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.
last year we began our adult literacy class at Living Media as a way to provide adults in the area with the basic education that they may never have had the chance to get as children. These people have been speaking Creole their entire lives but have never been able to read or write it. Many of them also depend on small business in the local market to make a little money to support their families but they have never learned the basics of math. We launched the class with almost 50 students ranging in age from 18-76.
The first term of the classes went very well and at the end we were so proud of our students and the progress that they had made that we decided to throw them a party to encourage them and celebrate all they had done. At the party we party we had music and dancing and skits and we served a meal. We also bought each of the students a gift. The women all received new curtains and the men got dress shirts. Everyone had a good time and went home with a new enthusiasm towards learning. Shortly after, we opened a new session of classes and doubled our number of students. We opened a new class and hired an additional instructor to accommodate the increased numbers.
As we continued with the class throughout the year and began approaching the holiday season this past December, we started talking about another party for them. this time, as we started making plans, some of the students came to us with an idea. “Instead of buying gifts for us all,” they told us, “why don’t we use that money towards some sort of community project that will have an impact beyond just us? Then the community will be able to see that it was Living Media literacy students that did it.” Of course we loved the idea. It’s exactly the kind of creative thinking towards community development that we encourage through all of our programs. And this time it came
directly from the students.
After much planning and going over different options for projects we have decided to pursue a chicken raising project. The plan is to provide each student with two chickens to raise with the stipulation that the first chick and occasional eggs afterwords will be given back to be be passed on to another person in the community. Priority for those receiving new chicks will be given to new literacy students in the program. Plans are also being made to install a permanant chicken coop for Living Media in which a certain number of chicks will be kept and raised by the students in order to create a business that can generate money to support Living media’s other programs. Our Poverty Intervention Team will be involved int he distribution of future chickens and our Dreamers will be involved in the training of recipients.
We did still throw a small Christmas party for the students a few weeks ago in which we announced that we would be doing the project and all the students were thrilled to hear the news and are now eager for the project to begin. Now we just have to raise the money to make it happen because a chicken project is a little more spendy than curtains and shirts. We are expecting to need $2200 to start the project for 100 students, with the confidence that it will be able to pay for itself and more from there. If you would like to contribute to this project please donate our “Donate” tab and specify in the message what you are giving for. Thanks for helping us encourage these passionate students to take the initiative to bringing change to their community through some chickens!
If you research art in Haiti you will find one place that is considered the artistic capitol – Jacmel. If you research the greatest contemporary artists currently living and working in Jacmel, at first you will have difficulty because so many of the great artists from the city have moved out of the city or most even out of the country to live and work. But when you do find some names of these artists that are making the most impressive work in the artistic capitol now, at this moment, you will probably find names that are represented in our Living Media Gallery. Vady Confident, Pierrot Clerrisont, Pheonix Joseph Badio, and Georges Dimitry, to name some of the most well known. These are all artists who have exhibited work worldwide in New York, Paris, Miami, Holland, Italy, Canada…in some of the most prestigious galleries and museums. They all have phenomenal talent in their craft and have garnered the attention of many foreign art enthusiasts. They each have little black books full of email addresses and phone numbers of people from all over the world who have seen their art and ensured them that they can go far.
Yet, when any of these artists find themselves in difficult situations, there’s only one phone number that they call – Lee Rainboth. You can search for these guys on the internet and you’ll find articles on them in international magazines and websites, but those articles don’t tell the whole story. They tell about how creative and expressive their work is and how it has the potential to provide hope to a country full of people struggling to survive, but they don’t tell about how the artists themselves struggle to survive day to day. These articles don’t tell about how when these artists run into tough times they have to call up a 27 year old farm boy from Iowa hoping that he can perform some sort of miracle to solve their problems.
If you take your research far enough to actually come to Jacmel and speak with these artists and you ask any of them who is the most talented painter in the city, you will hear one name every time, “Vady Confident.” Vady is such an extraordinary artist that he can bring tears to a grown man’s eyes with the simple beauty with which he can paint a coconut tree. He is the most respected professor at the most respected art school in the city and if he had the chance, he could teach some valuable lessons to the most successful contemporary visual artists of the United States and Europe. He’s that good.
But last week I got a call from Vady. He had a new painting that he wanted me to look at. I, always being excited to see more of Vady’s work, was in a hurry to agree to come see it, but I made it clear even on the phone beforehand that I was not in a position to be able to buy any more artwork at this point. We haven’t had any visitors to our shop for a couple months and even recently had to move out of our Jacmel gallery location and business hasn’t been booming. I don’t even have enough extra space to even exhibit any extra work on commission. But I would be more than happy to come look at it.
