“Education is the movement from darkness to light.”
In February, our serving team stumbled on a story and set of circumstances that broke our hearts and led us to think outside the box about how we are positioned to impact the community.
Two of Institution One 17’s female students live less than two minutes from our campus’ front door. They are our neighbors. A few team members on our February serving team were exploring our campus when they saw the girls waving from across the creek that separates the yards. The team members waved and walked on before deciding to stop and visit with the family.
Upon walking up to the house, we were struck by both its dilapidated condition and the family's openness to receiving us. The house—barely six feet tall at its highest point and around twelve feet long—was made of palm branches, rough cut local lumber, scrap metal, and whatever else could serve as roofing or walls. We also noticed a pile of lumber laying in the yard. After being invited in, we saw that the parents and their infant child slept in a full-size bed while the remaining four daughters slept on the dirt floor. As we visited with the family, we asked questions to learn the their story and found out that they were striving to build a new home, hence the lumber pile.
This family is not new to our school, nor are these circumstances new to them. This has been their story and challenge for as long as we’ve known them; it’s why we enrolled their daughters and will continue to do so. We have tried to help the mom in the past through offering literacy classes to her, but the challenge was bigger than what she could handle at the time. At the time, we wrote it off as a missed opportunity, the best we could do to help.
This time around, God gave us a new set of eyes to see the family’s situation differently. Their story struck a nerve and compelled our team to take action in a new way. We couldn’t idly stand by and watch our students suffer when we could walk alongside them and empower our staff and students to serve them. So we listened to a prompting from the hero of our story: Jesus. We decided to expedite the renovation process by funding the cost of the remaining materials needed to build a new structure. A generous trip member got to be the hero of that story. We also asked one of our staff members to build the home for the family on his school work hours. Another heroic move by someone with a story to tell!
Two months later, all that remains to be done is mounting doors and windows and moving the bed—which one of our Work Study students helped build—into the house. We share this story not because it shines a light on a small step of action we were able to take, but because there is a bigger story at play.
A better house leads to better sleep and stronger feelings of security, which leads to more eager, malleable minds. This is a beautiful thing when you have nurturing teachers ready to be heroes to their students on a daily basis. The impact trickles on from there as kids engage in learning to read, write, add, and subtract. All of a sudden, light begins to shine through. Education and Jesus push out the darkness and usher light into the story. The girls at the center of this story will be the first literate members of their family. Less than half—just 49%—of the adults in Haiti are literate (Unicef 2012). The students enrolled in our school will one day change these statistics, one family at a time.
Marian Wright Edelman said, “education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.” We believe God is going to use our students in this way in the lives of their families, friends, and community at large. We, as an organization, are pursuing generational change. It’s slow change, but our hope is that its impact will trickle into eternity as our students usher in the kingdom of God in their community by pursuing physical, spiritual, relational, and intellectual restoration. Against all odds, we believe the little girls in this story are going to change the world! They are positioned to be heroes, change-makers, dreamers, and kingdom builders. We’re just catalysts for our students and witnesses to the restoration work of Jesus. Is there anything better?