The 2021-2022 school year has come and gone. Across Haiti, kids celebrate their achievements and look forward to next year. For most, school is a blessing – a safe place where order reigns, where efforts are rewarded. Parents are ever-eager to have their children attend – these school-going children are the hope of the family, and the kids know it. The attractions of education are heightened by the fact that so many cannot attend. The result for many will be illiteracy – an inability to read a newspaper, a government form, the instructions on a medicine bottle. An inability to determine the correct change for a purchase. The benefits are very real.
The Lamp began its school sponsorship program in 2010. Watching these successive groups of children navigate the challenges of school, their potential fully engaged, has been one of the great pleasures of my work at the Lamp. To date, the Lamp – through the very direct support of our education sponsors – has provided 57 children with a total of 208 years of schooling. Huge thanks to those sponsors! It is a small program but a very powerful one and we would like to make it grow.
The basics of the program are this: children are selected from local families by our Community Health Workers and assigned to specific sponsors. Sponsors receive a brief bio with photo, updates on the child’s progress, and occasional messages from the children. The children must succeed to continue but tutoring is provided for any that are falling behind. An annual sponsorship of $415 pays for tuition, uniforms and shoes, textbooks and school supplies for one child. There is a standardized state exam at the end of grade 9 and success in this exam – which earns a formal certificate – is the primary goal of our program. Sponsors may continue to support their charges but generally speaking, the sponsorship ends and a new young person from Bwa Nèf is chosen to enter school.
The program has value beyond price for the children and their families; it is also critical for its support of local schools – institutions that are vital to positive communal life.