On the first day of school at New Life, I sat in on the 2nd grade class as teacher, Nicodem, welcomed his students and encouraged them for the upcoming school year. “It is not the walls and the roof that make a great school,” he told the children from ages 6 to 15 years old in his room, “but it is students and teachers working hard together so that we can all learn and grow that makes a great school.” He emphasized to the students that although the construction of the building was not completed yet, it was up to each one of them to come with a good attitude and to do their work so that they could have a successful academic year. You see, we weren’t able to get quite as far on the construction as we were hoping for the school this summer, but we got as much as we could done so that we could at least start the classes in the new location nonetheless. And on the first day of school, we welcomed more than 120 students to the school split between our 7 grades and each one came with an enthusiasm for the education they were going to receive. Although it was frustrating to see the project incomplete when we had worked so hard to accomplish what we had, on that first day the children proved to me what Nicodem told his students was true. It is not the walls and roof that make a great school.
And although we will continue to work on those walls and that roof as we are able to truly create a building that will be a safe and inspirational environment for these kids, one thing that I do know for sure is that we do have great students and great teachers. We have kids in this school that have come there from very difficult backgrounds but each day that they arrive with the light shining from within their hearts and their minds excited to learn, you can see that they have greatness inside of them waiting to be discovered and nurtured. Many of the students would not be accepted at other schools because of special emotional, physical, or behavioral needs, but we accept them at New Life School and are committed to finding ways to teach them and involve them no matter what other schools have told them. Others in the school simply come from families that are unable to afford other schools and they arrive at New Life grateful for the opportunity to receive an education for their young minds.
I also know that we have truly great teachers at the school because I’ve been involved in their recruitment and training from the beginning, but it was when we had a meeting with the parents of our students recently that I was overwhelmed to realize just how important these teachers are to the kids in their classrooms. With over 90 parents crowded into the school on that morning I was prepared to respond to any number of questions that I thought they might ask about the operation and the construction of the school, but instead I sat and listened with the staff of teachers and administrators as parent after parent each stood and sang the praises of our teachers who were pushing their students to succeed and making their kids interested in education. They thanked us for the discipline that ensures the children take their studies seriously and the care with which we provide each student with the individual attention that they deserve.
After the meeting I had multiple parents come up to me personally to thank me for what the school was providing their kids. One mother had a 9-year-old son who had been through 4 different schools in the last 4 years being rejected by each after a couple weeks because of a learning disability that he has that caused him to be labeled “unable to learn”. This mother had given up hope for her son ever getting an education until she heard about New Life and decided to give it one more try. Now, although this student still struggles in the kindergarten classroom where we have placed him, his teacher, Jezula, works with him with patience and understanding able to see his potential beyond his disability. On that day of the meeting, his mother took my hand and thanked me emphatically for making him feel welcome there. Knowing that her son was not the only one who had been labeled by this society as “unable to learn” I was proud to know that our school was creating a place for them to believe in themselves.
I had another mother come up to me with a huge smile on her face, the sunlight reflecting off of her golden capped teeth, and tell me that she praised God every morning for this school in her community. She has four children in the school and she said that her two oldest ones had been having difficulty passing through their grades in the other schools that they had been attending before New Life. But after the first year of each of them in classrooms with our teachers, they were making progress like she’d never seen before. She said that our teachers challenged her kids to work hard but still cared enough about them to make them feel like they had value. She said that she saw a difference with our teachers actually being concerned about the individual children rather than just trying to do a job like she had seen in other schools. That’s why when it came time to send her two younger kids to school as well she was eager to register them in New Life as well with confidence that our teachers and staff will all work to make sure they succeed.
