In the U.S., we believe that education is key to success. Many times we take our gratuitous access to it for granted. Education is one of the biggest stepping stones out of poverty, yet so few of the severely poor have any educational opportunities. International Samaritan has been making headway in this area with impressive results.
The root problem that we work to alleviate is severe poverty. It is prevalent in the garbage dump communities that we serve and manifests itself in a variety of different ways including chronic hunger, poor health, unemployment, no access to services, crime, and hopelessness among the people.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) states that “to reduce poverty and advance socioeconomic development” formal education is the key. The current education system in Latin America is overwhelmed by the need of the people. For example, in Guatemala the education system only provides for 20% of school age children and, on average, Guatemalan children attend only 4 years of schooling and only 3 out of 10 students graduate from sixth grade (source: USAID).
The global problem and solution is clear. International Samaritan is committed to helping establish self-sufficient educational resources for the garbage dump communities starting with nursery schools and going through secondary education programs. Students will then have the potential to break free of the life circumstances they were born into. It is a matter of providing them the opportunity to shine.
International Samaritan has set up a total of seven educational initiatives in three countries in collaboration with local partners. Each day that a child comes to school, eats a nutritious school-provided meal, and continues his or her education is considered a success. Among the day-to-day victories, there are some outstanding student accomplishments like Edgar’s and Jorge’s.
Students at the Francisco Coll School in Guatemala participated in a math competition against other schools this past spring. Edgar, pictured above, is a second grader who scored an outstanding 95 out of 100 points! This qualified him for the final round of the competition and was well above the average scores of the others attendance.
Edgar’s story is not unlike that of other children his age. His father is not an active part of his life, his mother works long hours at the dump, and school is one of the bright points of his day. Math is among his favorites as he finds it helps him solve “life’s problems.” When he’s older, he’d like to be a soccer player, but he’d also like to work in a big business where he can manage “a lot of papers and numbers.”
Jorge, pictured above, is a gifted student that has fortunately had many opportunities available to him, such as being awarded a scholarship to study through secondary school at the Jose Artiga School (close to the garbage dump area in Ciudad Sandino in Nicaragua). While there, he entered a competition with five other students and their invention, a product called Ecolobloque S.A., was the winner. It is a low-cost but highly durable alternative for building homes. The team won full scholarships to The American University of Managua and is continuing to develop the project. Jorge is majoring in entrepreneurship and is the third best student in his grade at the university.
He is a perfect example of how a child living in undesirable conditions can exceed expectations given the chance. Through the leadership and stability of the school, together with the love and support his mother has provided at home, Jorge has the potential to do great things for his community.