At times it can be difficult explaining to friends and family what one does for an occupation. Many have a well-rehearsed mixer pitch that takes about 15-seconds to explain what they do in a nutshell. If the listener seems truly curious and engaged they might then move on to the elevator pitch that lasts closer to 90-seconds and provides the listener with a few pertinent details so they can grasp the general idea of what they do. However, it is rare that someone truly takes the time to understand our daily lives and therefore we can at times be at a loss for clearly explaining the nature of our jobs, why we do what we do, and the nature of what we do when someone is genuinely interested in understanding at a deeper level.
I have often found this to be true when sharing about Edify and my role in the Dominican Republic.  I begin to share about my vocation and people often just smile and say, “That’s so great you are doing that work,”  after they learn I work for a “non-profit” outside the United States of America that works with “poor people” or “people living in poverty” as I prefer to describe them.  This post marks the beginning of a series of three posts in which I will delve into the work of Edify; explaining the WHAT, WHY, and HOW of our organization.  Something I can’t sufficiently do in my 90-second elevator pitch.

To begin, it is essential to understand the need. As of 2010, 61 million children of primary school age and another 71 million children of lower secondary school age were still out of school*.  This number is staggering when you think about the implications of what it means to be a child that isn’t in school and the fact that these children probably are not playing club soccer all day.  Even when children are in public school, the level of education is far from what you (yes you, the one reading this blog) would likely consider an acceptable education. Facilities are overcrowded, frequently with 50-60 children per classroom, teachers are often absent due to strikes or lack of accountability, and violence can be so prevalent that parents would rather their children don’t even attend school. Governments are not providing sufficient access nor sufficient quality to teach children critical thinking skills, technical skills or vocational skills that will prepare them to understand the world around them and work towards creating a better life for them, their families and their communities.

The solution is low-cost private schools.  This is not a solution that we came up with, but rather a phenomenon that can be seen in developing countries around the world.  Schools that are sustained on $2-25 per month are able to survive and provide a better quality education than a student would get in a public school.

“Mi Casita” in the midst of building a 2nd floor with the help of a loan from Edify.

The facilities may not be ornate, they are certainly very different than most peoples conception of a “private school”, but they are filled with passionate teachers and driven leaders who want to serve their communities. You can learn more on low-cost private schools by checking out The Beautiful Tree by James Tooley.

Edify comes alongside low-cost private Christian schools because we want to support not only a better education for students, but to help create an environment where they can come to know the love of Christ and the salvation we find in Him.  So we do not plant new schools or sponsor individual children, but rather we directly support existing low-cost schools to achieve a better-quality, Christian education that reaches more children. We do this through 3 principle means;

1)      Access to low cost capital for school expansion, improvement and operations.

2)      Teacher and school leadership training to raise the quality of education, increase Christ-centered learning and more effectively operate the school.

3)      Providing access to curriculum and technology resources when appropriate to help schools achieve their mission.

Through these 3 methods, we support a local solution that addresses the issues of access and quality. As low-cost private schools proliferate and grow, more physical school space will exist and a better quality of education will be made available to more people.  In the posts to come, I will delve into more detail about the 3 methods we use to support these school owners in their endeavors

* Reference: United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization