Jenn and I see the employees almost every day of the year. But it's on this one special day that we see them at their happiest, together with the people that bring them the most joy-- their families.
Monday September 15th was our employee appreciation/back-to-school PaRtY!
According to the polls, which in this case are the looks on the employee's faces as they enjoy an evening with their children and spouses, the school party was a grand success.
Jenn and the staff spent many hours preparing for the big day. First they decided on a date and a menu. Then Jenn hired someone to make 8 large, aluminum baking trays of Gratine (a cheesy baked macaroni) and one giant bowl of pikliz. We called in another cook from the village to make rice, plaintains, and fried chicken. Dadou made a budget and Erode went to town to do the shopping. They delegated certain cleaning tasks and hired a few women from the village to make decorations. We knew that if our party loving Dads had anything to do with it, and they did, then the education building and the property were going to look nothing short of magnificent come evening.
The plan was to cook some of the food at our apartment and then pick it up and bring it back to the land at the end of the work day. Baked macaroni is a special party dish, made even more special by the fact that our own Second Mile cooks didn’t have to labor over it. But, when Jenn arrived home to help the 3 women who were already cooking there, she discovered that we were fresh out of propane and short on time. Luckily, there were a few accommodating neighbors floating around our “apartment complex” and we were afforded the opportunity to finish the meal in two different apartments with a combination of 2 stoves, 4 burners, and a patio grill.
Despite that small set-back the food was delicious and there was plenty for everyone.
But clearly the food is not the main event.
The party was for our employees, 2/3 of them parents, to celebrate the fact that their children are growing, learning, and going to school this year thanks to the generous donations of many of you, but also thanks to their commitment to this organization and the tremendous effort they put forth so that their children have opportunities to flourish.
The party was also for the students. Last year was our first full operational year. We spoke with the staff and they agreed to take their employee bonuses in September as it would make tuition and school costs so much more manageable. Much like this year, we also gave some additional scholarships to make sure that no child was left behind. Because of the additional support each of the employees were able to enroll all of their school-aged children in school. At the beginning of this year we learned that every single child had advanced to the next grade. Dadou’s daughter was even accelerated from pre-K to first grade! If you didn’t read the blog post that explained why that is SUCH A BIG DEAL, you might not quite understand the rationale behind our yearly push to raise funds for education. Go back and read it, if you'd like.
The party was also for you. For those of you who donated towards our employee bonuses (a 13th paycheck for every employee) and student sponsorships (additional funds for school fees) Thank You! Again this year, after receiving their bonuses every employee returned with receipts to show Dadou and Jenn that they’d chosen to spend their bonus money on school fees, uniforms, and/or books. This qualified everyone with kids to receive additional scholarship money. In the end $150 was spent towards each child’s education. Raising $150 x 51 was no small goal but you gave generously and the school fees were funded in a matter of weeks. In Haiti less than 50% of children are able to complete primary school as Haiti does not have a free-to-all public school system. We can confidently say that there are 51 children who are on a path to complete not just primary school but secondary school as well and perhaps even university! They will undoubtedly go on to do great things.
And that's something to celebrate.
The employees started the event with a passionate time of prayer, worship, and thanksgiving! Over and over I heard one employee or another thank God for this “grand occasion!” I couldn’t help but notice the contrast. Every year around August I start to see articles and posts on Social Media. Parents are Hallelujah-thankful that summer is coming to an end when they will be able to work more, sleep more, entertain [their children] less, and get their houses back in order. Parents are looking forward to less headaches related to fighting children and complaints of boredom and praising Jesus at the site of the big yellow school bus and the notion of free supervised child-care also known as early education. No one ever seems to mention being thankful that their children get to go to school. I guess it's just a given.
These moms and Dads on the other hand were thanking God for what is truly a privilege in Haiti: healthy children, able to attend school.
After prayer, singing, and a special solo by one of the dads, the parents served their children food and drink. Everyone ate and we wrapped things up with an animated photo shoot. These people have been working with us long enough to know that when we bring out the camera we’re after BIG smiles, with teeth and laughter. It was sweet to watch grown men attempt to pass on these foreigner-friendly values to their kids--- careful not to drop their own toothy grin while giving instructions. Most of the time it worked. :)
Then the kids (and the adults) got tired and the sun went down and the party was over.
We were reminded that the gift of education is not something to take for granted. Once again, a big thank you to everyone that donated towards school sponsorship! You can always pray for these students and their teachers this year and keep your eyes open for next year's school post.