ONTARIO, Canada — In an interview with The Borgen Project, Maccénat André describes how social workers influence foreign sponsorships and donations to nonprofits as well as the ways in which foreign aid assists local communities in Haiti.
The Role of Social Work
As an experienced social worker, André is committed to achieving social justice and ensuring equal access to education for children. University educated with a bachelor’s degree in social work and a graduate diploma in child and youth work, André was the former head of social work at an American school in Saint-Marc, Haiti, for approximately five years until 2021. He describes his conviction and calling to social work as a way to ensure communities are informed about non-violent conflict resolution among other goals. Equally important to this calling is ensuring girls have access to education and supporting situations involving student behavior management through constructive discussions to foster individual growth.
In this role as former head of social work, André was in charge of developing student profiles to present to a foundation in New York. The nonprofit foundation would then send out these profiles to its donors to attract sponsorship for one single child in a Haitian family. With tuition costing in excess of $6,000 per year, many families are unable to afford tuition fees without assistance.
Haiti in Numbers
Statistical research on Haiti indicates that the 2020 GDP per capita was approximately $1,176. This has left many Haitians living in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $2 per day. Furthermore, according to the most recently available data, in 2012, the country had a 0.61% GINI index coefficient score, making Haiti one of the “most unequal countries in the region.” According to the Corporate Finance Institute, the GINI index “is a statistical measure of economic inequality in a population,” measuring “the dispersion of income or distribution of wealth among the members of a population.”
In terms of poverty, a 2020 World Bank report showed that approximately 60% of the Haitian population lived below the poverty line. This data confirms Haiti’s unchanged rank as the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere. Decisively, the need for donations to send Haitian children to school is great.
The Impact of Sponsorships and Donations
Unlike other local schools in Saint-Marc, U.S. foreign aid is present in the specific American Saint-Marc school’s education system. Foreign aid contributed to this school obtaining an Apple MacBook laboratory, a satellite radio program and a large stadium with an Olympic-sized track to host sporting events. In combination with donations, foreign aid, such as agricultural and housing initiatives in the region, transformed the Saint-Marc community. For example, the school successfully pulled the surrounding community out of extreme poverty and created a community of working poor.
Students educated at the school would be eligible to hold jobs that could change the lives of their families and transform the community. Hence, donations and foreign aid were and are crucial to the success of not only the schools relying on donations but also the children who could change the lives of their families and their community members. More precisely, donor sponsorships would cover each child’s full tuition, ensuring that the student had school supplies, a uniform, two meals per day and transportation to and from school. In this way, sponsorship secures a child’s enrollment and alleviates parents’ worries of not being able to send their children to school.
A One-Child Approach
Common practice would encourage donor profiles of multiple children in a family. André spoke of this one-child approach to sponsorship as a way to individualize the true costs of education. He explains that Haitian mothers would opt to send their children to different schools, walking kilometers each day in order to ensure each child receives full sponsorship.
“Foreign donors are not informed of the total amount of money necessary for a child to attend school,” André says. Further, André notes that donations and foreign aid also assists in educating the public at large. For example, when conducting outreach meetings with families and community members, André would discuss the importance of educating girls, opposing a traditional cultural concept of prioritizing the education of boys. He would also discuss the importance of treating all people with respect to foster a culture of gender equality.
Education as a Tool for Poverty Reduction
Education is a proven tool for breaking cycles of poverty by empowering children with the knowledge and skills to secure specialized, well-paying jobs. Girls’ education is of particular importance as each added year of education can raise a girl’s income “by up to 20%.” Furthermore, “A child whose mother can read is 50% more likely to live past the age of 5.”
Without sponsorships and donations, impoverished families would not be able to send their children to school. Instead, children would have to work with their families in agriculture, and the community would not be able to grow economically with a vision toward sustainability.
André offers some advice to Americans who are considering donating or sponsoring a child. He recommends that potential donors first research the school, verifying that the school has accreditation to ensure the school is part of a system of accountability. In closing, André emphasized the need for sponsorships and donations in Haiti to assist families who are struggling to survive and to support the education of Haitian children.
– Michelle Renée Genua
Photo: Courtesy of Maccénat André