Children grow up. Whether we want it, kids grow taller, more mature, and more independent. The children at the Greta Home and Academy in Haiti are no exception. Our kids are learning and growing every day. I love looking at old pictures of the children and seeing their chubby cheeks and little-kid grins. I’m always amazed and reminded about how good God is to us when I compare the baby-faced children from the pictures with the taller, older, more confident, and more spiritually-mature individuals that I know and love today.
Although I’ve only known the kids since August, I have loved experiencing the big milestones of childhood with them. I feel honored that God is allowing me to share special moments, such as birthdays, losing a first tooth, and prom, with His incredible children in Haiti.
As the kids mature, Greta Home and Academy is also growing and changing to continue offering a safe and loving home and school, while at the same time preparing our oldest children for life as adults. In 2015, we began a semi-independent living program to help the teenagers at the home gain important skills and more independence.
The program is designed to ensure that the teens are well-prepared for life when they leave Greta Home and Academy. The students are taught practical skills such as cooking, laundry, shopping, sewing, and personal finances. They attend both school and professional training to prepare them intellectually and vocationally for the future. Through these opportunities and others, our teens are growing into the Christian leaders God intended them to be.
Many of the teens in the program haven’t had opportunities to attend school consistently, and most have not completed primary school. As a result, the home created a special Greta Leadership Academy that the students attend each morning to gain important knowledge and skills they may have previously missed. One student named Edny appreciates the educational opportunities he has now.
“I was too old to be in regular school, but in the Greta Leadership Academy, I learn … things that help me in life,” he said.
Through the program, the students also learn subjects such as Creole, French, English, math, civics, computers, and Biblical leadership. Johnny recognizes the importance of his studies, saying that his favorite class, English, “can help me open any door.”
After morning classes, the students attend vocational training at schools in the community to learn technical skills that they can use to pursue careers in the future. The teens study trades such as window installation, electricity, masonry, cooking, cosmetology, and plumbing. Several times a week, three of the boys work alongside the mechanics at the Samaritan’s Purse base as part of an internship program to give them training and hands-on experience in auto mechanics. Our four girls studying cosmetology also recently began an apprenticeship program, allowing them to practice the skills they learn in their classes at a local beauty salon.
I love seeing the students use the vocational skills they learn to help with projects at the Greta Home or in the community. In February, the girls in the cosmetology program blessed several women from a local church by doing their hair and nails. Other students enjoy working alongside the maintenance team at Greta Home and Academy to put their knowledge into practice.
All of the boys moved into two nearby houses with youth counselors. Under the guidance of the Greta Home and Academy maintenance team, the boys used the skills they learned at school to renovate their new homes in the community, and, at the same time, they benefited from the years of experience and additional knowledge of the maintenance staff.
Edny, who is studying to be an electrician, helped install lights.
“I was so proud of that, and after we finished the work the maintenance supervisor congratulated us,” he said.
The Joy of the Lord
I’m proud of the teens for working so hard and learning the technical skills necessary to improve their homes, bless their neighbors, and pursue careers in the future. I hope the other teens, like Edny, experience the same sense of pride when they look at the work they accomplish, and I especially desire that they always stop to thank God for the blessings of knowledge, education, and experience.
While learning languages and gaining vocational skills are certainly important, even more significant is the character and spiritual growth the teens experience through the program. The students follow a life skills curriculum to build Christian character and gain a Biblical perspective on topics like dating and marriage, self-identity, time and money management, social skills, and health and hygiene. They are currently working through learning about self-identity and especially their identities in Christ. Edny enjoys the curriculum and says it helps him better understand his role in society as a Christian.
“I am a model for others, so I need to do the right thing in everything,” he said.
As they discuss these important aspects of Christian character and Bible-based life skills, the students have opportunities to put what they learn into practice through the incentive program. Based on the ranking system, the program rewards the teens as they reach physical, mental, spiritual, and social milestones. Each month, the students are expected to meet a variety of goals, which include achieving academic success, participating in community service, memorizing and understanding Bible verses, demonstrating responsibility, and maintaining a healthy and Christ-honoring lifestyle.
Depending on their progress, the teens achieve higher ranks and more privileges, such as extra computer time, a special outing, or an increased allowance. Junior, one of the youth advisors, recognizes that through the program, the teens are maturing and learning about the importance of responsibility and Christian character.
“Even if someone gives you a little responsibility, you need to take care of it because the person trusts you,” said Anèse, who is participating in the program. “And if you take good care of it, you will be given bigger responsibilities.”
This is the same as what Jesus teaches in Matthew 25:23b: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (NKJV).
As the students discuss their identities in Christ and learn about leading a Christ-honoring life, they mature in their faith. These young men and women may have careers in their chosen fields for many years, but their spiritual growth will impact them for an eternity. I pray that no matter how much the Greta Home children grow and change, they never stop learning and seeking their Heavenly Father who loves them so beautifully.