“I am a Haitian citizen. I am called to develop my country with love, charity and fraternity without any discrimination, and to be a leader in the world who reflects Jesus’s love wherever I go.” This is the student creed that children at The Joseph School in Haiti recite each day and what will serve as their guide as they grow to be leaders in their country.
The idea for The Joseph School began in 2010 when Founder and Chairman of the Board, Jim Bryson, felt called to visit Haiti with his church to help with the orphan crisis after the country experienced a devastating earthquake.
“I vividly remember on the flight back just looking out the window and thinking about everything I’d seen. I’d never been to a country where a third of the population didn’t know where their next meal was coming from, where clean water was not common, where access to healthcare was not available, where most people didn’t have electricity and where there wasn’t any public education really to speak of…”
When Jim began to ponder how to approach the seeming insurmountable challenges Haiti faced, he realized that nothing was ever going to change without the leadership of strong, wise and capable Haitians. Where these Haitian leaders would come from was another story, as Jim was well-aware that without an adequate education system, Haiti was not going to generate the leaders it needed. The thought was, by designing a leadership school to educate the children of Haiti, the students who attended would be equipped to create and execute solutions to their country’s problems and eventually become the leaders their home so desperately needed. It wasn’t until after five years of planning, preparation, and relationship-building, that in September of 2015 The Joseph School welcomed its first kindergarten class of 31 students.
The mission of The Joseph School is to “educate and prepare tomorrow’s servant leaders in body, mind and spirit.” This holistic approach to education allows students to excel academically while developing a true heart for service. The curriculum is offered in three languages: Créole, French and English and is taught using best practices of the American Teaching method. The Joseph School partners with orphanages and community leaders to identify gifted children in the area and accepts 30 new students annually. Currently, 118 students are enrolled in four grades at The Joseph School with a goal of one day growing enough to offer high school and even university level courses. Every student is provided school supplies, books, uniforms, shoes, transportation, and two meals a day.
“What we’re trying to do is actually improve the standard of education in our school compared to other Haitian schools” says Bryson. “We do a lot of teacher training and our classrooms are set up differently than a typical Haitian classroom. For example, we use desks instead of benches, classrooms are smaller, and we’ll have 15 students to a class instead of 40. What we’re trying to do is have a completely Haitian school, but bring best practices from both the US and Haiti to be able to raise the standard of learning and ability to lead while maintaining Haitian pride and culture.”
Many may wonder what tuition at a school such as this might cost Haitian families. The good news is parents don’t have to pay a cent if they work at least five hours a month at the school. With this being said, no one has paid tuition thus far. Tuition by The Joseph School’s standards is not a lot, but when Haitian families are making $2 a day on average it can be a huge strain. “We think parental involvement in a school is one of the keys to a success, so we set tuition up in a way to encourage parents to come in and work in exchange for their child’s education” explains Bryson.
Today, The Joseph School sits on 70 acres in Cabaret, Haiti with room to expand! To meet the needs of their growing student body, The Joseph School has launched its “Build The Future Campaign” to provide funding for additional classrooms, a playground, chapel, dining hall and an administrative building. “Anyone that feels called to give to the campaign can become a Campus Builder and help quite literally lay the foundation of The Joseph School” says Director of Engagement, Jonaé Shaw. However, if one is looking to get involved special events, The Joseph School also has its signature event in November called “A Night of Thanksgiving.” “A Night of Thanksgiving” is a lovely evening where supporters of the Joseph School come together for great music, food, and a silent auction that features many Haitian artifacts and crafts.
Student sponsorships are also an option to give reoccurring gifts to The Joseph School. Sponsorships are only $38 a month and directly support a child’s school supplies, safe transportation and meals. The special part? Each sponsor is paired with a specific student and receives photos of them and personal information such as their birthday, where they’re from, and what they want to be when they grow up- three times a year! In terms of volunteer opportunities, The Joseph School offers mission trips where visitors and teams can experience the beauty and challenges of Haiti while partnering with The Joseph School to impact the lives of their students and staff and aid the surrounding communities. The Joseph School’s mission trips help meet the needs of the community through construction and painting, food distribution, volunteering at Michael’s Orphanage, building homes, leadership training, Vacation Bible School and preaching.
With so many unique and impactful ways to get involved with The Joseph School it is hard to pick just one opportunity to give-back. However, one thing is certain, no matter what an individual’s chosen level of involvement with The Joseph School is today, their support is paving the way for generations of Haitian leaders tomorrow.
To learn more about The Joseph School and ways to get involved visit their website at http://thejosephschool.org/ or Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @TheJosephSchool. Interested in supporting, volunteering or planning a trip? Email Jonaé Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org
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