Growing up, my family had a sign on the wall that read, “We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.” I never fully appreciated the sign until I arrived in Fontaine, Haiti. For the first time in my life, I witnessed a “third world” or developing country. The people here in Haiti are leaps and bounds behind America. Behind in such things as; their governing bodies, educational system, agricultural techniques and medical advancements, (just to name a few), yet they have so many things that Americans will never have or truly appreciate. Such things like; authentic compassion, gratitude, unending generosity, sense of family and community, and the understanding of the extreme importance of education. The Haitians may not ever have enough to eat nor have adequate clothing, but somehow they have it all-together.
I am continually astonished by life here in Fontaine. I wake up every morning to the cool breeze blowing the leaves of the monumental mango tree in the front courtyard, accompanied by the sound of the cooks pounding their mortar and pestles’ as they prepare a lunch of cornmeal and beans. At any given point during the day you can look off the second floor of the school and see the locals walking to and from the well with 50 gallon water buckets balanced on any free part of their body. Kids as young as the age of 4 are carrying home their body weight in water with no complaints. It’s funny to imagine American preschoolers spending the majority of their childhood day walking to and from the town well to get water.
However what amazes me more than the aforementioned, are the students of the St. Gabriel’s Secondary School. From the moment the sun rises until hours after it sets the students are here at the school and taking extra classes after hours, studying, tutoring and memorizing until they physically can’t anymore. Every night as I lay in bed I can still hear the loud chatter of the students memorizing their class notes well into the night. Some still have a several hour walk home under the pitch black night sky ahead of them. The utter tenacity and grit these students possess is something I could only ever wish that I could say that I possess. The promise of education is one of the greatest gifts you can give a Haitian family for their child It is the promise of a future, different from their current reality. It is a hope that history may not repeat itself. But above all else, the gift of education is the gift of a new life. One they will only have if they are educated and I believe this is one of the forces driving the students to constantly improve themselves.
I go with Brother William Griffin, or Fré Bill, to all of the English classes he teaches. At the beginning of every class session, he has the students sign a song called Spirit of the Living God to calm them down and “set the mood” for class. Halfway through the song the lyrics read, “melt meeeee, mold meeee, fill meeee, use meeee…..”, and the kids love to sign it at the TOP of their lungs and draw out the vowels. The song holds so much meaning for them. An immense amount of energy and excitement goes into singing the song because it signifies the beginning of class and the beginning of learning something new- English. It is by far my favorite part of the day.
I have always loved to learn and be a student, and what better place to do so than in Haiti. I am learning the ways of the 3.2 acre garden, learning the Haitian traditions and customs, learning Creole French, as well as learning to be selfless like the Haitian people. Tomorrow, (Friday the 9th) I will be meeting with a Priest and two doctors who run a clinic in Pignon Haiti, fingers crossed that I will be of some use to them. Thanks to all for your prayers.
Until next week! Orevwa!