Mirlanda* was only three years old when she started kindergarten at the NPH Haiti school for vulnerable children. Today, she is a confident and educated young woman who works as a teacher in the school, thanks to NPH programmes investing in her future.
Haiti is the most poverty-stricken country in Latin America and the Caribbean, with 80% of the population living below the poverty line. Many children are vulnerable: maltreated, abandoned and suffering from lack of healthcare and malnutrition. The area Mirlanda lives and works in is currently under the control of armed gangs.
Her NPH mentor explains: “The current challenge for this young woman is to fight for a place in society with all the socio-political difficulties at present. She finds that day by day things are getting more complicated here in Haiti.”
Despite the economic and political situation in Haiti, NPH programmes, both residential and in the community, continue to operate to help children who live there.
Raised by the NPH family
Mirlanda was one of the lucky ones – she had a place in St. Helene, one of NPH Haiti’s residential homes in the mountains and grew up there exposed to all the development opportunities that they could offer her. It has both a primary and secondary school on-site, as well as a pre-school, farm and other amenities, which serve the 430 children who live there, as well as 350 children who come to school from the local communities.
“My name is Mirlanda. I am a young beneficiary of the programmes of NPH Haiti,” she explains, “I grew up in St. Helene, joining at a very young age where I was offered health, education and all kinds of leisure. Throughout my stay in St. Helene, I lived a very beautiful experience and learned to share, love and better understand others.”
“Now, I am a university student, thanks to the support of all our donors,” she continues, “Today, I work as a teacher at the NPH school, bringing my contribution to education, all this thanks to your support. On behalf of each of our children, a big thanks to all our sponsors. Thank you for allowing them to realise their dreams.”
Oscar* is 6 years old – a smiling, happy child who loves to play football. With the help of NPH’s ‘Centro de Bienestar Infantil’ (Child Well-being Centre) or CBI, he receives free education, nutritious meals and childcare so that his parents are able to work to support the family. NPH El Salvador sponsors 261 children in the local communities so they can receive a formal education from kindergarten to ninth grade while their parents work to provide for them.
Helping parents with childcare so they can work
In El Salvador, poverty is high and the literacy rate is low, with 18% of the general population unable to read or write. Families cannot afford to send their children to school and older children must work to provide family income. The majority of Salvadoran children under 6 have no access to a preschool education at all.
Oscar is the youngest of three brothers – his parents don’t have formal jobs but sell fast food and Mexican ‘tortas’ (sandwiches) in a cart on the street to earn enough to rent their home and feed their children.
School setting offered free from infancy to high school
In 2017, two free programmes were started to support the needs of the local communities – the daycare centre ‘CBI’ and ‘Becas Comunitarias Padre Wasson’ (Father Wasson Community Scholarships), both of which provide quality education to local children, covering tuition, books, uniform and school supplies.
Oscar’s mother, Ana, recalls: “When they started a programme for the kids from the outside communities, it has benefited us a lot. Before having the opportunity to send my boys to NPH, I remember I was worried about their education. But thank God, we have now this opportunity that helps them with education but also with food and medical care.”
She added: “The education that children receive is great. I have noticed that my boys have learned a lot.”
As part of the programme, they receive two healthy meals and two snacks per day, helping with their physical development as they grow from infants to children, despite the local poverty rate being high and many local children suffering from malnutrition. Chefs at NPH develop menus based on a balanced diet, including chicken, meat, rice, vegetables and fruits. Oscar’s favourite dish is fried chicken with rice. The children also receive regular medical check-ups.
Safe place for children to learn and grow
Oscar has attended the programme since he was 2 years old and goes every day from 7am to 3pm. He says: “Hi, I like to come to NPH. I like going to school. I like to play with my friends and I like to eat delicious food.”
Oscar enjoys colouring and drawing but his favourite activity is playing football with his friends. He is preparing to join Grade 1 next year and his teacher, Diana, says that he is a polite child and very helpful.
“Recently,” she explains, “I experienced a situation where Oscar was very helpful for me. We were getting ready for an activity that involved a lot of previous preparation. His classmates were taking a rest after lunch, but Oscar did not want to rest, he wanted to help me and he insisted on doing so. I felt really moved by the situation and gave him the opportunity to help me.”
“My wish for the future,” she adds, “is that my students, especially Oscar, have the opportunity to continue receiving the support at NPH.”
Oscar’s mother Ana can’t praise the programme enough: “The impact that NPH has on my children is great because they are able to learn while I am able to work. It is a great benefit and the education they provide is excellent.” Diana, his teacher, agrees: “Oscar is developing quite well. We have been able to see the growth that he has had; how he has evolved. He is learning a lot. He knows many skills but he needs to continue receiving the support that NPH provides so he is able to develop completely and learn more.”
