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Lavil: Life, Love, and Death in Port-Au-Prince Curriculum

Using the powerful oral histories in Lavil, these multidisciplinary lessons invite students to grapple with such topics as colonialism, chronic poverty, government corruption, and of course, the 2010 earthquake. Students will be inspired to think of themselves as oral historians and global citizens through critical thinking, empathy building, and artistic exploration. Students will explore the following questions:

  • Are certain populations of people more vulnerable to natural disasters than others? Why or why not?
  • Whose responsibility is it to ensure that people can live where they want to live, and not just where they can survive? Why?

Grades: Flexible and adaptable for high school and undergraduate courses.

Time Needed: Curriculum covers approximately 2 weeks of class time. However, each lesson can be taught separately or expanded into a longer project. 


  • Students will  explore the concepts of empathy and basic human rights by writing story-generating questions for an oral history project.
  • Students will examine the artist’s role during times of crisis, and will create one piece of art responding to a personal, social, or political trauma.
  • Students will develop a plan for an oral history project to conduct in their community. These projects will seek to illuminate the issues studied in Lavil and their impact in school and local communities.

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A book about choosing to live and not to die, to fight, to survive, to thrive.

Edwidge Danticat

About the Oral Histories

Years after the deadliest earthquake in the history of the Western Hemisphere struck Haiti, the island nation remains in crisis, all but ignored by the international community. At the center of this crisis is Lavil—“The City” in Kreyol, as Port-au-Prince is known to Haitians—the cultural, political, and economic capital of Haiti and home to over 2.5 million resilient souls.

This immersive and engrossing oral history collection illustrates the continuing struggle of Haitian people to live, love, and prosper while trying to rebuild their city and country after disasters both natural and man-made.

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