Sponsors provide money for tuition in Haiti

January 29, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

HAITI - Jolitha Ulysse holds a sign with her name on it that is almost as wide as her wingspan. The 10-year-old stands smiling, waiting for Andrew King, of London, to snap her picture with his digital camera.

He scrunches up his face in a mock frown. She smiles wider. The flash goes off.

In two or three weeks, the people that sponsor Jolitha's tuition will be able to look at her picture on Crusades for Christ's Web site,

Many of the sponsored children were absent when local missionaries visited Haiti last week. Their parents have kept them home because they were worried about the demonstrations on the street. Students have rallied to oust President Jean Bertrand Aristide. The protests have sometimes turned violent with several people dying, according to L'Union, a Port-Au-Prince newspaper.

Regardless King and Trisha Claunch, of Harrodsburg, set up a picture studio on the altar of Good Shepherd Church in Port-Au-Prince to shoot pictures of the kids that did come to class. About 40 percent of the students were absent from schools that Crusades sponsors, Claunch said.


Claunch, King and King's brother, Steve, collect pictures at schools and orphanages that work with Crusades for the mission's sponsorship program.

The program, like the Christian school system, is entrenched in Haitian culture. Tuition, Joe Mobley of Crusades for Christ said, depends on the child and depends on the school. When parents can't come up with the monthly tuition, it is subsidized by the mission, but pastors must do it in such a way that all the parents believe that they are paying. Otherwise none may pay, Mobley said.

The government requires that each church also have a school. It costs $15 a month to send a child to kindergarten through eighth grade and $20 a month for high school.

The principals try to get the kids one hot meal, usually beans and rice, once a week, and a cold meal the rest of the days. A cold meal may be a piece of fruit or a pack of cheese crackers. Some Kentucky missionaries have seen a teacher take a jar of peanut butter and put a spoonful in each of the children's hands. Then the teacher took a can of corn and gave each kid a teaspoon full. This is a good meal for a Haitian child.

Leroy Hagan, of Harrodsburg, and his wife, Carol Jean, sponsor a girl and a boy. He said he felt God wanted him to participate in the program.

"God's been so good to us that we feel we needed to do something for someone less fortunate," he said.

Another man on the trip, Pappy Yocum, of Harrodsburg, has about seven children. Many of the missionaries' churches sponsor several children and send presents for them with the missionaries who visit Haiti twice a year.

With the Crusades program, he knows where every penny goes

Hagan said he likes the Crusades program because he comes to Haiti and knows where every penny goes. The mission relays every dollar donated to the students' schools, even though Mobley said that charities only have to spend nine cents on the dollar on the actual cause.

U.S. money goes a long way in Haiti because the depressed economy has created a ridiculous exchange rate. In January, the rate was about 8.45 Haitian dollars for $1 U.S.

The Kings' company, Dynamika, in London donates the Web site and the labor to bring the children's pictures and updates to their sponsors. Andrew King said that they would like to provide more information about the children, but the language barrier prevents it.

His favorite kid is Jolitha.

"Her clothes are always in bad shape, but she is always smiling," he said.

This is the third year that he's gotten to see her. Her aunt cleans the church and sells food in the courtyard to pay Jolitha's tuition. Even though Jolitha is already sponsored, King always gives the schools a small donation to help with all of the students' education.

It only took an hour to photograph all of the kids on the sponsorship list. There were at least 150 left. The school's pastor came and asked if they couldn't take more kids.

Claunch has to explain that already there aren't enough sponsors for the children in their database. Her eyes gloss over as she talks to the pastor. To appease the children, who think that the camera is a toy and shooting pictures is a game, Claunch and King go around to each classroom and shoot group shots.

Central Kentucky News Articles