When one visits Haiti, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the extreme poverty and environmental devastation that exists in that country. It is sadly well-known that Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. It survives, in part, only because of the efforts of the Haitian diaspora and the many caring people and groups who give generously of their money, time and talents to deliver food, health care and other forms of support. This kind of assistance—however necessary it may be—contributes very little in long-term benefits to the Haitian people, and fails to address the core issues giving rise to their impoverishment. St. Joseph’s Haiti Parish Twinning Program is structured to redress this failure, and one of our successful projects has been the development of a home grown professional class in Pignon through our university sponsorship program.
Education is Haiti’s best chance to break out of the seemingly never-ending cycle of poverty and premature death. But even elementary and secondary education in Haiti is not free. Families must sacrifice a great deal to provide the most basic education for their children. Despite this desperate situation, a small number of young Haitians do manage to graduate from high school with a baccalaureate. And there, typically, the story ends. The cost of any further education at the college level is an impossible dream for the poor of Haiti. Although by U.S. standards, a university education in Haiti is relatively inexpensive—about $5,000-$6,000 a year for tuition, room and board—that sum of money is vastly out of reach for all but a handful of the Haitian people (the already well-to-do), and so, less-advantaged young people rarely have a chance to work their way out of poverty through a university degree.
Young Professionals Advancing Core Projects - The University Sponsorship Program of St. Joseph’s Haiti Program, in conjunction with the Haiti College Fund (HCF), is making a positive impact in Haiti by providing young persons from the Pignon area a university education. This is how the program works: secondary school graduates, who are selected for a free university education officially contract to return to Pignon, after they receive their degree, and work for the parish in their chosen profession for four or five years (one for each year of subsidized education). During those years they receive a stipend and are assisted in establishing themselves locally in their chosen profession.
So far, money donated to St. Joseph’s Haiti Program and the Haiti College Fund of Virginia has provided or is in the process of providing a university education for nine young people from Pignon. Two have become doctors and the others have completed their education as a nurse, an agronomist, a microcredit banking manager, a school administrator, a veterinarian and a computer technician and are now back in Pignon working in their chosen profession. Their stories are really inspirational; their achievements are real and they have returned to Pignon to form the core of a professional class. Our goal is to continue to assist additional motivated and talented young people to achieve the impossible dream of a college education, thereby helping to build the infrastructure of the Pignon area. At the moment we are looking into the training of a computer technologist, an engineer, and another nurse.
Every donation to St. Joseph’s University Sponsorship Program goes directly to pay for the tuition, educational materials and room and board for the Haitian students. There are no administrative costs, as we are all volunteers. Please give generously to this unique and hopeful effort to help the poor in Haiti!
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