Faces of Sumba: members of an indigenous tribe on the island. Most of their tribe members chew areca nut, an addictive seed also known as betel nut, which stains their mouths red.
Many sponsored children’s parents are illiterate. Experts in subsistence farming, the Sumbanese used to place most educational emphasis on how to grow crops. Although most Sumbanese kids now complete primary school, most don’t receive the quality of education they deserve. It is common for children to show up at public school in neatly pressed uniforms, eager to learn, only to wait for a teacher who doesn’t come.
Secondary school poses a bigger problem for parents who struggle to grow enough food to sell for income. Unlike primary school, which is free, secondary school requires a tuition payment of 1.8 million rupiah, about $137, each semester. Without secondary school, children lack the skills required for higher education or careers in agriculture and Indonesia’s tourism industry. Sponsorship through Compassion helps Sumbanese families afford these otherwise out-of-reach school fees. More important, however, the program provides additional education in a community with a substandard school system. Dedicated tutors meet with kids at Compassion centers up to four times a week after school to make sure they are progressing in their studies.