Although I know that we, the leadership of Living Media and New Life, still have a lot of work to do to finish what we have started with the school construction project, for now our students, teachers, and parents are proving to me and to the community every day that there is greatness inside those unfinished walls. It is because of that greatness that we are more committed than ever to make sure that physical space housing it becomes just as great. We still need your help to make it all the way to accomplishing our goals with the school. Our fundraising efforts over the summer got us this far, but we still have a long ways to go to get the building finished with a completed roof, floors, and doors and windows. For those who have already donated, we thank you. It is because of your support that these children are finding a place to belong and a place to learn. If you are waiting for a perk still from our Indiegogo campaign, know that you can expect it soon as we work with the children to complete some of them. And if you would like to donate at this time to help us continue the project, you can do so at anytime right here on our website under the Donate tab. Thank you for showing these children the new life that awaits for them with an education!
By Lee Rainboth, Living Media Executive Director
I was recently doing some research on other Child Sponsorship programs as we work to strengthen our own and came across a new study done by the University of San Francisco analyzing the effectiveness of such sponsorship programs and whether there is a notable difference between children who participated in them with those that didn’t. The report focused primarily on the work of Compassion International, one of the biggest child sponsorship groups out there with over 2 million kids sponsored between 26 different countries. They’ve been in the business of child sponsorship for 65 years and the report seems to have focused on them mostly because they were the most willing to share all of their records. Having worked with Compassion before myself, I was familiar with their methods and was definitely influenced by them a little over 3 years ago when Living Media decided to make child sponsorship one of our very first programs after the need was exasperated by the earthquake. The fact that we only sponsor 120 children so far in one very specific geographic area of one country, means that there are many very obvious differences between what we do and what an organization as experienced and developed as Compassion does, yet this report from USF provides a lot of very powerful evidence for the effectiveness of such programs and I can only hope that years from now our program can be seen to have similar results.
The study looked at over 1,850 formerly Compassion sponsored students in 6 different countries and showed that:
- Former sponsored children stay in school 1 to 1.5 years longer than their non-sponsored peers (In Uganda, the numbers are much higher—2.4 years). An extra year of schooling could have long-lasting impact on a child’s future employment possibilities as an adult.
- Former sponsored children were 27-40 percent more likely to finish secondary education than those who were not enrolled in the child sponsorship program.
- Former sponsored children were 50-80 percent more likely to complete a university education than non-sponsored children.
- As adults, former sponsored children were 14-18 percent more likely to have salaried employment than their non-sponsored peers.
- As adults, former sponsored children were roughly 35 percent more likely to secure white-collar employment than their non-sponsored peers.
- Former sponsored children were 30-75 percent more likely to become community leaders as adults than their non-sponsored peers.
- Former sponsored children were 40-70 percent more likely to become church leaders as adults than their non-sponsored peers
The researchers also noted that what also really set Compassion’s program apart from the other popular sponsorship programs out there was that children spent time every week in after-school programs covering spiritual, physical, social and emotional development. The study is to be published later this month in the Journal of Political Economy.
Neither Compassion or any of the other large sponsorship organizations (World Vision, Plan) work in our area of Mizak which is why we set out to create our own program when the need was identified back in 2010. We in fact reached out to both Compassion and Plan International before starting our program to see if they wouldn’t consider working in the area in an attempt to not reinvent the wheel, but it wasn’t possible for either of them at the time. One of them even used to have a program in the area that they had to close down a couple years earlier and some of the children now registered in our program are children who were previously sponsored through that program. Now 3 years later we are still sponsoring 120 children in elementary school as the only organization in the community offering such an opportunity to parents who struggle to afford their children’s school payments.
Our goals with the program are similar to the results found in the USF study, that these children would have the educational foundations that they need to be successful in both higher education and future employment so that they may become the creative leaders that their society needs to develop. This is why we too partner with local extra curricular clubs for our children to be involved in so that they may grow in ways beyond just academics, such as the Living Media Kids Club at the Baptist Church of LaVoute and the Children’s Cultural Club of Mizak held at a community school in Mizak. Another thing that we share in common with these larger groups is our commitment to support unsponsored children from the moment that they are registered in the program so that they may have the same chance at success as the rest. You can see that although we have 120 children registered we do not have all of them sponsored yet. But their registration in the program is based upon their need, not by their potential to find a sponsor, so we have systems in place to ensure each child registered in the program gets the support that they deserve to succeed in school. Yet the sponsorship of each child is still essential because it sets up that relationship that is so crucial to the child’s emotional development as well. This is one aspect of the program that we are continually working to improve on as we encounter difficulties as a young organization with very limited resources. However we also strive to add elements to our program that are unique such as the connection that it has with our more mature, Sponsor A Dreamer program, through which the children interact with older role models who are also pursuing their educations at the university level.
