When Wilkins was young, he did math for fun. On vacation from school, he would entertain himself by doing the hardest exercises he could find in his math books.“There was always something challenging me, even if there was no class and no teacher,” says Wilkins. His parents never had to encourage him because they saw that he was already so dedicated to his books, which he says were his “best friends.”
Wilkins also knew that by educating himself he could change his family’s dire financial situation. His father worked as a teacher, but, following the death of the school’s principal, he often went months without being paid. Meanwhile, after losing her job in a factory, Wilkins’s mother moved from their home in Jérémie, in western Haiti, to Miragoane, more than three hours away. There she sold used clothing, returning home once a week to share her meager earnings with the family.
Wilkins was not accepted into HELP the first time he applied. Ironically, he thinks it was because they believed he was too well off. “I was a little timid in the interview about exposing my financial situation,” he says. “I presented it like my family was going through a tough time that would sort itself out, but it wasn’t just a crisis, it was an illness. The next year, I reapplied. That time, I didn’t hide anything and was admitted.”
Wilkins describes his entry into HELP as “a miracle.” “It wasn’t just a relief for me,” he says. “It was a relief for my entire family, because we no longer had to worry about how to pay for things like meals and photocopies.”