects include Bagazo Inc., Haitian Power & Light LLC, Project Racine, La Gonave Development Corporation and Endurance Rescue Team.

Jan Wampler is a Professor of Architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He teaches an Architectural Design Studio and an "International Workshop," and runs an architectural office. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, was awarded the Distinguished Professor honor from the ASCA, and has received awards from MIT for his work in International Programs. His design studios expose students to cultural environments outside of the United States, and he and his students have built homes in Turkey, schools in China and Sierra Leone, an orphanage in Ecuador, and HIV centers in Zambia.

Dr. Melvin King is a retired Adjunct Professor at MIT, as well as a famed social activist, community organizer, youth worker, politician and author, working on the behalf of low-income people in Boston for over 55 years. He is currently the director of the South End Technology Center, which he founded.

Thaddeus Miles is the Director of Public Safety at MassHousing. His department designs and implements crime prevention strategies keeping the residents of several thousand housing units safe. His other projects include eleven Neighborhood Network Centers in Roxbury and Dorchester, and collaborations with MIT and Harvard Law School involving bringing technology to underserved populations. He also owns Dream Benders Studio, which specializes in computer animation, and mentors local youth.

Johanne Blain, Co-founder of Friends of Petite Anse Inc; received her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College with honors in 2000 and a Master of Science degree in Design and Computation at MIT in 2004. Gained insight on various aspects, especially pedagogy, within transnational minority communities. Has particular interest in sustainable economic and community resource development, including evaluation and development of cost-effective sustainable programs, and health care policy

Dr. Riche Zamor, head of Fondwa University, created in 2004 by the Association of Peasants of Fondwa (APF) as a “university of the mountains”. Had previously served for three years as the executive director of the Catholic Charities Haitian Multi-Service Center in Dorchester.

Virginie Greene is a Professor of French at Harvard University, and is chair of the department of Romance Languages and Literatures. Her department offers several undergraduate courses connecting the study of languages and cultures to work with communities, including the Haitian community in the greater Boston area.

Ryan Doone is a graduate student in the MArch program at MIT. He was born and raised on the west coast, educated in the south, and trained and tested in the northeast. His primary interest lies in the combined design and use of architecture and landscape in a concerted effort to reconnect man to his analog roots in this digital age.

Amanda Levesque is a graduating senior in the architectural design program at MIT. Largely due to her experience as a part of this project, she plans to pursue a career in community-driven, ecological design.

Ira Winder is also senior in MIT's design program. He has extensive experience studying and working abroad in Venice, Japan, Beijing and Hong Kong, and focuses on making thoughtful design accessible to all communities.

Tal Goldenberg is an MIT alumni and recently graduated from the undergratuate architecture program in 2009. She now lives and works in Israel.

Renelle Torrico is also an alumni of the MIT design program, and currently attends Tulane University's Masters program in architecture.

Site Plan


See For Yourself

To learn more about the Renaissance Project, you can download our full presentation in PDF format. SImply click the following link, or right click and choose "save link as" to begin downloading:

   Renaissance Project: Hope for Haiti

If you have any questions, comments, or you would like to get involved with the project, contact us.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Contact Us

The Renaissance Project plans to begin construction as soon as funds are available. Our team is working at MIT as well as on the ground in Haiti to organize implementation efforts.

Address: Boston, MA, USA
Telephone: +1-857-615-0102
E-mail: info@haitirenaissance.org