We thank everyone who has joined us on this journey with these children. Although LMi never intends to sponsor 2 million children around the world, for those children in southern Haiti that benefit from this program, your support is making a huge difference in their futures. We hope to continue to offer this program as long as there is a need and there are sponsors interested in joining us. If you are not already a sponsor, please consider looking through the photos on our Facebook page and selecting a child to sponsor today.
Thank you very much! Kenbe la.
Lee Rainboth, Executive Director
This year, as you are doing your shopping and celebrating, I hope that all of our friends and supporters of Living Media will take some time to stop and remember those Haitians who participate in our programs and think of making the holiday a little brighter for them as well. There are many ways that you can seize the opportunity this season to get your family more involved in helping bring creative education to these children and young adults while bringing awareness to LMI.
Making a donation in honor of your family or someone special to you this Christmas is a gift that will have an impact across cultures and beyond borders far beyond the material value of the gift. You can make a donation of any amount right here on our website on the donate page. If you would like it to be a gift for someone special, simply indicate that in the message field when you make the donation and we will send you a card in the mail acknowledging the gift that you can present to your friend or family member. If you would like a more specific way to give, you can choose any one of the following needs and give a gift at the specified amount.
Sponsor a Child: $150
Staff Support: $275
New Life School Staff Support: $125
Painting Class Supplies: $50
A Literacy Chicken: $25
A Water Filter: $40
Kid’s Club Support: $100
Artist’s Loan: $100
If you choose to provide for any of these gifts, we will send you a unique paper-mache Christmas ornament handmade by one of our artists along with the card. The ornament will be similar to the ones pictured at the right.
Or, if your family decides together that this year they would like to make a larger gift towards Living Media might I suggest one of the following two options:
Sponsor A Dreamer: $1650 Giving the gift of an education to a young adult with big dreams is perhaps the greatest gift you could ever choose to give. By providing a young leader with the opportunity to pursue their educational goals this gift will not only have a huge impact on the individual by giving them valuable knowledge and skills that will lead to economic stability in the future, but it will also positively affect their family and their community. Our dreamers in this program are trained to give back to the community and the younger generation of leaders in a variety of ways. You will also be able to build a relationship with the dreamer that will last a lifetime. You can read more about this program here and here.
A Room at New Life Primary: $2500 We have been working since May to build a new school for our children at New Life Primary but we are still a little ways away from reaching our goal and being able to complete the school. We are hoping to be able to begin classes in the new building after Christmas break, but in order to do that we still need your help. You can build one entire classroom for just $2500 and if you choose to do so we will paint an inspirational Haitian proverb on the interior wall of the room in your honor. Then you will know that this one gift from your family will be a motivation for young imaginations to grow and learn for years to come. You can learn more about the New Life Primary School here and here.
Please consider all of these options and search for a way for your family to celebrate with ours this year. Of course, if you still want something to wrap and put under the tree, you can always head over to our art gallery on facebook and look at all of the beautiful artwork and craft items that we have for sale there. Thank you very much for thinking of us this holiday season and we wish all of our friends and supporters out there the warmest wishes for a beautiful and blessed Christmas.
Peace, Lee Rainboth, Executive Director.
The beginning of the school year has arrived once again and we at Living Media are looking forward once again to working with the staff at our New Life Primary School to make this year full of creative education for the children there. After finishing the last school year with 86 students, we have registered over 30 new students throughout the grades K – 6. We have also added to our staff there with new teachers and a new principal as our previous director moved to the city to work as a firefighter. Over the summer we offered multiple trainings to these staff so that they would be prepared to provide the children with the most effective and creative educations possible. This year we will also be teaching the children more art and English to add to their typical curriculum.
