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Saturday, 6 February 2016

Happy February!

Reflections on My Trip to Haiti!  February 2015

As you read this, compare what a typical American college student's life is on their campus.

 On February 3, I embarked on a week long journey to visit a teacher training school in Haiti.  The name of the school is the Papaye Normale School and is located outside of Hinche, Haiti.  My church has been a twin sponsor to this school for 25 years, and I wanted to see what educational training was like in the poorest country in North America.   All I can say is it was a "humbling experience".

  To be a teacher in Haiti for grades K thru 6th grade you have to attend a Normale School for three years.   If you want to teach grades 7 thru 12 you would attend University.  If you want a masters degree, you leave Haiti and travel to a country like the United States.
Road to the School!
       Papaye Normale School is in a rocky, hilly area of the central plateau.  It is located in a compound in which most students stay on the grounds for each term.  Students live in rooms of about 20 students in each, with a bed, mosquito netting around it, and a small trunk.  Bathrooms are located in another building.  
     When we arrived last February, we found out that the well had been broken on the campus since October.  That meant they could not use the water for drinking, bathing, and washing clothes.  Bottled water was brought in. (Even in drinking from bottles and cans, they used a straw to keep the germs from the containers getting into their systems.)  Water  was also brought in by truck from the river, a few miles down the road, for use in bathrooms.  
Washing Clothes at the River

   The students ranged in age of 18 to 35.  There were three years of students, with the average of 30 to 40 in a class.   Most of the students were male.  All students wore uniforms.  Since they didn't have water, they would walk to the river once a week to wash their clothes and bathe.   (The river was also used for washing vehicles, animals, and other people washing clothes.) (Can you imagine one of our college students going to the river each week to do laundry?)

Each morning at 8:00 am, they met around the flag pole to say their pledge of allegiance and to sing their national anthem.  This is when they receive announcements too.  
Morning Ceremony at the Flag Pole

  Classrooms consisted of a chalkboard, large tables for the students to sit, and there was one computer lab.  Each student listens, takes notes, and studies what is taught.  Creole is the local language, but teachers have to teach students in French.  The students beginning in 2015, also had to learn to teach in English too.

  They just got access to electricity the year before, but the grid is uncertain, so often during the day or night, they would not have electricity.  The computer lab was set up to have solar energy.  (This was one of the  sustainable projects my church was supporting.  On this fact finding trip, they found out that this needed to be upgraded too.)

   What was humbling was that when we met with each year of students, they thanked us for coming to visit, providing the money to help pay for the teachers/professors, and to give them the chance to better themselves. 
    They did not complain about the lack of water, living together in large dorm rooms, but instead they were grateful!  

   I was able to visit an elementary school, and observed a kindergarten class of 80 students, two teachers, one chalkboard.  The students sat quietly and waited for their next lesson.  In grades one to six the students had about 40 in a class.  They had to share a book between two to three students. The lessons were written in these books. Plus they too, had one chalkboard.
   Remember what I said earlier, they had to learn to read and write in French, even though they spoke Creole at home. 
Kindergarten classroom
When I saw this, I thought that was somewhat it was like when I began teaching 45 years ago.  I know they will progress.  I am just lucky I didn't have to learn another language to teach.
Hanging out with some Kindergartners
   This trip was to see how we could help them.  Before solar power, books, gym uniforms,  the major need was to get the well fixed.  Fortunately, we were able to raise the money to help them.  Unlike in America, it took until the end of August to have a new well dug and for it to be working.

  A group from my church, just came back from the visit for 2016, and they said the water was working, and they had someone from one of our local colleges send a kit to test the water.  It was clear, so now the students could use it to wash their faces.

    My small contribution was to send in a sea container in April of 2015, boxes of plastic cards (like credit cards, donated from a supplier here in Va.)  in which the teachers could use them to make flash cards.   
     The head of teacher training for the Hinche district was thrilled, and he was able to show teachers in their summer training,  how to use them for alphabet recognition, words, and other activities.  A small start to get the students more active.

 I hope you take from my little reflection, to be thankful for what we have!  

Here are some photos of the trip!
Farmer's Market
Farmers Market selling Clothing!
Donkey transportation
We did eat well with home grown food, like this fresh avocado!

4 comments:

  1. WOW! Certainly puts life in perspective... thanks so much for sharing your inspirational story.

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  2. An insightful post. I had a similar experience in India last year. Very humbling.

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  3. Your trip to Haiti looks very cool! You're very lucky that you got to experience a trip like that!

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