When I was in 7th grade I had a teacher, Mrs. Poorman. She taught English, or maybe History. I honestly don't remember. I do remember the impact she had on me though. I was a troublemaker back then. I loved to toe the line and see how much I could get away with. If teachers got frustrated and gave me a detention, I'd retaliate by acting up as much as possible without actually doing anything justifying a trip to the principles office. I found this caused way more frustration.
Mrs. Poorman didn't get frustrated like my other teachers. Instead of giving me detention she pulled me aside and talked to me like an adult. And in doing so she gave me permission to act like an adult. Mrs. Poorman was an incredible teacher but not because she taught me how to use semicolons correctly or what year the Pilgrims gave the Indians smallpox. But because she cared and invested in me as a human being. I can name each teacher in my 17 years of school I feel this way about, and they fit on one hand. It isn't that I had bad teachers. I was extremely blessed to come up through a fantastic school system and attend a respected University. The kind of effort Mrs. Poorman put into her job was that rare.
Years ago, I looked up what a tenured teacher like her made in our district. It was well over $100,000 and she deserved every penny of it, if not more. The teachers here at Agape expect to make $1200 for the entire year. They often end up seeing less than that. Hank and I sat with them today and asked what they needed to do their jobs better. No one mentioned more money. They mentioned things like toys for the kindergarten classes, and smaller chairs and tables because the kids aren't tall enough to reach the tops of the desks they have now to write on. One teacher suggested a school nurse with basic medical care and the others laughed because it seemed so far outside what they could realistically expect.
I have the opportunities I have available to me today because of teachers like Mrs. Poorman. And sitting with the teachers here in Haiti, I saw the same rare characteristics that she had in each of them. They care incredibly in investing in their students. They have to. If they didn't, they wouldn't be doing it. They have no other incentive, as they often can go months without pay. We are working with Jean in putting a strategy and business plan in place that ensures they receive pay each month and on time, from revenue the farm brings in. It won't and can't happen over night though.
If you helped us by donating to fund these teachers for a few months, thank you. Thank you for providing them with a salary and a way to provide for their family. But more importantly, thank you for the encouragement it gives them in knowing that people see what they're doing and want to support them in their efforts. Any change we hope to see in Haiti starts with education. If we don't invest differently in the educators, we can't expect to see different results. Each dollar you've given helps us move closer towards our goal of self-sustainability and removing ourselves from the equation.
If you haven't donated and would like to please visit our website, www.missionkitestring.org/donate. We'll also begin collecting toys and other supplies to bring down in the spring, so if you or someone you know has school supplies, specifically for younger ages, you'd like to donate, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.