I was visiting my friend Celia a couple of weeks ago, she lives in Las Aves, a community I care about dearly. While I was chatting with my friend, her brother walked in carrying a piece of paper. His wife was already at the house, and as soon as he walked in, he went excitedly to show her. I was’t really paying much attention, as I was busy chatting with my friend and her kids.
Ask “la hermana” (the sister),” I heard them say a couple minutes later and suddenly the piece of paper was shoved into my hands. Confused, I looked down to find there sons’s most recent second grade report card, resting on my fingers.
“Is he passing?” they asked me.
I was happy to be able to report to them that he was passing, even though it was barely. They smiled proudly. School is important to them, they never got to go. They can’t read… not even their own son’s report card, but their son, he’s going to be different.
I glanced at the notes of the teacher saying he needed to learn his letters better and that he should practice writing numbers from 1-200. Skills he should have mastered in first grade, if he had had the help and support needed.
I didn’t mention that to his parents, for the obvious reason… How would they be able to help him if they can not read and write themselves?
Instead I asked an important question that could really make a difference for this boy “Has your son been choosen for the new after school program?”
“Yes!” they told me excitedly.
“They will help him improve where he needs help !” I told them, relieved to offer a real practical solution.
A friend of ours started a very successful after school program, called Oasis in other community a few years ago, to support kids just like this one with their education. Its a program that kids are involved with after school twice a week that includes tutoring, help with home work, a bible lesson and a healthy meal or snack. In the last couple years we have talked about starting a similar program in Las Aves, as the need to support children in school is great. Currently in that community of a few hundred people there is only one student in high school, as most kids drop out long before. A few years ago, Saul and I made it our personal mission to ensure this boy finished high school, and have advocated on his behalf many times to make sure he had what was needed to be able to continue his education. We knew that for his life to be different, to break the cycle of poverty in his family, and to keep him from field work he needed to finish school. Thankfully, due to his hard work and persistence, and the generosity of local organizations and some dear friends of ours, he is going to graduate this June. He has already registered in University for the upcoming year. The thought of all he has accomplished and will continue to accomplish bring me to tears. This is so big. So uncommon, for where he comes from.
He is just one… but we dream of all the kids in his community to have the same opportunity.
We are currently working on making this dream a reality, and we are helping to start an Oasis Las Aves after school program, that is scheduled to open the first week of April. The local elementary school has hand picked the first 20 children with the most need, to be the first kids in the program. There will be a teacher for every 5 children enrolled, and a cook to help with an afternoon snack. We hope to grow and expand the program in the future, to include as many children as possible, and employ local people from the community. Our friend Karly really took the initiative to get the ball rolling in starting the program, and we are supporting her in any way possible. We have a building to use, staff in place, and we are eagerly waiting to open the doors in a few short weeks. A generous donation was given to get the program started, but we want to see it run long term, grow to accept more children, and see all the children thrive with the loving support they need for many years to come.
This is where you can help… Please consider being a part of a project that we truly believe in. We have a goal to raise an additional $10,000 that will ensure the program continues for the next 2 years. So that in the future every family involved will have children that graduates from high school and continues their education, breaking cycles of poverty that have seemed impossible to get out of on their own. This is the “what” something we can all do to make a difference and bring change.
Please join us. You can help here.
*Photo credits to Megan McCoy