Wadley Germain, 10, has had an eventful few years.
The Haitian girl and her family lost their home in the 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince. Afterward, Partners In Health supported them with health care and other services in the camp where they lived.
Her education interrupted by the earthquake, Wadley wanted to attend classes at a makeshift school in the camp, but her mother didn’t have money to pay tuition. But Wadley insisted, and she was allowed to stay.
Her story inspired the filmmakers behind Girl Rising, an innovative documentary that tells the story of girls around the world who persevered in gaining access to education. Wadley starred as the first character in the film, which was released this year.
Then came fame. She attended showings of the film in Port-au-Prince, dressed in a lacy white gown. She made friends with Edwidge Danticat, the renowned Haitian author who wrote Wadley’s story for the film. Then, this week, she met U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at an education conference in Petionville. Duncan and other top U.S. education officials visited Haiti this week to announce a grant to increase access to education in the country.
In the meeting, Wadley asked Duncan what he was doing to help Haiti, and he asked her what she thought he should do. Wadley told him Haiti needs more trained teachers, books for students, and Internet for students to learn. She told the secretary that she wants to study informatics when she's older.
When Wadley told Duncan that her favorite subject was math, the two challenged each other to solving math problems.
“It was really sweet to see how the major education policy leaders of the U.S. were starstruck meeting Wadley and all wanted pictures with her,” said Cate Oswald, PIH senior program officer for Haiti, who befriended Wadley after the earthquake and helped translate at the meeting. “They've all seen the movie Girl Rising and are huge fans of Wadley and her perseverance that kept her in school.”
Wadley delivered a hand-written letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with a drawing, beside which she wrote, “It’s a drawing for you.” Photo: Cate Oswald/Partners In Health
Wadley took a group photo with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, to her left; PIH Senior Program Officer for Haiti Cate Oswald, behind; and USAID Senior Advisor for International Education Christie Vilsack, to her right.