Because of all of this, my staff has told me that this year we have a “zo lekol” which translates directly as “bone school” but it’s a phrase Haitian’s use when something’s very impressive, awesome, “zo”. The community has responded positively to our school and seen that they can count on us for a quality education for their kids, which is reflected in the increased registration.
Our physical environment for the children still isn’t ideal, however. Our plans were to start the new school year in our new building, but we were not able to reach our funding goal in time to complete the construction. We are still about $15,000 short of what we need to complete the school complex. So the children have started the year of classes in the same location that they have been in the past two years. We are hopeful that we will be able to move to the new location after Christmas break. We are also still waiting for new benches. We received a very generous donation of over 30 school benches, each able to hold at least 4 children, from some friends in Minnesota, however they did not arrive on time for the start of school. So we have borrowed benches from our Learning Institute, and there still isn’t enough seating for all of the kids. But that doesn’t stop them from coming and squishing in to learn! The new benches should be arriving any day so that we can get the students more comfortable in their classrooms.
We will once again be able to provide the children with a hot lunch every day thanks to our partnership with Then Feed Just One. We are happy to be able to give the students the nutrition that the need to be able to focus and learn to their greatest potential. As the year goes on and we adjust to the changing needs and resources of our community, we look forward to seeing how the children begin to develop and grow into the bold young leaders that will change their country tomorrow.
“What’s in your stomach is what you believe in,” goes the Haitian proverb. So what does that mean when your stomach is empty? Then it’s hard to believe in anything.
Living Media isn’t an organization that’s all about feeding people. We are all about making people believe in themselves and in their capacities to create beauty. We are about believing, dreaming, and creating. So we have teamed up with some other organizations that are about feeding people as well as clean drinking water.
Our Poverty Intervention Team has teamed up in the past with the organization Then Feed Just One to distribute rice to the population of Mizak. That last time that we distributed this rice we were able to serve over 500 families in the community! We have recently received another generous donation from Then Feed Just One and are planning another distribution shortly which will hopefully serve even more people. It’s a shame when families have to choose whether to pay for their kid’s school or pay for their family’s next meal. We can’t provide daily food support through charity which can lead to dependence and entitlement, but through this partnership we are able to, every once in a while, make the burden a little lighter on families so that they can focus on other important things for their families rather than how they’re going to feed them. Believe in wholeness. Believe in health. Believe in family. http://www.thenfeedjustone.org
The PI Team is also undergoing an ambitious project to help provide the community with cleaner drinking water. The first step of this project is to provide a number of water filters to families in the community. We will be receiving these filters from Filter Pure which has a factory nearby in Cyvadier where they actually make the filters. These ceramic filters are placed over a 5-gallon bucket and are able to purify water from the local natural sources to make it safe to drink. It’s a simple and effective technology which is also very affordable at only $35 per filter. It’s also encouraging to be able to get the filters from an organization that is able to hire local labor right here in the Jacmel area to make the filter systems! We have received donations from some churches and other donors in the US to allow us to provide over 100 filters in our Mizak area! Believe in purity. Believe in renewal. Believe in change. http://www.filterpurefilters.org
Finally, the PI Team also recently accomplished the distribution of garden seeds to over 200 local families to be planted right at the beginning of the rainy season, which is now in full force. These seeds were provided by the organization, Hope Seeds, and include such plants as peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, onions, and watermelon. With these seeds the recipient families will be able to plant substantial gardens that will not only provide fruits and vegetables for their own families but also plenty extra to sell in the market to make an income. Through Hope Seeds we have the incredible opportunity to receive these seeds for free so that we may distribute them for the people of Mizak. Believe in growth. Believe in nutrition. Believe in production. http://www.hopeseeds.org
In the United States we would say, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Haitians would say, “I’ll believe it when I eat it.” Help us to grow that belief. Please check out these other organizations at their websites and consider making a donation to them as well. They need support too in order to provide us with the services that they do.
