July 19, 2015|
By Dedra Key de Chavez|
We arrived in Haiti via the Dominican Republic – 5 teachers and 2 documentary makers. For the teachers, it was our first time. We were expecting poverty – we had all traveled in 3rd world countries and we had done our homework. We knew the terribly depressing stats on Haiti – lack of clean water, no health facilities, not enough food and the list goes on. We had our suitcases full of teaching supplies and good intentions and we really wanted to help.
That first experience crossing the border, with its inherent chaos, was a sign of things to come. There is no infrastructure in Haiti; streets are not paved, scooters are everywhere but no rules of the road seem to exist, buildings are crumbling. The poverty was shocking. We arrived at the school through streets of dust, past half-dressed children and pigs, homes with no running water or electricity.
We had in our minds activities that we wanted to do with the teachers but we quickly realized we were looking at teaching through our North-American, 1st-world lenses. We needed to change our focus and look at the reality. 80+ children packed into a 2 room school. None of the handy dandy manipulatives we use every day at home. What these teachers needed was hands-on, oral activities: chants, games, rhymes. We adapted our plans and forged ahead.
We were greeted by the children every day: big smiles, hugs, crawling into our laps. When we arrived with food, they were thankful, singing hymns of thanks to us and to God. They were polite, and shy, until the cameras came out! Then they became outrageous posers – the ninja stance was very popular! They played soccer, liked to be tickled and loved learning Snakes and Ladders.
In the end, I came away with 2 things. 1) Kids are kids, everywhere. It doesn’t matter how much money they have. They want to run and play and laugh and be loved. They want to know they matter. 2) While Haiti needs help, the Haitians are proud people. They want to improve their lot. They want to change the way things are. And they have hope. It was everywhere.
Will I go back? I truly hope so. I would like to think that we started something this summer. I am hoping my school, which raised $1400 in aid money this past year, will take on this mission permanently. I am encouraging other teachers to get their schools involved. I would like to see permanent facilities built and maybe electricity. More supplies for teaching, more books. And I would like to see the children again. Let them know they matter.