Imagine a child learning to ride a bike for the first time. They start out with training wheels, so they won’t lose their balance. Once they’re removed, a trusted adult stays close behind, holding on. Although still unsteady, the guiding hand behind them prevents their fall. Eventually, the child pedals alone and risks falling. If they do wobble, they know how to handle it, because of the safe adult who taught them.
Children the world over learn to ride bikes in this way. Similarly, children need adults behind them to take them to school, map out their dreams, and guide them as they plan for their future. For orphaned and vulnerable children in Haiti, Back2Back has had their hand on the back of their bikes since 2013. Together, we are watching them learn new skills and believe in all they are capable of.
Children like Rose Guerline and Diackenson have grown up in a Back2Back-partner children’s home, Jesus Name. In their time there, they’ve learned independence and accountability. They’ve considered their futures through education and learning special skills, and have grown socially through visiting mission teams and connecting with peers. They have grown and changed with the ever-present support of Back2Back staff, caregivers, and sponsors. They have lived with the safety net of training wheels and are now taking a step without them, as they become the first two students in Haiti’s Back2Back Hope Education Program.
In August of this year, Rose Guerline and Diackenson moved from Jesus Name Children’s Home to new homes with their Hope Parents, in nearby communities. “Having the children stay in homes in the community was very intentional as we planned what the Hope Program would look like here,” shared Matt Ellis, Back2Back Haiti Director. Community integration allows the teens to have healthy expectations for life after the Hope Program. It allows them to experience being part of a larger community and fosters the building of relationship with those around them. While in the Hope Program, the teens will continue their studies in school and prepare for life afterwards.
As they prepared to transition from a children’s home to living with a family, both teens regularly connected with their individual house parents, getting to know each couple and sharing their lives with them. Rose Guerline called her Hope Parents every Sunday before moving in, sharing about her week and what she was learning. Each teen made connections almost instantly with their individual parents. Diackenson shared, “When we connect, it is always joy.”
“Our deepest hope is Rose Guerline will feel a part of our family, not an outside member who is part of a program,” shared Clarens, her Hope Father. “We want her integration into our home and family to be smooth, and we look forward to supporting her and helping her learn necessary life skills to be a successful adult.”
Life skills training will be an integral part of the Hope Program experience in Haiti. From food management and nutrition, to budgeting and spiritual engagement, one of the main focuses for the teens is preparation for everyday life. “We’re encouraging the parents to intentionally help the teens with specific skills,” explained Matt. “When the couples do their family budgets, we want the teens to be a part of that process, and eventually do it for themselves.” Matt, along with staff psychologist, Jean Wilner Louis and Hope Program Director, Lucson Jeannot, developed a check-list/rating system for these life skills. Over the course of their time in the program, the teens will be evaluated on how well they’re mastering those skills. “From personal hygiene to bartering well at local markets, we want to make sure Diackenson and Rose Guerline have the confidence to care for themselves. At the end of their two years, the vision is they will have the skills to find a job, or continue on with more education, and sustainably live on their own.”
Rose Guerline and Diackenson look forward to this opportunity and feel grateful to be the first two students in the Hope Program. “Being a Hope Student means I have opportunities before me, and I have people I can trust to help me along the way,” shared Diackenson. He hopes to become an accountant and doesn’t really feel nervous about this new chapter in his life. “I am excited for what is to come, and I know I will accomplish my goals.”
“I am proud to be one of the first Hope Students,” shared Rose Guerline. “I know this will offer me opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have.” She hopes to become a nurse and is both excited and nervous about becoming a new family member in her new home.
Jesus Name Children’s Home Director, Esaie Jean Louis, has raised Diackson and Rose Guerline and has been an invaluable part in their growth and preparation for this moment. He told them, at a recent celebration to send off the two Hope Students, “You may be leaving Jesus Name, but you will always be a part of Jesus Name. No matter where you go, you are welcome here always.”
As this new program in Haiti kicks off, Back2Back staff look forward to each teen reaching for their future. It is with joy we share this news and ask for prayer as Diackenson and Rose Guerline take bold steps forward, becoming a part of loving families, and believing in their capabilities. The training wheels are off, and with guiding hands, they ride into the future.