Keep believing and dream big.
In our Sponsor A dreamer program we like to hold different seminars and counseling session with our participants to help them find the encouragement and tools that they need to continue on their educational journeys. During these sessions, where we attempt to inspire the young students in the program, I usually find myself being the one inspired by their commitment to their dreams and their deep understanding of what it takes to chase after them in this culture. I wanted to share some of their responses from recent interactions so that you may be inspired from them as well.
During one seminar, we asked them, “How do you define success?”
Roberson, a 30 year old in Economics, stated, “I’m not the one to say when I have achieved success because I think true success is when other people start to look at you and say that you’ve accomplished something great. It’s when younger students begin to look to me as a role model and then I know that I’ve set an example for success. But if I can’t inspire younger generations and others around to better themselves as well, then anything that I may achieve for myself is in vain. It’s only success if it spreads beyond myself.”
Serge, a 29 year old Agronomy student agreed that success cannot be easily defined. He told us, “I can set goals and I can even achieve those goals. But that cannot be defined as success because you can’t stop there. You can only succeed if you never accept that you’ve succeeded. You always have to go further. Each time you think that you’ve reached your goal. Go further. Keep going. Climb higher. If you ever say, Okay, I’ve arrived. Then you’ll never really succeed. Success has no limit. It is a constant journey always pushing to go further.”
We also asked them “What fears do you have in pursuing your dream?”
Yvette, a 29 year old woman studying business management, replied, “The only thing that we have to fear is God himself. If we don’t have the fear of God within is us, then we will never make it where we are trying to go. He is the one who created us and if we do not put our complete trust in him, then we will not realize our dreams. But we have to realize that he gave us such dreams and goals for a reason and we have to have the determination to do whatever it takes on our part to achieve them.” Then Yvette gave us an example. “My dream could be to make it to Ridore (a town about 5 kilometers up the mountain). But if I don’t have the money to pay a motorcycle,” she said, “I have to be willing to start walking. I have to put my complete faith in God that he will get me to Ridore, but he’s not going to transport me there magically. I have to be willing to take those steps if that’s what it takes.”
When Daniel, a young man of 22 years who is studying Community Development, responded to the same question he said, “I don’t believe that
we can have any fears at all. There are already too many obstacles in our way trying to keep us from our dreams. If we allow ourselves to fear anything, then that fear just becomes another obstacle. Society already places plenty of obstacles in front of us, if we have fear, then the biggest obstacle of all comes from within us. We have to be confident of what is inside of us and move forward sure of our direction.”
We recently held another workshop with them to help them develop their creativity. During which the guest leader, Melany, told them, “You can’t be afraid to fail. If you have an idea that you think might be good for your community, you have to give it a try. If you fail, so what. You’ll get another chance. But if you succeed, then everyone will want to follow you.” The next morning, Kesnel, a 27 year old studying agronomy, came to me and said, “Melany was right, Lee!” I asked him what he meant. He explained to me, “This morning I woke up at 5:30am and I got on my motorcycle and I drove to Mirbalais (a community about an hour and a half away) to visit a group that has a sweet pepper nursery. For a long time I’ve been thinking about how my zone, Terre Blanche, could be a great place to grow peppers and have wanted to start a nursery there for the community. I know that it could help a lot of people make an income because peppers are very desired here and sell for a good price. And I know that our soil would be ideal for growing them. But I have never taken the steps to get it started because I was afraid that it might not work. No one’s ever done it before it and I didn’t want to fail. But this morning, after hearing Melany speak, I decided that I had to give it a try anyway. So I drove to Mirbalais, a picked up a bunch of pepper seedlings, and now I’m going to go start a pepper nursery in Terre Blanche!”
This is what Living Media is all about. We’re not about economic development, medical work, or agronomy, but by doing programs that encourage young adults to become strong, creative leaders that are passionate about following their dreams, we don’t have to be about that other stuff. These dreamers are going to make it happen.