I remember after I graduated college I got asked the question, “What is your dream for your future?” multiple times. That question was intimidating, but also freeing. After college I felt like I could do anything, see anything, travel anywhere. Maybe you know the feeling. Dreams about having a job that I love, a family to love, and a home to settle in. People all around the world have dreams. Dreams for their future and dreams for their children’s future. Truth be told, for many of us, our dreams can be made a reality. We simply have to work hard and strive for it. Dreamers in Haiti have a whole other set of hurdles to overcome to reach their dreams.
We try so hard to pretend that even without money we can make our dreams a reality. And this may be true…if your dream is to fall in love or be a good mother. But the reality is, most dreams involve money. There are many ways for us to get money; work extra hours, fundraise, loans, rob a bank. You know, the norm. In Haiti, it is more difficult to do any one of these things.
In a country where the unemployment rate is at 80%, simply having a job is dream come true. Any money you’re making is going straight to food and shelter. Not much extra is saved or even left over. For some, their extra money is given to those in even less fortunate circumstances than their own.
Next to the COTP compound there sits a school. Every day from 8-1pm about 322 students come to school with faded pink uniforms. The girls all have big bows holding up their freshly done hair and boys belts tied tight fastening their loose pants. When I get ready in the morning, I hear the laugher and chatting of kids before school begins. This is one of my favorite sounds in Haiti by far.
About a week ago I wandered into the Manna school to take some photos of the kids celebrating one of the last weeks of school. I ended up being too late to get the celebration, which including all the kids in a big circle singing, dancing, and clapping. Instead, I met, for the second time, the principle of the school, DeConge. He offered to walk with me through the school and let me take pictures. The kids were all in their classrooms, some eating, some studying. I was very thankful to be able to walk through and snap some fun pictures of the kids. After we finished the walk through, I got to talking to DeConge. DeConge has been working at Manna as the Principle since 2002. The Manna school has classes kindergarten-6th grade with 322 students who attend.
Public Education in Haiti costs anywhere from 500-3000htd. This cost does not include shoes, uniforms, books and exam prices. These costs along are enough to stand in the way of a child going to school. However, with the abundance of NGOs in Haiti, education can be afforded for many. Most NGOs offer free education. Manna school being one of them. Manna school pays for lunch, shoes, uniforms, and books for all the students. Allowing many kids without the means to go to school a chance to receive an education. But this education gets them only so far.
In my conversation with DeConge, I found out that after the oldest grade graduations, sixth grade, they rarely have enough money to continue their education elsewhere. Keep in mind that these sixth graders are between the ages of 16-20. Currently at Manna school, the sixth grade class has 8 girls and 14 boys. And after this week, who knows if or where they’ll find further education past the sixth grade.
“After our kids are done with primary school (6th grade) they usually don’t continue. Their parents don’t have money. It’s pointless for them to finish primary school when they don’t plan to go much further. After they are done with 6th grade, I see many go and sit at home and that makes me sad. When I see a kid on the street it makes me sad because they need to be in school. I am passionate about this. I love these kids.” –DeConge
DeConge has a dream. He described to me how he wants to start a high school with a sponsorship program for students to continue onto a university. He wants a place for the students to be able to learn about mechanics or carpentry or nursing etc. I preceded to ask him what is stopping him from carrying this dream through,
“Money. Money is the biggest issue because without money you can’t do anything. We don’t have any money.”
He continued on to explain how he is always looking for more contacts in the States. Because to him, the States mean money and money means he can make his dream a reality. This is not an uncommon conversation to have with people in Haiti. People talk about their dreams but then usually end the conversation with an “ask” for money to help make their dream possible.
Being in Haiti, I’ve realized the difficulty that many have to see their dreams come true. People work hard every day to make enough money for THAT day. Saving for the future usually takes the backseat. The idea of having money left over to start a school or orphanage seems nearly impossible. What I can see, most larger organizations in Haiti are completely funded by wealthier countries in North America and Europe. This is so prominent that many have began to refer to Haiti as the Republic of NGOs. Many see this as a problem. And yes, I do agree. I believe in a perfect world Haiti should be able to support itself.
Now, I don’t have all the answers…I don’t even have ONE answer. But I have hope that some day God will restore Haiti: The Republic of NGOs. I pray that some day Haiti will be able to have schools and universities independent from donated money from the States or anywhere else. I pray that someday Haiti will be able to hold itself up by their own two feet.
Written by Jenna Clements from her blog, Overseas