As a businessman I should have known better, but the artist in me can’t say no.
To see the painting I went to the home of another artist of ours, Jean Baptiste Gere, who is a friend and student of Vady’s. Jean Baptiste rents a tiny single room tucked back in a crowded little alleyway in the city’s ghetto and when I entered I was overwhelmed to see the huge painting of Vady’s that took up the entire wall of Jean Baptiste’s room. It was a gorgeous Haitian landscape, real enough and large enough that you felt you could walk right into it. My mind had been blown, and thus the internal conflict that so frequently rages inside my soul here began to boil.
Jean Baptiste began explaining to me the situation which I had come to expect. Vady was desperate. He has two young daughters in school and he hadn’t been able to pay anything on their tuition yet and the school’s were going to kick them out. This fantastic painting before me had been on exhibition for a while in a gallery in Port-au-Prince, but they hadn’t been able to sell it yet, so Vady took it back with hopes of letting me hold on to it for a while as long as I gave him enough money to pay for his daughter’s school.
I didn’t have to discuss a price. I knew I couldn’t buy it. As I looked at this painting I knew that if I was selling it in the states it would have to sell for at least $4000 US. At least. But I knew these guys well enough and I know the mindset of Haitian artists well enough to realize that if I offered him $500 for the painting, he’d take it, even if I only gave him $100 now and gave him the rest after I sold the painting. No one else on earth would be able to take that painting for that price, especially a foreigner. He told me later that even the Haitian gallery owners in PAP were expected to give him $1500 for the painting if they sold it. I was dumbfounded knowing that I could obtain one of the most incredible paintings in the country for such an absurdly low price. However, I knew that I couldn’t even offer it, because as an artist I knew that it would be a slap in the face. But even if you took the painting out of the equation, my heart still tossed back and forth with indecision because I hate to see such a talented artist suffer. The businessman in me wanted knew that the painting had the potential to make money, the artist in me also wanted to own something so beautiful, and the human in me wanted to help out a friend in need.
At the same time the businessman in me had no money, the artist in me couldn’t offend a fellow painter, and the human in me really wanted to save up my extra money to buy a new pair of Converse tennis shoes. This is the internal conflict that I can never seem to resolve.
I encounter a number of injustices in my life here every day, but none as frustrating to me as this. Vady Confident, is not supposed to be so desperate for money that he has to compromise his integrity to try to sell me a painting! You cannot be the most talented artist in a city known as the artistic and cultural center of a country that’s been praised for it’s spectacular artistic traditions for years, and have to come to me for help so your kids can go to school! I should be the one chasing after an artist of that caliber to have in my gallery, or even to teach me what he knows as an artist. I could spend my entire life trying and never paint a coconut tree like this man. I should not be begged to come view his work in a dirty alley and have to try to justify not ripping him off. I shouldn’t even have that opportunity.
Many other foreigners would love to have the opportunity to rip off Vady Confident or any one of the other artists I mentioned. Many already have taken that opportunity and that’s why the artists now come to me more often, because they can at least trust me. They’ve all told me storie of sending their best, most prized paintings to foreign galleries with visitors to the country that made promises to them without ever giving any money. Once these visitors left with their paintings, they never heard from them again. They’ve learned that I’m not the same. They know that I will tell them the truth in any case and always encourage them without exploiting them. They know that even when I don’t need any paintings for the gallery I’m still always interested in seeing their work and will even call them from time to time just to see how they’re doing. They know that if they see me riding through the street on my motorcycle they can flag me down just so we can go get something to drink on the beach and talk about art and culture and religion and politics. They also know that when they really need something, I’m always there for them.
But this time, I knew that I couldn’t do anything for Vady. I told Jean Baptiste that instead of paying him an offensive price for the painting that I didn’t have room for and probably couldn’t even sell because of its size, I’d rather just give him a gift to help him pay for his daughter’s school, but at that point, I didn’t even have enough spare cash to even give him a gift. And that’s how I left it, without making any promises but letting Jean Baptiste know that I would talk to him and Vady again in a few days to see if anything had changed.
I hadn’t even asked where Vady was. I assumed that he was simply too ashamed of his situation to even come speak to me. Then, just as I was leaving and walking out of the alleyway, up pulled Vady on his dilapidated little moped and a big smile on his face, happy to see me. And who was on the back of his moped? His two adorable little daughters in their pink checkered school uniforms and big ribbons in their hair. He had just picked them up from school and came straight to Jean Baptiste’s to see if I had come yet. Looking into his daughter’s faces, knowing that I couldn’t do anything for them, I felt like lying down in the street right in front of them and letting the bike run me over.
