It is clear from the pictures of the smiling faces of the orphans in Desiré, Haiti that God is transforming lives through Faith’s sponsorship. At the orphanage, the children are receiving food, medical care, education, and exposure to the gospel. But what happens after they leave? Prospects in this third-world country are sparse, and spiritual darkness is prevalent. It is a frightening notion to think that once an orphan turns 18 they are, by law, put out of the orphanage and onto the streets.
Our partner, Global Orphan Project, has always been well aware of the potential tragedy this brings. Jake Barreth, a field manager with GO Project says, “Trade and professional schools are a dime a dozen in Haiti, but orphans don’t meet the requirements for admission. Orphans come from extreme environments where education is put on the back-burner because families are just trying to survive. Most orphans are massively undereducated. At 18 they are probably at a first- or second-grade level.”
Three and a half years ago, GO Project began exploring an option for youths who age out of the orphanage. They looked at providing a place for the young people to live while learning skills to help them be productive citizens in Haiti. They developed a program, called Pathways, which was launched on September 1, 2013.
Pathways is a two-year program that gives students the skills that they need to work in the sustainability businesses owned by Global Orphan. They are housed at the Jumecourt Inn in Port-au-Prince, which also serves as GO Project’s headquarters in Haiti. Currently, three young men from the Faith-sponsored Desiré orphanage are enrolled in the program.
There are two tracks in Pathways – sewing and cooking or home agriculture and chicken farming. The classrooms and fields are on location at Jumecourt. GO Project also purchased property across the street that will house 80 additional students.
The goal of Pathways is to place students in jobs. GO Project has established relationships with major textile industries in Port-au-Prince and with Haiti Broilers, the largest producers of poultry in the Caribbean. These businesses have made agreements with GO Project to give Pathways students preferential treatment when hiring. Global Orphan also offers small business loans and stipends to students who graduate from the program.
In addition to trade skills, the program teaches students life skills like using public transportation, cooking, going to the market, managing a budget, personal hygiene, and being respectful to your boss. Jake believes this is the most important aspect of the program.
Pathways’ students come from GO orphanages all over the country. Many will return to their home towns to look for employment. Global Orphan is in communication with the local churches they partner with. Their hope is that the home church will help students find a place to live and to re-integrate into the body of the church.