For many students and families in Haiti, finding the extra funding to pay for tuition is a priority that takes second place to accessing food and water. Too often, education is interrupted by a lack of funds and resources; for some, they may not return. The necessities of life and the demands of a family may require that children provide their day-to-day livelihood. And thus, the cycle of poverty is repeated. What can break the cycle?
Planting Life Haiti created the Agriculture Bursary Program to educate youth in Désarmes and support families struggling to pay school tuition. Each year Planting Life Haiti provides agricultural training and practice for local high school students, and pays for the bulk of their yearly school tuition fees. Applications are accepted from students in grades 9 through 13 who show a need for financial aid and who show an interest in agricultural practices. This in no way limits their pursuits to only agricultural endeavours. Many students communicate worthy goals of university, vocational skills training, and/or higher income employment opportunities. However, everyone in the program agrees that a fundamental agricultural education is necessary in Haitian society. Students learn valuable life skills for planting, growing, and cultivating crops -skills that will benefit themselves and their families throughout their lives.
On Saturdays, bursary students attend agricultural lessons and practice sessions facilitated by Planting Life Haiti. While this requirement keeps students accountable to their commitment for higher education, it offers a number of other value-added opportunities. The class starts with a devotional study from a passage in the Bible. This is important in remaining true to Planting Life Haiti’s mission to spread the Good News about Jesus. However, Weslet Vildort, who facilities the classes, explains that it also offers students the opportunities to engage in open discussions, ask questions, and reflect on challenging concepts, something that is not traditionally practiced in Haitian culture. The remainder of the class is then spent studying agriculture and participating in practice in the fields.
Weslet, who holds a degree focused in agriculture from the University of Fraser Valley in BC, Canada, provides lessons in agriculture and farming, ranging from basic fundamentals to advanced concepts. Due to deforestation, soil degradation, and drought, traditional Haitian farming practices are becoming less and less effective. Weslet has spent the last few years testing and practicing innovative solution in Haiti’s increasingly difficult farming realities. While Weslet continues to provide lessons in fundamental farming practices, he puts a particular emphasis on current challenges and innovative solutions. After every class, students travel to a nearby plot of land to practice the concepts learned, where they can observe what works and what needs improvement. In addition, students are exposed to Planting Life Haiti’s innovative solutions, like drip irrigation and holistic composting.
For many students and families in Haiti, education is a necessity they cannot afford. And yet, families strive to send their kids to school, with the hope that education will bring hope for the future. Students and their families are incredibly grateful for the educational and financial support provided by Planting Life Haiti. Everyone involved continues to have hope in a better quality of life for Haiti; and ‘hope does not disappoint’ (Rom 5:5).
For those wishing to get involved or donate, click ‘Here’ to contact Planting Life Haiti.