Branch Schools was invited to attend the Dodge/Washington Lutheran Women's Mission Society rally on April 17th in Slinger, Wisconsin, and delivered a presentation to an audience of 100 people. This presentation shared the history of Haiti and information about the Vodou religion, as well as background on the WELS involvement and founding of Branch Schools, and the current operations and ministry.
Branch Schools was represented by Lee and Linda Petersen (Chair of the Board and Special Projects Coordinator), Emily and Caleb Helmen (Development Coordinator and volunteer), and Mike Nichols (board member). Attendees were able to ask questions, visit a table of information, and take home brochures, magnets, business cards, and more.
This rally was the first public event for Branch Schools since 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are incredibly excited to begin visiting churches, schools, and rallies again to share the wonderful story of Branch Schools! Thank you to the LWMS rally for the invitation and for providing an excellent space to present.
The powerful message of God's hand at Branch Schools reached the hearts of those in attendance, and the rally raised over $1,000 for the vital work in Haiti. Praise be to God!
As Branch Schools looks forward to reaching more audiences, we are seeking more presenters! Long-distance travel still presents a challenge to Branch Schools, but there are many groups across the country that haven't heard about this amazing ministry.
To expand our capabilities for presenting, we are developing a program for volunteers who would like to represent Branch Schools in their communities. If you are interested in helping us reach more areas and becoming a volunteer, please let us know and we will make sure to keep you in the loop. Keep an eye out for more information!
If you know of a church, group, organization, or event that would be interested in hosting a
presentation from Branch Schools, we would love to hear from you! We can currently travel to most
of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the surrounding states. Email us or use our contact form online to
share your suggestions!
Branch Schools is blessed to have provided funding for the Pilate middle school since 2019, after one of the churches served by Pastor Rona requested help from Branch Schools to begin a middle school in the 2019-2020 school year. There is an amazing opportunity in Pilate to provide further education for students from the 6 elementary schools in the surrounding area, and especially to share God's Word with these children.
We are so proud of the students and the hard work they put in every day!
On March 17, Branch Schools received a series of heartwarming photos from Director Boursiquot. The pictures show three children from nine years ago as they received a health check-up, and those same children as happy and healthy students today.
Tish Meek, the nurse in the photos, is a volunteer and friend of Branch Schools. She has been to Haiti numerous times to visit the schools and provide much-needed wellness checks and medical care. Thank you, Tish!
We thank God for the immense blessings of health and growth to these precious children in Haiti!
Following recent protests, political clashes, kidnappings, and even the presidential assassination attempt in February, it is easy to look at Haiti right now and feel that there is an overwhelming shadow blocking out all light and hope. Basic necessities like food, clean water, and electricity are growing to be luxuries for many.
At Branch Schools, these struggles are experienced firsthand by the young students. High food prices and difficult traveling conditions restrict access to the meals, snacks, and cistern water delivery that Branch Schools funds. The rising danger has also forced many parents to keep their children at home for safety.
Director Yvette in Smyrne operates the largest school and orphanage of Branch Schools, with 470 students currently able to attend. For four months, she and the children have suffered a lack of electricity resulting from the extreme economic hardship affecting people all across Haiti. Yvette's electricity was provided by a private company that serviced the whole area, but her neighbors became unable to pay for their portion. Eventually, the electric company shut off the power and removed the electrical boxes, leaving the entire neighborhood--including Yvette's orphanage and school--completely without electricity. Once the sun goes down, there is no light on the premises at all. The orphans who reside there are unable to do their work and studies and the school classrooms cannot be lit.
Yvette hopes to purchase solar panels at a cost of $2,745 and install them at her school. These desperately-needed panels can eliminate the reliance on electric companies and bring light back into the orphanage and classrooms for the hundreds of children who are struggling in this darkness.
Yet, in the midst of the physical darkness across Haiti, Jesus' eternal light shines clearly. The message of salvation proclaimed at Branch Schools includes these comforting words: "Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12)
We thank God for His constant presence at Branch Schools and for touching the hearts of so many people who donate to keep the schools open. With your help, Branch Schools can both continue to share the saving light of God's grace and bring back the physical light to fill the darkness once again.
Will you please consider donating to Yvette's solar panel fund? If 110 people give just $25, Yvette can bring the new solar panels home today!
Please help us share this message with your friends and family! (Any donations that exceed our $2,745 goal will go directly towards the other expenses of the schools.)
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:5)
Haiti made the news frequently in February, bringing attention to the growing unrest and political clashes. Protests are increasing in both frequency and intensity, reflecting the rising tensions. On February 10th, a large group of protestors took to the streets in Port-au-Prince and faced tear gas from the police. The road for Haiti to get here began five years ago, in February 2016.
