According to a recent report on Haiti from the World Bank – November 2022 – Haiti remains the poorest country in the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region and among the poorest countries in the world. In 2021, Haiti had a GNI [gross national income] per capita of US$1,420, the lowest in the LAC region, which averaged US$15,092. On the UN’s Human Development Index, Haiti ranked 163 out of 191 countries in 2020.
I suspect in Cité Soleil where we have our kitchen and conduct school, the per capita annual income is far less than $1,420 because unemployment is rampant.
One NGO I am familiar with offers annual child sponsorship at $600, which includes tuition, uniform, books, tests, and other expenses to send a child to school. Put yourself in Cité Soleil. IF you have a job and IF your annual income is $1,200 and if you have four children – or one, for that matter – you face a dire choice. Do you use your income to support your family, or do you send your children to school?
We asked ourselves this question when we organized the Barefoot School a year ago. We decided we would do what we can do to provide children with a basic education free of charge. None of our students pay tuition; they share textbooks; we provide tests; and each child receives a meal every day.
Word is spreading. Last week, we enrolled a new student. His name is Cineus. He is in the fourth grade. Cineus was stricken with polio and has survived malaria and typhoid. He has three sisters, and his mother provides for the family to the best of her ability. School is not an option for her children. Justin tells me the sisters no longer live in the capitol. I ask for no details, but I am certain that the separation of the daughters from the mother is unpleasant, although maybe the daughters are in a better place.
As I learned from Justin, “Someone from the community [her Cité Soleil neighborhood] explained to Cineus’s mother that the children can come and learn to read and write at Barefoot School without paying. She was really happy.” She brought her son to our school and enrolled him last week.
As we deal with the difficulties and challenges in our own lives, think of Cineus, his mother, and his sisters, and say a prayer for them.
“I had the blues ‘cause I had no shoes,
Then I met a man on the street who had no feet.”