The Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) is a church program that has been in operation since 2001. It is an initiative that helps youth in developing areas get an education that will enable them to rise out of the poverty. http://pef.lds.org/ If there are large numbers of young people participating in this program, Perpetual Education Missionaries are called to oversee the program. Some wards or branches also have teachers called to work with participants. If neither a PEF missionary or a teacher are available though, we will have the responsibility to work with those who are interested in accessing the funds. It isn’t just a matter or saying that they want money to attend a university or a technical school, students must complete a four-week course that prepares them to succeed. During those four weeks, they explore work possibilities and make a decision as to what they will pursue, they make a solid educational plan and then determine a financial plan including how much extra money will be needed for them to achieve their goals. Even after starting their education, there are steps that need to be completed. Eventually, when they have graduated and are working, they will begin to repay their loan so that others can access those funds to improve their lives.
Yesterday we went with our coordinator to for through one of the lessons with our first participant. It was such an amazing experience. We traveled far out of the city to a neighborhood of densely packed concrete houses, no bigger than most American’s front rooms. Even so, the young woman had made it beautiful with curtains, rugs and wall hangings. The house had no running water and she went to a common area to pour a pitcher of water, which she mixed with juice and a concentrate to offer us a drink. I certainly thought about my filtering water bottle, but we drank the refreshment offered so graciously and it was delicious. The young woman is a member of the church; in fact her husband is a counselor in one of the small branch bishoprics. She was a nurse and wanted to further her education. It was impossible to make exact parallels. Here they have a system of bars on the shoulder that signify a nurse’s training and what she is allowed to do. She had only the first, which was probably equivalent to an LPN, but she really hoped to eventually get three which would enable her to dispense medications and to supervise so I’m assuming that would be like our RN. It was so touching to hear her history. Her mother was an alcoholic so her grandparents raised her. Her grandfather became disabled when she was nine and her grandmother wasn’t able to take care of him so she became a “nurse” at nine. Now she was working to further her education so that she could bless her own family, which included a darling little six-year-old boy. I was able to tell her a little about how I had gone back to school and completed my education, which allowed us to educate our children. She had carefully and thoughtfully completed the first lesson of the workshop and had clear ideas for the second. I was really drawn to her and hope that we meet her again and others who will benefit from the PEF program.