According to Haiti's constitution, presidential elections are held in February and a president's term is five years. In February 2016, current president Jovenel Moise narrowly won a run-off but was unable to take office when the election was contested. It took a year for the election to be resolved, and Moise was not sworn in until February 2017.
Today, that gap year is making a big difference. Moise and his supporters claim that his term will end in February 2022 because it didn't begin until 2017. His opponents argue that Moise should step down now because he won the election originally in 2016. Calls for Moise to end his term began in early February and quickly turned violent in an assassination attempt on February 7.
All of the uncertainty, division, and unrest has brought tensions to a breaking point. There are gangs moving throughout Haiti robbing anyone they can, especially those carrying cash, but they face no consequences. It is not safe to travel, restricting food trucks from making deliveries and sending food prices skyrocketing. Schools were closed for over a week in February out of concern for the safety of children amidst kidnappings.
Branch Schools also closed temporarily to protect the students. The three schools in the Port-au-Prince area, where much of the protesting is occurring, remained closed longer than expected--a little over a week. The Pilate middle school was able to reopen sooner due to being in a safer area. The increasing difficulty of buying and receiving food deliveries has also affected Branch Schools, which provides nutritious snacks to students at Carrefour and Smyrne and a full meal to every orphan.
We thank God for His protecting hand on Branch Schools and pray that the tensions and danger in all of Haiti will cease soon, and ask for your continued prayers as well. We know that God is watching over Haiti and He has a plan. These difficult times are also an opportunity for us to share the comfort and healing found in God's Word, and we are happy that school has resumed so that the children at Branch Schools continue to receive this spiritual nourishment. Please don't hesitate to contact Branch Schools with any questions!
Emily Helmen, Development Coordinator
Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti, Inc.
The water cistern at our orphanage school in Smyrne is running dry - and we’re joyful, excited, and grateful!
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Isaiah 12:3
No, we’re not happy about the water problem (more on that in a minute). We’re overjoyed because of the incredible reason behind this emergency: The school that meets at the Smyrne orphanage has grown from 35 students in 2015 to 489 today, greatly increasing the demand on its resources!
Just think. By the small cistern pictured above, hundreds of children are flocking to Jesus where their lives are changed. They are receiving living water and literacy, the Bible and the ability to read it for themselves.
To meet the growing demand, Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti added classrooms and increased the campus sanitation facilities. We’re now building more cisterns to triple the water capacity. A truck arrives monthly to fill the cisterns with drinking water. The Branch Schools in Carrefour, Leogane, and Pilate are also rapidly growing. We anticipate a total of more than 1,000 students for the 2020-2021 school year!
God has entrusted us with an awesome opportunity in Haiti. He is the one filling the classrooms. He is the one filling the hearts of children with the hope of salvation. We can share the work by filling the cisterns with drinking water.
Please support Branch Schools. We ask for your prayers for the students. Please pray that God will continue to bless the ministry and strengthen the hands of all who support it. Then, please give the best financial gift you can. Your gift will be carefully put to use to provide water, teachers, classroom supplies, nutrition, basic healthcare, and, above all, the living water that Jesus promised long ago at another well:
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13,14
Thank you, friends, for your ongoing love, prayers, and support for the children of Haiti!
Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti, Inc., a non-profit that funds elementary and middle school education and nutrition for more than 900 students in Haiti, is pleased to announce the addition of its new Development Coordinator, Emily Kjeer. She will assist with marketing, media outreach, coordinating volunteer activities, and donor relations. The addition of a Development Coordinator was made possible by a grant from the Antioch Foundation.
“Hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.” These words instantly spring to mind when you read the uplifting news from the four Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti where students are safely gaining an education during the Covid-19 crisis. God continues to pour his blessings on these precious students!
Even before the pandemic reached Haiti, there were difficulties. National Pastor Rona Abraham writes, “The educational need in Haiti has been one of the most urgent needs in the country. Forty percent of the children in the population do not have access to education. Private schools are very expensive and public schools are not enough. It is possible to have 100 students in a primary school classroom, in high school, 200 students. In this way (only) the most active is educated.”
“Thursday, March 19, 2020 they have found the first case of Covid-19,” Pastor Rona says. “The president made the decision to close all public and private activities. For my part, I spoke with the Academic Director and the principals to continue with the program at home with the tasks of the students.”
School and Orphanage Director Luxon Boursiquot writes from Carrefour, “Many schools cannot maintain and risk losing the year because the students cannot pay their tuition so that the school can meet its commitments financial to the teachers. We say thank you to God because, thanks to Branch Schools sponsors, we are sure we can pay our teachers and, in fact, they are still there to help our children, thank you to each donor.”
