|Board Member Karen Stevenson of South Carolina,|
CSNV School Principal Ludner St. Amour of Haiti,
Board President Marcia Fisher of Tennessee
with sponsorship bios for Christian School of New Vision
Christian friends Karen Stevenson, Marcia Fisher and Ludner St. Amour gathered recently with others in East Tennessee for an early Thanksgiving meal of sorts. While the aroma of food poured from the oven and they waiting on more friends to arrive, they shared what they're doing to help the poorest children in Haiti overcome starvation and poverty.
Marcia and Paul Fisher were hosting the low-key event at their home. Marcia, who serves as president of the US board for the Christian School of New Vision, explained how a dollar per day is needed to help feed and educate each of the school's 800 children. The Fishers, well respected in the faith community, volunteer countless hours to the program, as do all board members and even the Haitian school principal. "Whatever money comes in for the sponsorship program is only to be used for feeding the children, paying for teachers' salaries, things like paper, pencils and chalk, anything concerned with their education...and we're not meeting what we need to accomplish that." The Fishers and other Americans were hosting St. Amour while he visited several US churches to give updates on the school and encourage new donors.
Saving impoverished children and giving them hope through education is certainly not unique to this program. What sets it apart is the simplicity of it all. The CSNV ministry is working, even sustainable, because it has grassroots support in Haiti and is providing a future through local jobs. Recent medical missions to the La Jeune area near the school included a Haitian physician whose medical school tuition was paid by an Indianapolis church. The school currently keeps a staff of around 100 Haitians who teach, clean, garden and build what's needed. When supplies are required, wooden desks and tables are made or purchased locally, saving expensive shipping costs and fuel. The program runs on zero US overhead dollars because all tasks and even office supplies are donated.
Karen Stevenson met St. Amour during a 2005 visit to her church then in Virginia. She now tells fellow parishioners about CSNV at Church of the Palms in Bluffont, South Carolina. Stevenson says the school's story is impressive and so are the numbers that back up the accountability. Stevenson is a hard sell when it comes to finance, being an accountant herself. "100% of what you give to this group goes to help the children. Or if you designate your money for construction at the school or pay for a teacher's salary, whatever, it all goes 100%. We don't raise enough money to cover the whole budget anymore. And Ludner donates part of his pay from raising sugarcane; he's unpaid for Christian School of New Vision
. All of the board members are unpaid. We do these trips to come to the meetings, we don't get any reimbursement or anything, so 100% of anybody's donation goes for what they want it for at the Christian School of New Vision. You can hardly find that on Charity Navigator on the computer."
Whether it comes to stretching donors' dollars, volunteer hours or on-the-ground resources, this little school is bursting at the seams with efficiency. Construction is simple block buildings, with a main campus and now three satellite campuses. Students at this free school pass government tests at rates well above the national average, while working in classrooms with as many as 86 students to one teacher. They're still lucky if they have a book of their own or occasional shared use of a computer that might run off generator power. Local teachers are passing on a love of learning, giving students hope for careers and futures. Fisher said of the principal's management skills, "Ludner is really good at identifying people with potential and helping them develop that potential. It's just a blessing to work with him."
People at various churches in at least eight states support the CSNV so far, while the nonprofit is not connected to any particular church. You can learn more about the school at their website
(it's run on a shoestring, but is legitimate) or connect with the board president directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
about ways to support their efforts.