In 2001, Johnson Cirius was one of the many children living in Saint Marc, Haiti who struggled each day with poverty. As the son of a woman who sold clothes in the market to make ends meet, Johnson lived in a small, two-room house with his five stepbrothers and sisters. There was no running water or electricity. There was very little food to go around.
“Growing up, my modest childhood always served as a source of motivation and determination,” Johnson explained. “Miserable lodging, hunger, loneliness, and many other setbacks combined to make life difficult.”
That same year, the Mortel High Hopes for Haiti Foundation opened Les Bons Samaritains (LBS), a primary school that would become the first of a group of schools focused on providing a quality education to the poorest of the poor in Saint Marc, Haiti.
As the doors opened to welcome 65 kindergarteners, Johnson’s life was changed because he was one of the 5-year-olds who walked through those doors that hopeful day.
“When I started school, things got better for me and my family,” Johnson said. “Although I had to walk 30 minutes to get to school every day, the education was good and I didn’t have to worry about finding something to eat because I got to eat at school.”
At a young age, Johnson fully understood the advantage he was given and was grateful for the opportunity to attend LBS.
“For other children, they would go home from school and look for food to eat, but I was lucky and got to play after school because I was already fed,” he added.
As a student of LBS, Johnson was provided free tuition, daily meals, school supplies, medical care, dental and vision care, and character formation. For a child living in the poorest country in the western hemisphere where just over 47% of the population is illiterate, this was a life changing opportunity—and he took full advantage of the situation.
Johnson worked very hard in school and was always at the top of his class.
“We learned principles that put us on a good path for life. My first-grade teacher, Ritha, really helped me and encouraged me to do well and to work hard in school. I wanted to work hard in school and keep my place at the top of the class.”
As the High Hopes for Haiti educational system expanded to include College James M. Stine, a secondary school, Johnson continued his education and flourished. He graduated from James Stine in 2015 and is a proud member of the first graduating class of the High Hopes for Haiti education system.
Dr. Rodrigue Mortel, the Founder and President of the organization, said that Johnson represents one of the successes of what has been created in Saint Marc.
“Johnson is one of the first students to go through our entire program,” explained Dr. Mortel. “He is one of the first fruits of the program and to watch him continue his education and plan for his future, which includes giving back to his native Haiti brings us great satisfaction and joy.”
Currently, Johnson is attending college in Florida where he is studying computer science and economics. Upon finishing his studies, he will gain experience in his field of study and will work towards becoming a CEO of a United States-based company.
“My goal is to someday return to Haiti where I can use my education, skills and experience to pour back into my native country including the community that gifted me the opportunity to become educated. It was the gift of education at a very early age that empowered me to work hard and pushed me to succeed.”
While Johnson cultivates and prepares for a successful future that will eventually take him back to Haiti, he recently joined our sponsorship family and is supporting a student in our preschool this year! This way, he is providing this child with the same hope and opportunity that he was given starting nearly two decades ago.