31 Oct My week in Haiti – Reflections on a trip to Haiti
Boarding the airplane after our long week in Haiti, I looked at the surrounding hills and endless ocean. I thought how massive and different they appeared sweeping, green mountains that leveled straight into the blue. Since I had come straight from a boarding school campus, where hundred-year-old brick buildings and grand oak trees sat in abundance, this was a drastic change of scenery. As I took my seat in the small aircraft, I realized that the mountainous topography had come to seem like home after my week in the coastal city of Cap Haïtien. Despite the difference between Haiti and North Carolina, I had quickly grown accustomed to the newness to such an extent that it didn’t feel new anymore.
What was it about Haiti that allowed me to settle in so easily? I had spent the whole week visiting schools with my father and two others from Teachers2Teachers – International. Comparing Haitian schools to my own school in North Carolina, I found that they were in many ways the same. For example, most of the teachers I observed in Haiti cared a lot about their students. One teacher in particular showed so much enthusiasm that she led her young students in singing French songs and dancing around the classroom. Also, I noticed that during recess, the students behaved just like they did at my school: talking in clumps, eating, kicking a soccer ball. They seemed to be focused on us four unfamiliar interlopers, just as at any school the new faces gain attention.
Nevertheless, I also noticed major differences in the schools. I watched as many young students, even kindergarteners, walked miles home by themselves in the ninety degree heat. Other children rode home on the backs of motorcycles with no helmets or seatbelts, piled as many as five on top of each other. During the classes, the students all raised their hands and yelled out anything they thought was close to the answer before they were called on. Their active engagement was such a contrast to the times that my classmates and I wouldn’t raise our hands, even when we knew the answers.
Comparing these schools to mine, an affluent boarding school in the middle of my state’s capitol, was an unfair thing to do. The schools I observed during my trip were neither affluent nor had the means to be. But they didn’t need material wealth to offer their students a good education with caring teachers. Even though the classrooms were not loaded with laptops and smart boards, the students seemed happy to be at school, and the teachers seemed determined to meet their thirst for knowledge. One teacher at the Baudin School even walked a little boy home after the closing bell rang. I hope that whatever my future career might be, I commit to it with that same level of dedication.
By Helen McGlone
**** We are putting together an exciting two week trip to Haiti during the Summer of 2015. I hope you are able to join us.
Here is a picture of a student working on a math problem at the Baudin Ecole Methodiste.
And here is yours truly trekking up to the Citadelle Laferrière, a fortress built in the early 1800s. It’s best to ride a horse on the steep, rocky path.