Petra Nemcova Leaves the Dance Floor in the Dust—and Heads for Haiti

Supermodel Petra Nemcova opens a new school in Haiti.

Photo: Daniel Kedar

Forget Dancing With the Stars. Czech supermodel Petra Nemcova is on to bigger and better things: This week she opened a new school in Haiti for kids displaced by the massive earthquake of 2010. It's the 51st school she has built around the world in the past five years, thanks to her foundation, the Happy Hearts Fund, which is dedicated to helping children in natural-disaster areas. Nemcova herself survived the Asian tsunami of 2004 while she was on vacation in Thailand. After seeing the devastation it brought, she decided to do something to help—and the idea for her foundation was born. Since then she has opened schools in nine countries—from Thailand to Congo to the U.S.—benefiting more than 31,000 children. Next she is turning her attention toward Japan.

The new school in Haiti—a kindergarten near Port-au-Prince that will house 102 children who were previously taught in makeshift tents—is the second learning center Nemcova has opened in Haiti. In 2007, she opened a computer lab in the sprawling slum of Cite Soleil, which we wrote about for Marie Claire (see a slideshow here). Nemcova always partners with local nonprofit groups to build the learning centers; for the latest school, she worked with local group Fondation ProDev. Says Nemcova of the school, "It marks the first of our next 50 schools at a time when Haiti is also celebrating a new beginning, for a new Haiti."

Abigail Pesta is an award-winning investigative journalist who writes for major publications around the world. She is the author of The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down.