Like children in the United States, students at Branch Schools must now learn outside a classroom. Boursiquot explains, “Teachers have all the teaching materials with them - all the activities to be carried out from the first day of class until the closure of all school activities in the country. Thanks to this program, the inspection section of the Ministry of Education, the school administration can monitor in real time the progress or not of a classroom or a teacher or a school compared to another school. In this Covid-19 period, the task becomes more complicated because, during normal times, they prepare the lessons in a notebook predisposed to this but now, after this handwritten preparation (to teach in the classroom), they are obliged to type them so that the children can see the topics treated with all possible ease.”
Children living in the three orphanages receive their schoolwork there. The other students receive and return assignments on Monday mornings. “Each weekend,” explains Boursiquot, “the teachers come to bring a copy of the electronic file or his preparations which are validated by our Inspector, Mr. Jean, and the director of the school. The file is printed and the copies mimeographed. Every Monday, parents happily parade to collect the copies for their respective children. Before receiving the copies, the parent must submit the homework inserted in the copy of the previous week. This copy will be corrected in the next weekend and will find the child on Monday through his parents.” The graded lessons are returned to the children “continually, because we say that good or bad grades will stimulate children and help them make more effort.”
Branch Schools’ students will take final exams in person. “We will arrange to have them come in groups of five if things do not get better in the coming days. All the children have to undergo tests and a final test to be entitled to a higher class because each year, at the end of the school year, we must send a list of children by class with the marks obtained and the final mention of decision. The final exam will be done in the classroom under the indirect control of state officials because they will have to (approve) the children’s pass mark and update their databases.”
In Haiti, the school year typically ends in June but, this year, they will end in late July or early August. “With the new situation,” Boursiquot writes, “there will be several changes. The closing date will be extended, the programming will also decrease. (As of) April 24, the state followed us by setting up a program similar to ours, however, with shortcomings because the country has no electricity.”
“Haiti is a country that lives in turbulence,” Boursiquot explains. “There is inequality, black misery, despair, exploitation, merit is a function of class, of social rank. We have had already a friendship with the general closure of activities! One month after the opening of classes in September 2019, there were violent political demonstrations that led everyone to stay at home. The children were forced not to come to school. The Lutheran directors had a meeting to see the best method not to lose the school year. In three days, we had a meeting with all the teachers to present the plan we had for the operation of our schools.” With an emergency plan and funding in place, more than 950 students at Branch Schools were able to continue learning this year.
“Hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.” During this difficult time, we sincerely thank God for blessing the schools with growth and sustainability, for inspiring the directors and teachers to persevere, and for moving the hearts of friends like you to help raise the gospel torch in Haiti!
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
Around the globe, people are responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. For those who have been ordered to shelter in place, there is no gathering for worship. There are shortages of food and basic hygiene products. Children are unable to go to school. Many adults are unable to work and fearful about how they will survive financially. The health care system is strained to its limits. These experiences are new and, until recently, unthinkable for people in developed countries. But, for most of us, the experience is temporary.
In Haiti, the unthinkable is everyday life – food shortages, businesses closed by a crisis, economic turmoil, lack of health care, limited education. As Covid-19 covers the island, the pain will only deepen. Instead of food shortages, the threat of starvation. Instead of limited health care, no access to health care. Instead of offering church online as American pastors can, several Haitian pastors were arrested March 22 for offering church services in person.
“Bad news for us.” The message came from one of our orphanage directors in Haiti. “Corona virus come. School will close tomorrow. Only 50 beds for all the country. No foods no cleaning products. Many problems. God knows.” Yes. God knows - and promises to help.
“For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:13.
One of the ways God will help in Haiti is through his people - ordinary people like you and me who are blessed to know that Jesus Christ gave his life to redeem us. He will help through those who understand the urgency of sharing this message with as many people as possible. That’s why, even in troubled times, we think of Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti with joy. More than 950 children are learning the gospel, reading it for themselves, and sharing it with others. The schools are growing rapidly and God continues to provide exciting opportunities. With your support, we added a middle school in 2019 and we’re preparing to open four vocational training centers this year so orphans reaching the age of 18 and adults from the community can learn marketable skills and receive spiritual support.
We know God will bring Branch Schools through this current crisis. Because of seeds planted and systems in place, students and teachers are already better equipped to endure. Please continue to support this vital work.
We pray God will keep you safe as you work through the challenge of Covid-19 in your own life. Our friends in Haiti pray for you also. There, even school children understand crisis – they have known little else. Praise God that through your love, prayers, and gifts, they, too, have hope of a better tomorrow on earth and eternity in heaven!
Lee Petersen, Chairman of the Board of Directors, and all your friends at Branch Schools
Branch Lutheran Schools of Haiti, Inc.