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Illiteracy is the taproot of the generational poverty seen in this little boy's face.

Illiteracy: The Taproot of Generational Poverty

Illiteracy is the taproot of the generational poverty seen in this little boy's face.

“Ignorance is bliss” is a saying taken from a poem written 275 years ago. It means “what you don’t know won’t hurt you.” It’s a questionable notion for sure, and for children in poor countries ignorance is the opposite of bliss. Without the ability to read, write, or understand simple math, children from poor families are all but doomed to become another generation plagued by poverty and misery.

Over the years, I have visited poor countries all over the globe. When I talk about what I’ve seen, people often ask, “Why are those people so poor — is it because they are lazy?” There’s a long list of reasons why people are poor, but entire communities are not lazy. More often than not, these people work very hard, but try as they might, they can’t break the chains that bind them to a life of poverty. Willingness to work is a prerequisite, but hard work alone does not buy a ticket out of the slums. The taproot of generational poverty is lack of education.

The ramshackle home of an impoverished family in Haiti.

Thomas Jefferson wrote about two classes of people: the labored and the learned. If someone cannot read, they can be easily manipulated, taken advantage of, and even enslaved by those heartless and greedy enough to use poor people like beasts of burden. Operation Blessing is fighting poverty by making basic education available to some of the poorest families in the world. With your support, we build, renovate, and support elementary schools that empower children by teaching them to read, write, and understand arithmetic. These are the bare-bones tools they need to break the cycles of suffering.

Here’s an example of one of our schools:

This girl will have a chance to break out of poverty thanks to an OBI school in her community.

Medan Belize is a small village in the Haitian countryside several miles off the road on the way to the Dominican Republic. The only access is by walking or driving a 4×4 across rugged, steep terrain. The area suffers from a brutal desert-like microclimate where it hardly ever rains, so all that grows from the bone dry, rocky terrain are thorn bushes and cacti. The village of one-room homes built of mud-caulked sticks is located on the shore of Haiti’s largest lake. The blue lake looks pristine from a distance, but the water is brackish (salty), which makes it useless for drinking and poisonous to crops. The men of the village drag homemade nets from crude wooden sailboats, but all that the fished-out lake yields is a bucket of minnows for a long day of labor in the sun.

The 500 or so residents of Medan Belize are among the poorest of the poor in Haiti. When we first visited in 2010, many of the children suffered from malnutrition and played in tattered shorts or even naked, covered only by a layer of gray dust. The closest school was a five mile walk away, and parents had no money for uniforms or shoes so the children stayed home — destined to follow their folks into a life of miserable poverty.

A school built in the Haitian community of Medan Belize by Operation Blessing.

First, we addressed the drinking water dilemma, and then built a tiny school on the water’s edge. In 2013, we secured funding from a corporate donor, bought a small piece of property on a hill overlooking the lake, and built a six-room concrete school building with solar powered lights and a 6,000 gallon safe water cistern. We couldn’t find enough teachers willing to commute, so we hired several skilled teachers to train local women to teach, and then opened our doors for kindergarten through third grade. A year later, we built another building and expanded up to sixth grade. The school has even offered evening adult literacy classes. Last year, we had 286 students enrolled in grades K-6. The kids love it and are blossoming.

Kids at OBI's school in Haiti receive nutritious meals.

Besides academics and Bible study, we offer PE, martial arts, chess, and other sports, and we also fund a nutrition program that feeds each student twice a day. The change in the children and community since we opened the school is stunning. Kids who were running around naked are now stellar students dressed in neat uniforms. Some have even become skillful chess players and have won national competitions. It’s so encouraging to see the impact that this school has made. Children who were destined to live a life of abject poverty now have a fighting chance to break the chains that bound the generations before them.

Students at a Haitian school learn chess.

Your support makes this school and others like it possible. Please continue to help us shine the bright light of education in Haiti and in other struggling countries.

Happy students at OBI's school in Haiti.

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