Hands Across the Sea currently has over 300 children in our educational sponsorship program from preschool to senior high. Our sponsors are essential partners in the process of helping children get a quality education that will open doors to a better, brighter future for the country of Haiti. The heartbeat of our school, the sponsorship program is a huge help to families who would otherwise not be able to educate their children.
Running the sponsorship program takes many dedicated volunteers as well as our staff in Haiti. The process begins in late summer when I email all of last year’s sponsors inviting them to sponsor again for the upcoming school year and reminding them to send in their annual donation. In early September, our school in Haiti begins the registration process where hundreds of parents line up to register or re-register their children for the upcoming school year. The staff in Haiti completes the painstaking task of verifying name spelling and confirming hand-written birth certificates.
As Haiti has two official languages, most people have both a French and Creole spelling of their name which can make record-keeping very challenging.
In addition, children usually have a nickname that they go by and the young ones don’t even know their own legal name which makes things exciting in the first two weeks in the preschool classes! For example, child’s legal name might be Ovilmar, Ricardo but the Haitian spelling he normally uses is Ovilma, Rikado and at home his parents have always called him Kado.
Once the children are registered, the handwritten class lists are scanned and sent to Canada where they are typed up in Excel and cross-referenced with our database. At this time, we also try to double check name spellings and confirm if the child has advanced to the next grade level. In October of this year, visiting missionaries Keith and Joan White took photos of the preschool children, the hardest group to organize and work with.
Did you know we have over 130 preschool students aged 3-5 years in our school? Many of them are frightened of foreigners and have never smiled for a camera before. The photo below is of a little guy who just would not smile! When we told him to show his teeth in the photo, this is what we got.
In November of each year, I take time off work to travel to Haiti for a week to complete the photos of each child in the program as well as having each student write a letter or draw a picture for their sponsor in Canada or the US. The children are very happy to write to their sponsors and take great pride in their drawings and letters. Each of these letters is translated into English, then scanned into the computer and labeled. The photos are also labeled then combined with the letter or drawing.
During my Christmas break, I send out hundreds of emails with photos and letters of the sponsor students after spending hours verifying the names of sponsors who have chosen to continue their sponsorship and have sent in their donation. It’s a long, multi-step process, but it ensures that our sponsors can ‘meet’ the children they sponsor and allows our children to express their appreciation for the financial help they are receiving.
We currently have 25 students who need sponsors, including this young girl. If you’ve ever considered sponsorship, now is the time to do it. Your donation truly does make a difference. Help us continue to provide a better future for children in Haiti.
Thank you to all of our sponsors for your generosity!