Twelve years ago, the AJA Foundation first learned of Three Angels Children’s Relief, a U.S. based nonprofit that runs an orphanage, a pre-6 school (Three Angels Christian Academy/TACA), and a medical clinic in Port-au-Prince, Haiti that delivers much-needed essential services to a critically underserved population. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with a per-capita GDP of $756 per year and a Human Development Index rank of 169 out of 189 countries. The neighborhoods adjacent to Three Angels are beset with rampant unemployment, and many of the families served by TACA are otherwise unable to provide for their children’s education or other basic needs.
Haitians had suffered decades of political turmoil, economic setbacks, and social inequities long before January 12, 2010, when the country was struck by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people, injured hundreds of thousands more and left nearly 1.5 million homeless. In the decade since the earthquake, due to poor public infrastructure and international failure to properly coordinate relief efforts, the tiny Caribbean nation has yet to recover.
Three Angels and its “can do” staff of dedicated and compassionate teachers, nannies, medical professionals, and laborers have been on the ground in Haiti since 2003. In the aftermath of the earthquake, Three Angels was able to enlist UN assistance to remove many tons of twisted concrete and rubble to build the Kenbe Fèm (“Stand Strong”) community center, which serves an extensive group of needy families in Port-au-Prince. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Three Angels also delivered critical relief aid to hard-hit families on the western peninsula.
Only 20% of Haitian children have the opportunity to attend 7th-13th grades and complete their secondary education. Free public education is virtually non-existent in Haiti, and the wealthiest families have access to high-quality education through private schools. As education is the best hope young Haitians have to obtain meaningful employment to break the vicious circle of extreme poverty, quality education beyond Grade Six is arguably the country’s greatest social need.
“Basically, if a child only makes it to 6th grade (or less), their chances at finding a job that can support them are slim,” said Jane Rouse, operations manager at Three Angels. “Jobs are difficult enough to come by even if you have a high school, trade school, or university education— to have less adds to the challenge.”
Siege Poteau, a local pastor and educator, added, “Most kids who do not receive a basic education end up on the streets as a street vendor, which usually only supports a meager existence. Many kids eventually end up in unsavory situations in order to make some kind of living, and those opportunities are unfortunately abundant here, especially for girls. It is common for parents to approve or even encourage their teenage daughters to get a ‘sugar daddy’ who will in return help support the family.”
Completing high school creates many more options. University or trade schools usually require at least 9th grade be completed but more often require completion of high school. Additionally, the education itself is incredibly valuable to open the children’s minds and expose them to higher-level thinking, something Haiti desperately needs.
Three Angels Christian Academy (“TACA”) offers functional literacy education to children from preschool through 6th grade and also provides a nutritious lunch and supplementary vitamins for students—and for many of the children, this is their only substantial meal of the day.
Over 600 children have graduated from TACA since its founding in 2005. Each year, there are many very promising students who graduate from the low-cost yet high-value TACA school, who have the ability and motivation to go on to secondary school but lack the funds for private school tuition.
Because education is a program focus for the AJA Foundation, in 2020 we expanded the size and scope of our previous grants to Three Angels to focus exclusively on merit-based scholarships for secondary education for their TACA graduates. The organization was awarded $32,000 to provide tuition and textbooks for all 38 high-achieving boys and girls from TACA to attend private secondary school during the 2020/2021 academic year.
The AJAF secondary school scholarships provide a vital educational link in preparing these deserving students for financial productivity in the extremely challenging Haitian economy, which makes this a life-changing opportunity for these 38 students.
We at AJA Foundation are thrilled to see these 38 scholars excel in their academics this year, and we look forward to seeing where their paths lead.