By Jenny Jenkins, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel
Children and books—there is just something about that combination that gets my energy up. I get excited about the possibilities when a child learns to read—the windows of the imagination and new ideas that are then open. Seeing a child’s face light up when reading something funny or new will never get old.
Reading in Haiti has challenges of its own. Most homes don’t have books, except maybe a Bible and a hymn book. Many parents in the mountains don’t read and have never read a story to their children.
Children grow up learning to speak Kreyòl, their native language. But when and if they are fortunate enough to enter school, they must learn French. All the textbooks and materials are in French. Add this to the fact that most children in Haiti are undernourished, affecting their cognitive development and the ability to learn, reading becomes an obstacle instead of a gateway.
Discovering 13 and 14-year-olds who have trouble recognizing and writing letters, let alone their own name, is maddening. By providing opportunities for reading, access to books and encouragement and help with reading, writing comprehension, our hope is to remove obstacles and open the gateway. Teaching one child to read will change the world for that child. It is all worth it!
This summer we had the blessing of working 30 kids, most from Mt. Sinai Church and others from the Magandou community. They came three mornings a week for six weeks. With help from our Encourager Church, we collected children’s story books and other teaching materials in French. Then four teachers planned activities for their groups.
The children were divided into groups according to age and ability level after evaluation and teachers prepared activities for each child according to their needs. Within that group, a local teacher guided the students through the components of reading success—vocabulary, listening, writing, reading silently and aloud. We read books, listened to stories read aloud, played games, laughed, sang, danced, created skits, finished puzzles, learned alphabets, practiced writing, drawing and creating. And each day we shared a good meal prepared by local women and then had story time together for the entire group.
In many ways, it reminded me of the old Vacation Bible School programs. It was amazing. Even though we were exhausted by the final week, I was sorry to see it end. I am excited that ideas and plans are already coming together for another round to support the children during the school year.
But therein lies the caveat: Schools have yet to open in Haiti this year due to the protests, gang activities and civil unrest.
Pray for this country, its leaders, those gangs controlling supplies and fuel; pray for resolution. Pray for the students that they will again have a safe place to learn. Pray that we can come alongside children to encourage and open the gateway to a new future.
Jenny Jenkins is a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel who has been serving in Haiti since 2008. Learn more about her ministry at cbf.net/jenkins.
The Offering for Global Missions provides for the long-term presence of field personnel like Brooke and Mike. The theme for this year’s Offering is “A Place at the Table for Everyone.” In Luke 14, Jesus teaches us to invite those least expecting and, in society’s view, perhaps least deserving of invitation. CBF field personnel serving in countries around the world invite and are invited to the table as they cultivate beloved community, bear witness to Jesus Christ, and seek transformational development.
Learn more about the Offering for Global Missions and access free digital and print resources at www.cbf.net/ogm.