Child Sponsorship: Paving the Way for the Future
The 2019-2020 school year was ravished by civil unrest and COVID. For our students, teachers, and staff at Emmanuel Christian Schools, in the fall of 2019, it was unsafe to travel to school due to the instability of the country. It wasn’t until January 2020 that students were able to return to school, only to be sent home again in March, not to return for the remainder of the year.
Haitian Christian Outreach’s US Director, Megan Schreiber, and Child Sponsorship Coordinator, Larissa Blevins, recently gathered to discuss the importance of education for the future of Haiti and how Child Sponsors play a role in that future.
MEGAN: Larissa, as an educator yourself, what does it mean for a student, to miss almost an entire year of school?
LARISSA: Missing an entire year of education for any child, not to mention children in countries such as Haiti, is impinging upon their development and limits opportunities for the future. Statistics from UNICEF show 30% of children attending primary school in Haiti, will not reach the 3rd grade and 60% of students leave school before the 6th grade to contribute to the family’s survival.
MEGAN: These statistics are stunning. Hearing these can give the impression that school is not valued in Haiti.
LARISSA: In reality, the opposite is true. Education in Haiti is highly valued! Children wear their school uniform with pride. You will see students dust off their shoes from their walk to school that morning. Education brings hope and visions of a promising future.
MEGAN: Knowing the importance of education and the ability it has to break the cycle of poverty is one reason we at HCO give it such great focus. In the six schools supported by HCO, we serve children through meeting their intellectual, physical, and spiritual needs. What does this look like in each school?
LARISSA: In each school, the education provided is not only the mandated state education but also bible education. Each child hears the Word of God, learns to pray, and is introduced to a relationship with Jesus. Along with education, each child receives a nutritious meal, prepared and provided by the school. Students enrolled in our schools also receive free healthcare through the Peredo Community Hospital. This is all made possible through the generosity of our sponsors!
MEGAN: Let’s talk about the Sponsorship Program and how this impacts our students.
LARISSA: With a Child Sponsor’s $20.00 a month recurring donation, a student is provided school supplies, state and bible curriculum, a school lunch, and they help alleviate the burden of school fees for the family. The Haitian government provides little support for education. USAID shows that 85% of the schools in Haiti are privately funded. Therefore, a Child Sponsor’s donation also contributes to the salaries of the 141 Haitian teachers, staff, and administration employed by the Emmanuel Christian Schools. Sponsors also give families the option to send more than one of their children to school instead of choosing which child will receive an education.
MEGAN: As an intern with HCO in 2017 and 2018, your goal was to visit each of the six schools. What were some of the similarities and differences you observed in relation to schools here in the states?
LARISSA: Yes, that was my goal because at the time I was in college studying to become a teacher. When I was finally able to visit all six of our schools in May 2019, I was so excited to see that what I had been praying for over two summers during our prayer walks had come to fruition. As soon as I walked into the classroom, I noticed early on that they have some focused students and some not-so-focused students, even some mischievous ones just like we do here in the US. I was able to observe a few lessons, and a couple of them (metric conversions and skip counting) just happened to be lessons that I had previously taught a few months prior in the US during my field experience. The sounds coming from the classroom were full of fun and learning as many teachers use repetition and song for their instruction.
MEGAN: What were some of the differences you observed in their learning environment?
LARISSA: When you walk into a classroom in the US you will often see cute classroom decor, soft lighting, and all kinds of manipulatives or activities. It will look like you just walked into the “Pinterest” world. However, I did not see any of that in Haiti, yet there was so much learning still taking place. They did not have the need for fancy decor, new gadgets, or even much technology in order to actively participate and learn the lesson. The classroom was very loud and full of what we would consider distractions in the US. Students were constantly running in and out of the classroom, multiple conversations and lessons were happening all at the same time in the same room.
MEGAN: During your many times in Haiti, what is one of the most memorable stories you can share about how education creates such a positive impact?
LARISSA: One day, a young boy (and one of our students) came up to Roro and introduced his friend, Jameson. The boy said that Jameson was not able to go to school because he could not afford to buy black shoes, which are required by the government to attend school. RoRo of course went to find a pair of black shoes that would fit Jameson which had been donated by HCO supporters. Word got back to John, Jameson’s father, that some pastor gave his boy a pair of shoes. He wanted to meet this pastor. John had quite a negative reputation in the Jacmel/Peredo area, However, RoRo saw this as an opportunity to spread light within the darkness. When they met, John said to RoRo, “You were able to do something for my son that I couldn’t. I don’t know why someone would do that, but thank you!” RoRo, of course, gave all the glory to God. Jameson, with his new black shoes, eventually started coming to church. His father John, being an unbeliever, was uncomfortable with it but still let him go. John would stand outside in the courtyard during church to wait for his son to get finished. Each week John would take small steps closer to the entryway of the church. Fast-forward to today and John is very active in the church spreading the same light to others that RoRo displayed to him so many years ago.
There are so many stories like Jamesons that show how God can use education to do mighty things! We believe that educated children are the future of Haiti. And the $20.00 per month Child Sponsors provide will benefit more than just the student! Part of being a Child Sponsor includes being able to meet your child when you go to Haiti on a mission trip with HCO. This is such an exciting time for sponsors to see how they are benefiting this child’s life!
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