Back in December we shared about our partnership with Social Tap Inc to participate in their Haiti for the Holidays Toy Drive. We were thrilled by the prospect of being able to share something special with our children at the New Life School for the holiday season and bring some extra joy to their celebration with gifts. We had many of our supporters join in the event by donating toys through the online wish list for our children and others in the Jacmel area. Unfortunately, as thing usually go in Haiti, not everything worked out as planned. Because of delays with customs the gifts didn’t arrive in time for Christmas and we had to postpone the celebration. But also, as usual in Haiti, we are used to being flexible and always ready to adjust our plans. So when the items finally cleared customs recently it was decided that we would distribute them through a Kanaval party at the school instead.
The children at the school, of course, didn’t care whether it was Christmas, or Kanaval, or just another Friday. The candy canes that they ate tasted just as sweet in February as they would have in December. They loved the opportunity to relax for the day and have some fun. Kanaval time in Haiti has always been a time to celebrate life and the things that bring us all together. In this spirit we enjoyed providing music and games for the students at New Life as well as a good meal and the toy distribution for the day. Every one of our 160 children received a gift that day ranging from stuffed animals to toy cars to clothes to art sets. They were all very grateful for the gifts knowing that they came from friends far away who continue to think about them.
We thank everyone who participated in the toy drive to make this special day possible and especially to our partners at Social Tap Inc for including us in the event. To view more pictures from the day, visit our Facebook page.
For more information, download the PDF with details about the trip: Living Media Music Trip
We are thrilled to be chosen as a partner with Social Tap Inc this year for their Haiti for the Holidays Toy Drive! This means that our children at the New Life School in Mizak will be able to have a holiday celebration at the school and all of the students and teachers will be receiving gifts from the toy drive. You can learn more on the flyer below and then go to the online registry to pick out the toys and school or party supplies that you want to donate. With your help we will be able to make this Christmas season a little brighter for the kids at our school. And if we reach our goal of 800 gifts then we will be able to share with even more children including those at our Kids Club! So visit the wish list and join us in this exciting holiday event today! Want to play more of a hands-on role in making this possible for more than 800 children in Haiti this year? We have openings for volunteers to join us on two trips down to the Jacmel area to take part in the festivities. Contact Social Tap through the address on the poster below for more information. We would love to see you there! And Happy Holidays from all of us at Living Media International!
Astrel Joseph is one of the young adults who has been involved with Living Media since the very beginning, having served as proof of the incredibly deep artistic talent that exists in rural Haiti that has been left untapped. Even before the birth of Living Media, Astrel was a student of co-founder, Lee Rainboth’s, and he had been searching for ways to take his art to the next level. Now, as he participates in LMI’s various programs, he has found the opportunity to do just that, reach a new level with his art.
To Astrel, art used to be just a fun pastime, but nothing that could be taken seriously in his society. He always knew that he liked to draw but never imagined that his interest in art could ever turn into anything more. Now at age 23 he has become one of our most popular artists at our gallery alongside professionally trained painters from the cultural capitol of Haiti, the city of Jacmel. Having started out in our original art classes at the Living Media Learning Institute, Astrel pursued his art through every opportunity offered. The day that he sold his first painting through our gallery he still remembers as a time that changed his outlook on life and what was possible. He describes himself as an artist that rotates between creating work to tell conceptual stories on social issues such as religion and injustice, and creating work for purely technical reasons practicing different methods of applying paint and mixing colors. He now depends on his art to support both himself and his family. He has a wife and a 6 month old daughter that he now cares for, and with the income that he gets from his art he is working to build a house for them. He loves his family dearly and says that he is proud to be able to work to provide for them.
But Astrel is not just a painter. As a participant in our Dreamer program, he has been offered the opportunity to explore many more creative endeavors in addition to cultivating his skill in painting. With the support he receives as a Living Media Dreamer he has been able to attend classes to learn screen printing, keyboard, and English. And he not only receives a superior education in the arts but has also formed a very meaningful relationship with his sponsor, Mary, from Iowa, who he considers one of his closest friends. Through this program he has received the encouragement that he needed to believe that his gifts are valuable and have power to help himself and others around him.
