Providing Education in Haiti
Two days he stood outside of our gate, refusing to come in. His class called for him, his teacher begged for him to cross the threshold; even I tried going out to talk to him. But stubbornly he refused. Finally his teacher sent him a letter telling him she missed him and wanted him to come back. The next morning he entered the office slightly embarrassed as he hung his head and told me nobody in his house was willing to wash his uniform for him. In fact they had taken it and somebody else was wearing it. I told him, as always, that we accept even those dirty-clothed kids. “We care more about what is in your head than what is on your body.” He shyly walked into his class and they welcomed him.
Then they saw another one of their classmates standing outside the gate. He, too, had dirty clothes. They called to him. “Come in,” they implored. “Come in and be with us.” He, too, shouted back, “I cannot. My uniform is dirty. I am not clean enough to come in.” So they got out of their chairs and went to him, grabbed him and slapped his back and told him, “Your clothes do not matter.” Despite his enthusiasm for being wanted he still resisted. “No, I cannot. I do not even have shoes,” he said. Another student calmly bent down and untied his own shoes. He handed them to his dirty-clothed classmate and said, “Here, you can wear mine for today. I will go barefoot for you.”
– Anna Komasinski, a teacher in Gonaives, Haiti
What is the average annual income in the U.S. today? Somewhere between $45,000 – $50,000? Now imagine taking 80% of that amount, roughly $36,000-$40,000, and using it to pay for a child’s school tuition, thus leaving a family about $9,000-$10,000 for all other expenses. That is exactly what the average Haitian family does in an effort to school their children and with a daily income of barely $2.00, one can only imagine how difficult it is for families to survive in this island nation.
Our partner program, CONASPEH (the National Spiritual Council of Haitian Churches), is all about helping to educate students and easing the financial burden on low-income families. Thus the school not only offers scholarships to students but also offers tuition breaks to families with more than one child in the classical studies school (pre-K – 12). Additionally, CONASPEH’s efforts to secure a government recognized certificate for their School of Nursing program has taken years but their persistence has paid off and students will have easier access to jobs once they graduate.
Of course, many of you know my heart lies with the seminary and that I have been blessed beyond measure in my work with the students. I am most in awe of those pastors who are only able to get to the capital once a month to attend CONASPEH’s specially designed 3-day theological program. They travel great distances, sometimes walking part of the way because they do not have enough money for public transportation, and occasionally foregoing meals, but still the seminarians find a way to make this monthly trek. Needless to say tears well up in my eyes as I think of these committed women and men sitting in the classroom and soaking up knowledge.
Tim continues to work with the set-up of the long-awaited Trades School which is earmarked to begin in early October with classes in construction, electrical work, plumbing, welding, masonry, and computer training. All of us are eager for the sounds of hammering, drilling, cutting and the clicking of computer keys because we know each will be the sound of learning and a future.
“I will go barefoot for you…”and we will be patient as we show you how to use that power saw… and we
will do the needed research to find an answer to your question about how Adam and Eve found spouses for their children… and we will allow you to practice taking blood pressure measures on us… and we will show you how to set up an Excel spreadsheet on the computer… and we will kick that soccer ball back to you as you play during recess… and we will…
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and discernment.” Philippians 1: 9
Tim and Diane Fonderlin are members of Howland Community Church, Warren, Ohio. They are serving a 4-year term with the National Spiritual Council of Churches of Haiti (CONASPEH) and live in Port-au-Prince. Tom works as a Sustainable Community Development and Micro-Credit Consultant and Diane is teaching theology at St. Andrew Theological Seminary and is also Co-Administrator of the Seminary. Their appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples’ Mission Fund, Our Churches Wider Mission, and your special gifts.