In the six years I've been traveling back and forth to Haiti, no other trip comes close in comparing to the one I had last week. There was a magic in the air. An excitement that you can't really describe. It was a feeling that we're on the right track, and the vision is becoming more and more clear.
Back in the early spring when we were planning this trip, our primary goal was to attend Wideline's graduation. A bright, young woman with a big future in front of her, Wideline has worked hard to receive her diploma. She's studied hard for tests, worked with tutors, said no to things others say yes to, all in order to ensure she became one of the chosen few. In Haiti, the percentage of adults with high school diplomas is just a little bit higher than the percentage of adults in the US with a Doctorate degree. Wideline and her classmates really are the chosen few, and they are eager to break the glass ceiling.
June 23 was a day as hot as any other Haitian summer day. I can only imagine there were over 1,000 people in the Titanyen church; all of us crammed together in our Sunday best to celebrate the 200+ students who made it! So many of them were the first in their family to achieve this honor, and the whole town was proud of them.
When I heard Wideline's name called, I felt like a proud momma -- watching my girl, our girl, Ncompass family's girl -- GRADUATE!
This is the culmination of years of hard work, and it's only the beginning. Next year, Danielo will follow in her footsteps, and the year after, two more will also graduate. While Wideline's graduation was enough to be proud of, the best part is that it was just the beginning.
We also found out that 6 of our students from the Maranatha House were named "Top of the Class!" And 5 others were "Most Improved." Some of them even raised their grades by 2-3 whole points (equivalent to 2-3 letter grades)!
Last year, we made the investment in tutors for our kids to see if that could help them engage more with their studies and THRIVE. And boy did it ever! This small investment cost around $100/month ($1000/school year) for professional tutors to ensure our students had the support they needed. Having seen such an incredible ROI, we want to maintain this for our kids. Please consider becoming a monthly Education Supporter to help us continue to provide this for our students.
Our Education Coordinator, Amanda Bumbar, was in Haiti with us this week and she got to tag along with our "Top Students" to go get ice cream to celebrate their accomplishments. They were so proud of themselves for their hard work, and we are too!
Amanda also worked with our Director, Melchi, to make sure everything is in order for our students to register and start school in the fall. In Haiti, education is a privilege that so many students do not have access to. And because it is such, schools hold it in high esteem. There are strict requirements for uniforms and dress code, as well the supplies that are needed each day. If a student shows up to school with a dirty uniform, they are sent home. If they show up to school without a belt or the right hair ribbons, they are sent home. If they show up without the right supplies, they are sent home. While we may disagree on this approach, it is what it is. Some of this is left over from the French occupation, some of it is from National pride, and some of it is just how it's always been. Many folks are working hard to change these standards to make it easier for students to attend school. In the mean time, it's a system we have to work within.
All but two of our students have education sponsors right now. So for the most part, our tuition is nearly fully covered. (If you want to sponsor a student's tuition, CLICK HERE). Tuition is the first step, but as mentioned earlier, students cannot access their education if they aren't properly prepared. Our goal this year is to provide 2 uniforms for each of our students, 2 pairs of shoes, belts and hair ribbons (hair ribbons are incredibly important for girls in school) and to also pay for all of their supplies and books in advance. We're estimating that it will cost $136/student for the year. Would you consider making a one-time gift to make sure a student gets off on the right foot this year? We've made so much progress in their education that we don't want to have any reason to stop.
Not only did we get to celebrate the academic achievements of our youth, but this trip also focused on pouring into the professional development of our lead staff. We know that what we invest in our staff will directly impact our kids.
I've been working with Amy from International Princess Club for the past few months. Her mentorship curriculum trains local women to lead clubs for girls ages 8-11, that help them realize their identity and value as daughters of the King. Their program has so much truth and strength to it that I wanted to be the first to test it out in Haiti. Ncompass and our female mentoring team will be piloting Haiti's first ever mentorship program this fall.
Part of their process is to train all the leaders with Dialogue Education workshops. Our whole leadership staff went through two workshops of Dialogue Education (and we added in a workshop on Maslow's Hierarchy of Need just for fun). It was an INCREDIBLE experience hearing them share their personal stories, work together to problem solve issues that their students/mentees/kids are dealing with, and to push each other toward becoming better leaders. It was seriously music to my heart to be a part of this.
It's been a week since I've been back on US soil, and I've had some time to really sit with the experiences I had. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I am so impressed with the staff we have. They are pillars in their communities, and role models for our kids! I am so proud of the progress and growth each of our kids have made - on a personal and group level. I am so thankful for the support each of our partners gives to Ncompass - YOU are making these things happen. And I am so excited for our future. The vision is becoming more and more clear on the horizon. The kids in the Maranatha House and its Transitions Program are developing and becoming empowered leaders! And we're working hard to pencil out our next steps for expanding this beyond our walls into the community! Stay tuned...