San Diego Unified sends buses to Haitian Schoolchildren on U.S. Military Mission of Hope
Three school buses from the San Diego Unified School District began a journey of 3,000 miles Friday when they left the district’s transportation depot on their way to help students in Haiti. The first stop will be March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, where the buses will be prepared for their trip.
The relief mission has been organized by the aid group, “Those Angels,” and is being carried out by the United States Air Force. Flying a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, pilots from Travis Air Force Base in Northern California will deliver the school buses to Haiti in time for the first day of school on October 3.
The shoring, or supports to stabilize the buses for their flight, was constructed by members of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
Getting to school is a daily struggle for many students in Haiti, according to Those Angels founder Claude Joseph, who now lives in California after being born and raised in Haiti. In addition to a major 7.2 earthquake last year, the island was hit hard by Tropical Depression Grace in 2021. The economic recovery is still ongoing.
“Many Haitian students face enormous hurdles just trying to receive a basic education, with some having to walk five miles or more to school each day,” said Joseph. “These donated buses will help change lives for many of them. It will provide an opportunity for those already in school to continue, while allowing others the chance to begin.”
Last year, San Diego Unified Board President Dr. Sharon Whitehurst-Payne and her fellow Trustees voted to donate a total of 10 decommissioned school buses to help the children of Haiti in response to a request by Those Angels. The remaining seven buses will be transported at a later date.
“For those of us in education, nothing hurts our hearts more than the suffering of children, whether they live in San Diego or anyplace else,” said Dr. Whitehurst-Payne. “We are grateful for the opportunity to provide the children of Haiti with a source of hope for years to come, and we hope to inspire others to join us, because San Diego is a generous community.”
The San Diego Unified buses had been decommissioned at the end of their service life, meaning it was no longer cost effective for the district to repair the vehicles for future sale or use. Those Angels plan to bring the buses up to Haitian safe operating standards upon delivery to Haiti by the United States Air Force on September 24.
An Air Force Reserve aircrew from the 349th Air Mobility Wing will transport the decommissioned buses first to Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, and then to Port Au Prince Airport in Haiti. The buses will arrive in time for the start of the new school year in Haiti, which the Haitian government was forced to delay due to the ongoing economic crisis.
Bus delivery is being carried out under the Denton Program, a collaboration between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Department of State (DOS) and Department of Defense (DOD), which “allows U.S. based non-governmental sources to transport humanitarian aid at little or no cost to the donor, while simultaneously putting the extra space on U.S. military transport assets to good use.”