education

Going off of yesterday’s blog, one of my strongest beliefs is the importance of education.

I grew up with access to free, public education. I had teachers who were professionally trained, motivated and invested. I had access to resources to learn, discover what I was interested in and figure out what I wasn’t interested in. My senior year I was the editor of the newspaper and I can remember how much I enjoyed writing my own articles, probably goes to show why I also love to blog. I had the opportunity to take marketing classes and also design my classes’ yearbook; those two things also sparked my love for design, which helped me decide to pursue a college degree in graphic design. I had opportunities to play sports, be in choir, participate in speech and be on the dance team. My high school years were full of activity and opportunity…and I had no idea how fortunate I was. It’s probably safe to say that we have all taken for granted our access to education here in the States.

The reality in Haiti is that there is minimal public education. Schools that are run by the government are beyond underfunded and most teachers don’t show up to work because they are underpaid, possibly not paid at all. I can remember a time when a group of students were holding protests on the main road that I take to get into Port-au-Prince. Their teachers were on a strike from working themselves because they hadn’t been paid, but the students were still showing up to school. When the teachers’ strike continued, the students began barricading the roads, making a statement for their teachers’ pay, because all they wanted was to be in the classroom learning. Public schools make up 10% of the schools in the nation and ultimately are providing the worst quality of education.

Since the public schools aren’t good, most of the schools are private and should be seen more as a business. People are operating the schools to make money. I can remember a time when a local school director was sending threats to us because so many of his students were leaving his school to come to ours. We obviously never had any intentions to “steal” students away, but the point being, students are seen as cash flow, not as actual students.

With most of the schools being private, school fees can be extremely expensive for families. The average cost in the area we live in is around $60 for child, plus the expenses of buying materials for uniforms, having the uniforms sewn, buying shoes, back packs, books and supplies. By the time it’s all said and done, it probably costs the parent around $150 to get his or her child ready for the school year. Also consider the fact that most families have 4 or 5 or 6 children. Also remember that 85% of people are unemployed and when given the opportunity to have an income, most people make around $2/day. Like I’ve said before, I’ll never know how they actually survive, let alone thrive.

Most families either get themselves into a ton of debt trying to keep their kids in school or ultimately the children just don’t go to school. Just to give you an example, last year when we started a new year of Starfish, I asked all 35 participants how many of them had unpaid school fees. Thirty-three out of thirty-five raised their hand. The two that didn’t raise their hands were the only two who didn’t have school-aged children.

Webert’s entire vision for our school is to make sure parents never have to carry the burden of paying school fees. If you haven’t heard Webert’s testimony before, it’s important to know that as a child, Webert was given opportunities to a free education all the way through his high school education. By the time he graduated from college, he saw a large amount of kids not going to school in his own community because their parents couldn’t afford the fees. So, he started a simple mission: provide free education to the children in his community.

When we founded Touch of Hope, our goal was to have a small sponsorship program as a means to fund the school and build one school building for the students. Today, we serve over 1,200 students, employ 85 people and our campus has four school buildings, a cafeteria, a computer lab and an office building.

I love writing out that paragraph. I’m so proud of the work that happens on our mountaintop and it’s such an honor to be a part of Webert’s dreams coming to fruition for the children in the community he grew up in. Webert estimates that 80% of our students would not be in school, if it weren’t for the fact that we were providing them with a free education.

But, did you know that none of this would be possible without sponsorship? Our sponsorship program is what funds our school and keeps the doors open. Your $35/month commitment ensures our staff is getting paid fair wages, our students are eating hot meals every day they attend school and most importantly, children in our community are being provided a free education.

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We truly do believe that an educated generation will be what changes Haiti. We believe there are future leaders, doctors, teachers, politicians and maybe even a future president at our school. With the opportunity to educate and invest in these students, we are molding a future generation that will hopefully be the change that Haiti needs.

A vivid memory of Webert sitting with students on a day when there was a countrywide lockdown has come to mind. There was suppose to be school that day, but the protests kept most students at home. I remember I had plans to work at Rosie’s that day, but kept the doors closed due to the violence in the streets. I ended up at the school that day and found Webert and twenty-some students all sitting together in the cafeteria. I walked in on a heated discussion, as Webert was asking questions like, “Who is to blame for the violence? How will our country ever change? What can we do today to be a part of the change?” And the answers and dialogue that was happening between the students were eye-opening to me and I remember thinking in that moment, “surely, these are the moments; these are the conversations; this work of education is the biggest work we can be doing to change Haiti.”

There’s not a doubt in my mind that education is the most important. If there’s one way you’d like to partner and know your money is making a long-term impact, sponsorship is where it’s at. Your $35/month allows all the above magic to happen. In order for our 2020 budget to be completely and fully-funded, we are in need of 50 more sponsorships. Would you consider being one of the fifty? I guarantee it’s an investment that won’t be wasted!

Click here to sign up today! Email me at touchofhopehaiti@gmail.com if you have any further questions!