As of this month, the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has helped over 40,000 men and women throughout the world receive education, training and employment opportunities to better their lives and the lives of their families.
“It’s growing rather rapidly,” said executive director Elder John K. Carmack. “We have 50 percent more applications this year than last year. The year before, there was also a significant increase.” And Elder Carmack feels the program will keep on growing. He foresees a time in the future when it will assist many more, perhaps 100,000 people and beyond.
The PEF is designed to help Church members between the ages of 18 and 30, many of them returned missionaries, receive education and employment that otherwise would not be available to them. It began eight years ago in Mexico, Peru and Chile. Today members of the Church in 42 countries have access to the fund.
A young man in Peru who studied to become an accountant said, “I am so grateful to God for this great opportunity to receive what my brothers and sisters did not have, to help my family, to accomplish my goals.”
“The Perpetual Education Fund also delivers self-respect, hope,” Elder Carmack said. “It is just beginning to achieve the vision of former Church President Gordon B. Hinckley; our current president, Thomas S. Monson; and our board of directors.”
President Hinckley modeled the fund initially after the Perpetual Emigration Fund of the mid-to-late 1800s, which helped more than 30,000 Latter-day Saint converts immigrate to the Salt Lake Valley from Europe.
When he established the PEF in 2001, President Hinckley emphasized the need to help others learn and progress. At a Church conference President Hinckley said: “We need to care for one another more diligently. … We need to make a little more effort to assist those who are down at the bottom of the ladder. We need to give encouragement and a lifting hand to men and women of faith and integrity and ability, who can climb that ladder with a little help.”
Funding for the PEF comes from generous donations from members of the Church and other organizations. It is a revolving resource from which money is loaned to an individual to help pay for education or training that leads to a viable, local job. Participants then pay back the loan at a low interest rate.
A young man in Mexico City who studied to become a dental technician said, “My promise upon finishing my studies at the technical school with the help of the Perpetual Education Fund is to repay the loan so that other returned missionaries can enjoy these blessings.”
It’s this reciprocal nature of the program that Elder Carmack says helps build future leaders.
“The idea is to build
people and have them become as self-reliant and self-sufficient as
possible,” said Elder Carmack.
Reports indicate that already more than 10 percent of the Church’s local ecclesiastical leaders from Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela are graduates of the program. President Monson has said the PEF effort is expanding and that “those young people are finding jobs and they’re able to repay the loans. The Perpetual Education Fund is a miracle that will go far into the future.”
President Monson and other Church leaders have made significant promises about the impact of the PEF for participants, their families, the Church and their communities. Promises being fulfilled include high graduation rates, significant employment opportunities, positive loan repayment and personal financial prosperity, despite difficult living and economic conditions for many Church members worldwide.