The half-built walls surrounded by a muddy courtyard don’t look like much, but to me they represent hope – a new school rising from where cracked walls and rubble once stood. After months of preparation and hard work, the reconstruction effort in Haiti is beginning to bear fruit.

The half-built walls surrounded by a muddy courtyard don’t look like much, but to me they represent hope – a new school rising from where cracked walls and rubble once stood. After months of preparation and hard work, the reconstruction effort in Haiti is beginning to bear fruit.

This rural elementary school, which served some 100 students, was in bad shape the first time I saw it in February 2010. The earthquake had riven its walls and left it dangerously unstable. In one classroom, children’s art projects sat poignantly covered in a layer of dust.

Supported by the Independence-based charity Outreach International, the school is located in a village on the outskirts Croix des Bouquets, a suburb of Haiti’s capital Port au Prince. The local community is invested in the school and kept it running even when they had no building in which to meet. They constructed a makeshift structure using the metal roofing sheets from the damaged school, and Outreach International gave them a large tent provided by UNICEF.

However, the future is looking brighter in this small corner of Haiti’s earthquake-affected zone. Outreach International arranged detailed architectural surveys of the site and found a donor willing to fund the construction of a new building.

I am back in Haiti for a week providing some strategic advice to Outreach International’s reconstruction program. It has been wonderful to be back here at this exciting time – to see the hard work of Outreach International’s staff finally begin to pay off.

While Outreach International has organized repairs to some salvageable buildings in the network of over 70 schools it supports throughout Haiti, this project in Croix des Bouquets is its first full demolition and reconstruction.

The Haiti reconstruction effort has been fraught with difficulties – demolition, rubble removal, lack of financing, new building codes, inflation, political instability, a cholera epidemic and a hurricane have all proved major obstacles.

While the little progress at Croix des Bouquets may not seem like big deal, it is these little victories that give the Outreach International team renewed energy to keep pushing forward, working with the schools and local communities to revitalize an education sector struggling to cope with both acute disasters and chronic problems of poverty and political uncertainty.

Outreach International’s work in Croix des Bouquets would not be possible without the generous support of its donors, many of whom live in the Independence and Kansas City area. When one stops to think about it, it is quite remarkable that there is a small rural school outside Haiti's capital whose story is impacted by those of you reading this newspaper.

As Haiti fades from the headlines, or when we read stories of progress like this one, it can be tempting to believe that the reconstruction effort will no longer need our solidarity and support. However, it is this time, going on 18 months since a disaster, that the big initial tranche of aid funding tends to run dry.

There are still many schools in the Outreach International network that need repairs or reconstruction if the children are to have the safe space to study they deserve. The generosity of the people of Independence has been crucial to the progress made so far, but the reconstruction effort still continues to need a long-term commitment. Neither Rome nor Haiti can be built in a day.