From Djougine Desrosiers, Special Projects Coordinator in Port-au-Prince. Djougine lead the Foundation’s pilot literacy project this summer.
Recently, on a rainy day in the hills of Fontamara, forty-five women walked to take their first academic diploma. They had learned their letters, numbers and for the first time in their lives, they could write their own names.
About a decade ago, the Haitian government created the Alphabetization program – a video-based curriculum aimed at helping improve adult literacy. Sadly, today Haiti still has about a 47 percent illiteracy rate.1
This summer, the Restavek Freedom Foundation (Fondayson Libète pou Restavek) leveraged the Alphabetization program in order to reach out to the host parents of kids in our Child Advocacy program. Providing literacy classes allows us to build stronger relationships with host parents and the community and gives us a good opportunity to engage in discussions about healthy ways to value children.
These women went to school for the first time and they worked hard to attain these diplomas. They walked up mountains, literally, to get to class and sometimes sat scrunched together under tarps so they could learn their lessons despite the downpours of the rainy season.
The graduation was a very emotional moment. Some women brought their kids to witness them receiving their diplomas. In one such case, a young man spoke up and told the entire crowd how proud he was of his mother. In this first class we had a woman who was 86 years old. She told me she had longed to read and write her whole life. She saw a vision about six months before the classes started that she would participate in a program such as this, so she saw us not just as a helping organization, but as an answer to prayer. All of the women had told us in previous classes and in one form or another what an enormous difference this program has made to them and how thankful they were to the Foundation. At graduation we heard these thanks again. They thanked the foundation for taking such a great initiative and thanked the donors for the contributions that made it possible. They also surprised us by making a huge spread – rice, beans, chicken and salad - for the celebration. So to all of you who support the Restavek Freedom Foundation – this chicken is for you!
I leave you with this final story. The women are inspired. They’ve got a taste of education and they love it! They want to continue to learn as much as they can. They were getting so excited talking about doing the next level of the Alphabetization Program and then going through primary school and secondary school. At one stage they started giggling and saying maybe they should get uniforms. The idea of this troupe of women marching up the hillside in their bright checkered uniforms and their book bags makes me smile and it gives me great faith that a new future for Haiti is possible.
I’ll keep you posted on what happens next semester!
1 Food for the Poor’s website