As Astrel’s ablilities grow, he has now started to use them to teach others about art as well to share with them the beauty that he has found. One way that he does that is as a co-instructor for our new art students at the Learning Institute helping them experiment with new ways to express themselves through the skills that they learn there. He also has started to teach visiting teams about Haitian art history and basic drawing techniques. This new activity that Living Media has begun offering for our volunteer teams from the US has proven to be a unique opportunity for our foreign guests to take a look through the eyes of our Haitian artists and get the chance to be creative themselves. Astrel says he enjoys this opportunity to share his knowledge and hopes that more visitors to the country begin to see the value in Haitian art and what they can learn from Haitians such as himself.
Astrel enjoys sharing his creativity with his community in any way he can. This has also led him to get involved in music as well as he uses his natural gifts as a writer and artist combined with what he has learned from his coursework to contribute to a local hip hop group called Prophetie Squad in which he sings. “The music allows me to say things that I can’t in my painting and it gives me a voice to say what’s important to me.” Astrel says. He also appreciates the opportunity to be viewed as a role model as many in the community see him perform and use his public platform to bring both joy and a new perspective to those who hear his music. He pours his entire heart into the lyrics that he writes and hopes that audiences and listeners can appreciate that.
We all at Living Media have been inspired by Astrel’s work for sure, and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next! To support programs such as the ones Astrel benefits from, please visit our Donate page and make a contribution today. Or consider becoming a Pledge Partner with Living Media and sign up for regular donations to help us bring these creative education opportunities to as many people in our communities as possible. You can also view our Online Gallery to see some of Astrel’s work and support him directly through a purchase of a painting or one of the t-shirts that he creates for our Gallery Shop. Thank you for partnering with us to help young Haitians like Astrel discover their gifts and follow their dreams.
Isaac Antoine is a 19-year-old student in the 6th grade at New Life Primary School, where he is always at the top of his class. Isaac has been a student at the school ever since it was still called Foyer St. Jude, now in his fourth year as a student there. Before that he was attending a different private school locally which for the previous two years he had been kicked out of halfway through the school year because his single mother couldn’t pay the fees. When New Life opened up he was excited to be able to get an education that his mother could afford and was surprised to find the quality of instruction that he has received.
He says that he has always enjoyed the teachers at New Life and has always felt valued and respected there. Now in his final year he is looking forward to next year when he will be able to move on to attend a high school in the area, probably the public school in Mizak. It was while at New Life that Isaac started to explore his talent in art through the classes that we offer our children. He’s always enjoyed drawing but he found creative encouragement at New Life that really pushed him to pursue art more seriously.
Because of that Isaac enrolled in the community art classes offered through the LMI Learning Institute where he learned the basics of design and drawing from our volunteer instructor, Sarah Letsche. In this course he learned alongside a group of 8 other young men all wanting to develop their talents in the arts and learn how to use them to create work that could be beneficial for themselves and their communities. Isaac says that although he enjoys school and is committed to his classical studies, it is when he’s learning about art that he really feels like he’s gaining knowledge that will help him in the future.
Even at home he likes to experiment with his creativity with whatever he can find around his home. His aunt recently had a large piece of wood that she was going to burn for cooking but when he saw it he begged her to let him have it so he could sculpt something out of it. As he started to whiddle away at the piece of wood he started to see a face appear and eventually decided to make it into two faces, a male and a female, showing how we can be interconnected and naturally united as humans. He also is constantly trying to find ways to use his craft to make a little money to help himself and his family. His mother is ill and unable to work and he only has one other older brother who lives with them and helps with some fieldwork. So Isaac likes to make items such as bracelets that he is then able to sell through the Living Media Gallery to bring in some extra cash to help provide for himself.
Always looking for new ways to express his creativity, Isaac has also enrolled in a local keyboard class to learn the basics of music and also enjoys writing music. He has written a song for an upcoming Mother’s Day celebration in Mizak that he is excited to perform for the public as a way to honor our Mothers and the women in our lives that help us all be who we are.
Isaac is a perfect example of what it means to not just make art, but to be art! Through your support of Living Media you are helping Isaac and many other youth like him to explore their creative gifts and find ways to use them within their community to make life better. You can make a donation today to help the New Life School, the Learning Institute, or any of our other community programs. Thank you so much! Together we are making life more beautiful.
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