L’éducation est l’arme la plus puissante que vous pouvez utiliser pour changer le monde./Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. – Nelson Mandela
This is the second post from my recent trip to Haiti with a small delegation from St. Gabriel the Archangel. The first post was an introduction, which can be found here. This is my third trip to Haiti, having traveled there in 2007 and 2009. A post about those trips can be found here. This post is about the school at St. Anne in Sucrerie Henry, which is one component of the parish we sponsor. As a veteran educator, this is the ministry about which I am most passionate and curious.
When we visit our twin parish, we stay in the rectory, on the second floor. There is a large veranda overlooking the parish buildings, including part of the school and playground equipment.
When we visited in January 2007, it was just after the New Year and the school was on winter break. When we traveled in 2009, it was in July, and school was out for summer. I was thrilled to be able to visit while the school was in session, and the visit exceeded my expectations.
We started with the youngest group, kindergarten, at first watching them play on the playground equipment, which is all new since my last visit. As a matter of fact, kindergarten at the school is all new since my last visit.
There is nothing like the happy sound of children at play outdoors! Inside the school, our young friends use chalk to write on mini-blackboards. There are neither paper nor pencils (or crayons).
After visiting the kindergarten we visited classrooms:
And at Pére Didier’s coaxing were usually extended an official greeting – here is first grade:
The second grade students:
We continued to tour the classrooms throughout the school – lower grades on the lower level and higher grades in the second floor.
As we visited the higher grades my heart swelled with pride at the large classes. We had not had a grade twelve class for many years; the teenagers would not attend school and work instead. In the upper grades, students are learning English and Spanish and it felt terrific to encourage them with their language skills. I was especially sympathetic as I spent my time in Haiti trying to remember how to speak French all the while picking up new words in Haitian Creole. It’s hard!
Due to frequent hurricanes that have destroyed part of its roof, the school library stands empty of all but a few books:
St. Anne formerly offered vocational training in masonry, woodworking, and cosmetology, but those programs are not offered at this time. We walked through the vocational school part of the campus with its signs of previous use. Haitians are makers by necessity. It would be nice to offer these programs again.
Our continual financial support goes to whichever area of the parish Pére Didier and the parish council deem appropriate, and we also send specific yearly payments for teacher salaries and for student tuition, which is roughly $250 per year per student. In addition, they must purchase uniforms, which are made locally. As we walked between classrooms we took in the beauty of the mountains around us and although many of the buildings are in disrepair, we took pride in knowing our parish is helping to support education for these Haitian youth. The campus from a classroom on the second floor:
At the conclusion of our school tour, as we began our walk back to the rectory, we stopped by the church, where the kindergarten students flocked to visit with us again.
They were at recess, recreation, or R-E-K-R-E-A-S-Y-O-N and were happy to turn it into a Haitian Creole lesson for Chris:
As educators, both Chris and I were especially thrilled to see the school in action and to spend time in classrooms with students and their teachers. Our hope is that with education, our students will be able to change their world.
This is a word of gratitude from a member of the parish council, who we met with on Saturday:
My next post (3/5) will focus on the St. Anne Clinic, another leg of our twin parish. Stay tuned…