When Imagine Missions first formed in 2011, the children living at the orphanage at the time (now the Imagine Missions Children’s Home) were not required to attend school beyond the 6th grade. Many were years behind in their classes, as their parents could not afford schooling for them in the past.
According to US AID, “The average Haitian, age 25 years or older, has less than 5 years of schooling. School fees can be prohibitively expensive for low-income families.”¹
The orphanage grounds in Despinos included a small primary school. Current Imagine Missions School Principal Bob, who started teaching at this school in 2008, has seen the difference in the school once it was supported by Imagine Missions.
“Imagine Missions is an educational support, concerned with the education of Haitians,” he said, “In Haiti we don’t always have [affordable] education. But when we gained the support of Imagine Missions, more children came here for school.”
In 2017, Alpha Delta Kappa provided a grant that allowed us to expand the school to include all secondary grades. Melissa, a passionate educator, was able to dream and shape our school into a strong, character-building center of academic excellence as well as a light in its’ community. The expansion necessitated hiring new staff that are qualified, passionate educators themselves.
Madame Anilia Adolphe has taught biology at Imagine Missions School for two years and said, “At Imagine, we are a family for the children… I personally love education and studied education. That’s why I give all of my heart and myself to try to give the children a really good education!”
Today a beautiful 2-story secondary school structure connected our primary school can be found behind our gates. It’s filled with 420 students, about 350 of whom come to our grounds daily from the surrounding community to receive what is known to be a top-notch education at Imagine Missions School. Little ones dance and count with their smiling kindergarten teachers in sweet classrooms made from repurposed sukup structures (a storm-proof structure that resembles a small silo).
Across the yard, middle school classes engage in electives such as physical education and karate. At the same time, our oldest students brush up on subjects like English, social science, chemistry, and others as part of their final year of secondary schooling which is called ‘filo’ and comes after 12th grade.
And the cost to our students and their families? Nothing.
“When they didn’t have Imagine, there were a lot of kids who could not go to school in this town,” third grade teacher Jean-Louis Claudette said. “And if they had to pay, a lot of our students couldn’t come. Because it’s free, all our students can come to school. And that allows our kids to go farther.”
It’s almost unheard of to receive a free education in Haiti. Due to a lack of government funding a majority of schools are private, tuition-based institutions, creating a barrier to low-income families.
Lack of income for education can even lead to parents surrendering their children to orphanages because of the promise of free education at many orphanages, further exacerbating the problem of the ‘poverty orphan’. By providing free education for community students, Imagine Missions hopes to combat that problem, further changing lives and creating hope for families.
Our teachers agree that this is a special place.
“Before coming here,” English teacher Oriscat Reynold said, “I taught at another school. When I came to Imagine Missions School, I saw it was so different. There’s a way that Imagine welcomes the teachers. To tell the truth, Imagine Missions School is the best school in Haiti. Parents believe in Imagine Missions School. They want to send their children to Imagine to have a good education, because they know what Imagine is.”
Madame Adolphe agrees. “At Imagine, there aren’t as many children in the classes, and the children are respectful,” she said. “When you teach here, you feel the students are interested in their education.”
When students are not able to focus on their education, teachers like third-grade teacher Jean-Louis Claudette take note.
“Some of my students fall easily or vomit frequently. I ask: ‘Did you eat this morning?’ They’ll respond ‘No, I haven’t eaten since yesterday’. That touches my heart. I’ll gather my purse and if I have money with me, I’ll buy them some food… Last year, I had about 5-6 students like that. This year, I have 2 students like that. That hurts my heart; that often their parents can’t feed them.”
She also sees that nutrition impacts academic performance, and hopes she can help these students make passing grades at our school, where the standards are high.
“At other schools, the passing grade is a 5 (out of 10). At Imagine Missions School, the passing grade is a 7,” she said. “That makes the students work harder and the teachers work harder too to help the students understand things better. T
hat also makes our students have the best performance in governmental academic testing.”
Assistant Principal Ricardo sees the strong connection between educational impact and preparation for the future.
“Imagine Missions has a bigger impact. We have a really good education here. We have really good teachers who provide really good training, which allows our students today to be better prepared for their futures.”
One student, Erick, a current secondary school student in the filo class. “Students love the school a lot,” Erick said. “The students respect the leaders at the school. The teachers always come to teach, and it has become one of the biggest schools in the area.”
Like other young adults supported by Imagine Missions, Erick previously attended secondary school at an outside secondary school. Yet he feels the value in this newly-expanded school where he started his education. “It’s different than other schools; I feel the students understand more at Imagine Missions School. Every day, it gets better and better.”
For more information: https://www.usaid.gov/haiti/education