From Darkness to Light

Literacy rates in Haiti are among the worst in the world. But add a disability and it becomes almost impossible for a child to excel. Read how Compassion sponsorship helped one Haitian teen conquer the literacy gap.

From Darkness to Light

By: Ephraim Lindor, Haiti Communications Specialist   |   Posted: July 20, 2005

Blind for seven years, Idaline uses Braille to read.

Idaline Estyl sits placidly at a wooden desk as her fingers move furiously across yellow paper. Eyes closed, head bent, Idaline is reading, something that many children in this the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere cannot do. But what's even more incredible is that Idaline is reading in Braille. Idaline's fierce spirit of determination coupled with Compassion sponsorship has allowed this Haitian teen to conquer illiteracy.

From Light to Darkness

Growing up in Oìe, Idaline saw few avenues to escape poverty. Most people in her mountain community were like her father - farmers. Her father struggled to provide for Idaline, her four siblings and their mother on the meager income he earned growing corn and sweet potatoes. The struggle was mighty. Still there was hope.

A Compassion-assisted project opened and offered children in Oìe an opportunity for education and an invitation to get to know Jesus Christ. And at age 8, Idaline was registered into the project. But just a few years later, Idaline was returning home from school when she fell.

What seemed like a trivial event turned monumental as the young girl discovered she could no longer see. Over time, Idaline's eyes gradually deteriorated. Dejected and despairing, she was forced to drop out of school. Her opportunity for education had all but disappeared.

A Chance to Achieve

In general, only 57 percent of Haitian children attend primary school. Many families can't afford school fees. Other families need their children to work in order to survive. But children who have special needs - developmental, physical or mental disabilities - have little if any opportunity for education.

That's because there's only one school for children with special needs in Port-au-Prince, a city of nearly 1.3 million people. Consequently, many children with special needs are illiterate and never have the chance to rise above their impoverished circumstance. This was the future Idaline faced when she became blind at age 11.

But thanks to Compassion sponsorship, Idaline was admitted to Ecole Saint Vincent, a large school in downtown Port-au-Prince that serves children with visual, hearing, mental and orthopedic needs. The project pays the school's monthly fee of $29, an exorbitant amount for Idaline's farmer father.

Struggling but Spirited

Today, Idaline remains engaged in the struggle for education. Though she isn't advancing as fast as she'd like, her progress is improving. Thanks to her sponsor, the teen received a Braille typewriter, further allowing her to make more academic achievements. Recently she's been attacked by convulsions causing severe impairment to her health. But the Haitian teen remains defiantly determined to succeed in her studies.

"I pray the Lord continues to bless Compassion," Idaline says, "to support more children who have a disability."

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