Espwa Schools Celebrate 10 Years!
Cultivating Young Minds
Project Espwa’s schools and vocational programs bring vital education to marginalized children.
Last month Project Espwa celebrated the anniversary of the founding of its schools, which have been providing education to poor Haitian children for a decade. The education these schools provide is vital considering the depth of Haiti’s literacy crisis.
The literacy rate in Haiti is about 53 percent – which means nearly half of the country can’t read or write. This poor percentage places Haiti well below the 90 percent average literacy rate for Latin American and Caribbean countries.
Fr. Marc started the first school at Espwa 11 years ago because one of the boys came home from school bleeding from being beaten by his teacher with a knotted rawhide whip. Today, the schools at Espwa have more than 700 students – children from the orphanage and the surrounding community.
There’s a primary school for preschoolers through sixth-graders, and a secondary school that currently has grades 7, 8, and 9. Next year they plan to add 10th grade classes; they’ve been adding a grade on every year as the children advance. The average class size is 35 to 45 students.
Fr. Marc also ensures the children at Espwa learn employable skills that will help them become self-reliant adults. Through a host of vocational training programs the children can gain hands-on experience in agronomy and animal husbandry; they can work as carpentry and masonry apprentices on construction projects, or work as artisans, making necklaces, bracelets, and metal art.
The neat thing about the vocational programs is that all the children’s “jobs” contribute toward the daily operation of Espwa Village – helping promote self sustainability. The gardens, crops, and animals are raised for food; the construction projects improve Espwa’s facilities; and the jewelry and metal art are sold by the orphanage to help defray expenses. As a result, the children develop a strong sense of accomplishment and self-worth.
“The kids feel like they are contributing,” says Fr. Marc, “which is very important, because often in Haiti people can’t contribute to their own situation…they’re not part of the solution.”
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