I just told Vady that I had already spoken with Jean Baptiste and he would update him on what we discussed about the painting. I got on my motorcycle with my chauffeur, Papi, and we drove off. On the way home, I vented to Papi about how upside down the whole system is and how frustrated I was about it. He’d heard it all before. It wasn’t the first time I’d released this discourse on him on the motorcycle. I’ve had similar experiences with all of my other artists. Pheonix fell and injured his foot and didn’t have money for a doctor’s visit or even any Tylenol for pain. But he had paintings. Pierrot’s lease was up and he didn’t have any rent money. But he had paintings. And all I’ve got is a heart that’s sensitive to artists’ needs.
I don’t know what the solution to this situation is or if there even is one, but all that Living Media can do for now is continue to support these artists by selling their work through our gallery and helping them find the resources they need to keep creating. Please visit our gallery on Facebook to experience some of their beautiful artwork. It deserves to be seen.
A few weeks ago we shared with you about the urgent need of our Kid’s Club to find a new location. Our goal is to raise $4200 within one month in order to build a new safe and inspirational space for the children to come and learn, play, and just be kids. We thank everyone who has donated to this project so far, but we are still a long ways from our goal. We have $700 donated so far. We need $3500 still to reach our goal and we need it as soon as possible to get the kids out of the situation that they are currently in and into some place more beautiful. Some place all their own. We already have the land donated by a very kind community member now we just have to get the structure built. Below is an image of the type of location we would like to put up for the kids.
The plan is to have a simple shelter with cement posts and half-walls on three sides with one full wall out of cement blocks and a natural palm leaf thatch roof. There will also be a latrine and a small storage shed built on the site with a surrounding wall.
Please consider helping us to make this goal come to life for the children! If you would like to make a donation towards this project you can do so online through our “Donate” tab. Please include a message to indicate that it is for the “Kid’s Club Location”. Thank you very much for your support!
There are a lot of things lacking in Mizak: accessible drinking water, sustainable employment, affordable education, electricity, just to name a few of the biggies. But one thing that Mizak certainly doesn’t suffer a shortage of is young Haitians with a passion to change their society. This is one thing that they have an abundance of. They just need someone to come alongside them to encourage and train them and help them find the resources that they need to initiate that change that they dream of. But getting them organized in a way that they can work together effectively can be tough in a culture where teamwork and unity are talked about a lot but very seldom lived out.
For Living Media, however, I am very happy about the teams of people that we’ve put together and have a lot of faith in their potential to bring about a little more beautiful future for their community. The core of our organization is our staff of Directors made up of 8 members all managing different areas of the organization. To meet these 8 young adults you can visit our “Who We Are” tab. After that we have over 50 volunteers between our Poverty Intervention Team, our Kids Clubs leaders, and other friends that consistently help carry out our various activities. We also have our staff at the New Life Primary School with its 11 members, and all of our artists and musicians which are represented in our gallery and gift shop, of which there are more than 40. Our newest adoptees into the LMI family are the 8 young adults currently participating in our Sponsor A Dreamer program, most of whom have already been involved in our other activities at different levels. Our Learning Institute currently has around 130 students with 5 Haitian instructors working there also. Beyond that we’re already raising up future leaders through our kids sponsorship program which currently supports 115 children, through our two kids clubs that serve about 200 kids each week, and at the primary school which 105 students attend. So, you can see that there are a lot of people that depend on and contribute to Living Media in a lot of different ways. To learn more about all of these various groups and to see photos of the people in them you can visit our Facebook page and browse the photo albums there.
It is all of these people that make Living Media more than just an organization. With them LMI becomes a work of art being painted on the canvas of a community. It becomes a tapestry being woven on the loom of a countryside. It becomes a song being written to the beat of a culture.
Of course Living Media is more than that still. Also woven carefully into the tapestry are the efforts of all of our foreign friends, donors, and volunteers who add their individual brushstrokes to the work of art with their creative ideas, promotion, financial donations, and tireless hands on work. Without their participation the work of art could never be completed.
This is one work of art, however, that is never meant to be completed. It is ongoing and changing each day as we continue to live our lives and work towards a more beautiful future for all. Thank you for joining us on this journey!
We have started this blog as a place for all of our friends and supporters to stay updated on all of our activities here in Haiti. For a long time we have depended heavily on our facebook page and are still working on getting a regular website constructed and operational. But for now this blog will serve as a place where you can find more detailed information on what we are doing and find out how to get involved. We will include stories and photos for you to get to know us more personally. Thank you for visiting and we hope you come back regularly!