Bright futures start young
Oscar and his brothers all attend the El Salvador NPH programme and his mother is very appreciative: “My hopes and dreams for the future are that Oscar is able to continue studying and become a professional.” Oscar says: “When I grow up, I want to be a police officer, a chef and a football player!”
Through this programme, these boys and many other children – supported by NPH – receive free quality education, healthy nutritious meals and regular medical check-ups, as well as free childcare so their families in the community can work to provide a better future for them.
In a country where women fight for their rights daily, NPH Guatemala helps rural women to develop skills and become more socially involved and financially independent.
Women in Guatemala, particularly indigenous and mestizo women from rural areas, have poor access to services, especially education, limiting their employment and earning potential. Women in Guatemala make up 51 percent of the total population, yet they have historically benefitted little from development. The Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) estimates that Guatemala has the second-highest female illiteracy rate in Central America.
Many Guatemalan women perform unpaid childcare and domestic work, so have few opportunities to participate in the formal economy. Financial dependence makes them more vulnerable to domestic violence and less inclined to pursue justice through the legal system.
NPH and Parramos Municipality together
NPH Guatemala partners with the “Oficina de la Mujer” (the Office for Women), a service of the Municipality of Parramos, where our family centre is located, that seeks to promote the well-being of local women and families. Together we assist women to develop skills. We also foster women’s community leadership and promote their economic, social and political participation, as well as helping to make them aware of their rights.
Dina Lopez, director of the Women’s Office in Parramos and programme leader of the “Empoderamiento a Mujeres” (Women’s Empowerment) initiative, has coordinated the programme for 6 years: “Women in Parramos have an average monthly income of 1,250 quetzales (123 pounds – less than half the official minimum wage). Most women here work informally in agriculture, washing clothes or cleaning houses,” says Dina.
Baking, sewing and tailoring workshops
Many women in Parramos suffer from male chauvinism, crime, and violence. The women’s emancipation programme also helps women at risk to develop their work skills. In 2021, NPH Guatemala’s joint alliance with the Women’s Office offered bakery, sewing, and tailoring workshops to help women enter the labour market, start micro-enterprises, and improve their standard of living. Josefina, from San Luis in Parramos, is an example of how women can use this training to become more prosperous.
A family in need of funds
Josefina lives with her husband, 2 daughters and son in a small house in San Luis. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Josefina worked in a restaurant in Antigua Guatemala for many years. The pandemic caused a major downturn in tourism, so Josefina lost her job in April 2020. Since then, she has worked from home by cooking for events, and sewing fabrics to contribute to the family’s income. “An extra income allows my children to continue studying and become professionals with better opportunities in society,” says Josefina.
The price of Covid-19
Due to COVID-19, schools switched from in-person classes to teaching online. This meant that Josefina had to install an internet connection at home so that her children could continue their studies. “I have managed to make clothes and increase our family’s income so we can comply with the new schooling requirements, but it’s very difficult,” she says.
A workshop changed Josefina’s life
Josefina thinks group training is a great way for her to share her knowledge and enhance her personal skills. Back in 1996, she held talks about male chauvinism. Since then, Josefina has been a female leader in her community, teaching skills to indigenous women’s groups to help generate more income, such as how to make soap and other products, plus how to cultivate land to grow vegetables. These skills are important because in rural Guatemala women play key roles in achieving food security and increasing the livelihoods of their homes and communities.
Josefina learned about NPH Guatemala from one of her neighbour’s children, who had attended school there. One day, she saw a social media post about free workshops in bakery, sewing, and tailoring offered by the Women’s Office and NPH Guatemala. She contacted Dina Lopez and signed up for the 3-month course beginning in February 2021 at NPH’s Casa San Andrés centre.
A keen student
Josefina wanted to improve her sewing. She was an active student during the course, the only one to deliver extra garments every week. She could see the instructor’s talent: “As an keen student, willing to learn, I was attentive to everything the teacher shared, because I could see she based her teaching on the student’s ability,” says Josefina.
Josefina – best in class
On graduating , 11 women received certificates in baking and 8 in sewing and tailoring. Josefina won a prize for being the best student, and is now the proud owner of a new sewing machine. During the rest of 2021, she worked for a private business and neighbours.
Growing the business
She also took on bigger tailoring projects, like one for the municipality of Parramos, sewing 200 seat covers and 20 table runners. “I would like to learn more sewing techniques, that’s why I signed up for the second course in January 2022. I’ll be able to make other garments using more advanced and specialised sewing skills,” says Josefina.