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Ending Poverty Through Education

A Mission of Tomorrows Bread Today
Under the Direction of Karen and Niels Bentsen

Across the United States school is back in session and the children can be secure in knowing that their education through high school is fully funded. Where the types and levels of education may vary, the opportunity to gain an education is a constant and provides one pathway out of poverty for even the most disadvantaged. This is not the case in Latin America and El Salvador particularly. Although, 90% of El Salvadoran children attend primary school only 69% of these children go past the 5th grade and of that 69% only 16% will graduate high school. The staggering consequence of such a low high school graduation rate is a contributing factor to the cycle of poverty that has repressed the economy of El Salvador for the last 120 years and led to the increasing migration of refugees from Central America to North America to seek the opportunity to gain education and employment.

Even though the cycle of poverty has persisted for over a century that does not mean that the trend cannot be reversed. In 2001 an earthquake hit the small community of Verapaz, El Salvador. Church missionary groups and international aid organizations went to the region to help the community rebuild. After a few months the missionaries and the aid organizations left and though the houses were repaired the ability for the community youth to attend school was severely lacking. This is where Karen and Niels Bentsen began their mission to help bring access to education to the children of the Verapaz community.

Karen and Niels discovered that in El Salvador in 2001 education was not widely funded beyond the 5th grade. This was due to the labor laws that allow for children as young as 10 to begin working in the sugarcane or coffee plantations which in 2001 paid total wages of three dollars per day. Recent changes in education law (2015) have increased funding to the 8th grade but it is too soon to see if the change in law will impact graduation rates as the labor laws remain the same and many young children have to abandon an education track in order to help their family earn enough money to survive.

Now 17 years later the mission continues and has had incredible success. Students sponsored through the Ending Poverty through Education (EPTE) program graduate at a 98% rate (only one has dropped out in 17 years). Three sponsored students have graduated college, two as teachers and one as an anesthesiologist. Currently, there are five more students from the EPTE program in college and on the path to graduation. By going directly through the community and the community leaders, the EPTE program is having a positive, measurable impact on the Verapaz community.

Now the EPTE mission is looking to continue the work in Verapaz and broaden its reach to other impoverished communities both in North and South America. The community-centered hands-on approach to breaking the poverty cycle through education is a model that can be replicated and help countless children rise out of generational poverty. To do this EPTE needs your support. For only 200 dollars per year, a students’ education in South America can be fully funded. One hundred percent of donations go directly to support the students’ educational needs. The goal of EPTE for 2018 is to raise 50 thousand dollars, and we are currently 43,000 dollars short of being able to help the students to which we have already committed and to expand the program that has proven itself over many years. Every donation counts.

EPTE is a Mission of Tomorrow’s Bread Today. The web site is tbt.org. TBT is a tax-exempt organization (501 c 3 ) and donations to the EPTE are fully deductible.

• If you would like more information, there is a preview of the published study on the mission.