Sunday, 21 September 2008
Today was special. We visited a local mission school. The school is run by a Haitian couple and serves some of the poorest children in our area. These children receive a basic education and a hot meal every day that they attend.
To get there we had to take a bone jarring journey across rocky, pot-holed mountain roads. The 5 mile drive took almost 30 minutes as we made a tortuous ascent that narrowed and wound around cliff edges. The sheer drops down into the valleys below were unguarded. The route must be absolutely trecherous when it rains.
The trip was well worth it. We traveled to the Calebasse Christan school with 3 Canadians, who are volunteering at GLA. Jack, Caryn and John are in Haiti with Active Christians with a Mission (ACWAM). Their organisation has partnered with the Calebasse mission. ACWAM run a sponsorship programme and they raise funds and gather supplies to support this rural Haitian school.
The Haitian primary schools have been closed until October. It is hoped that by then, some semblance of normality will have returned to this nation, which was devastated by 4 tropical storms in August-September.
Although school is not in session at the Calebasse mission, the The principal (Nixon Dorlus, shown below in the green shirt) and most of his staff, were present today to run Sunday school, which is operating as normal at the school. The principal greeted us with hugs on our arrival. His wife and mother kissed us.
It brought tears to our eyes to hear the childrens' singing. Theyhad all arrived in their best clothes. Many of the girls wore ribbons in their hair and were dressed in old-fashioned knee-length dresses with puffed sleeves. In Haitian churches, females must dress modestly. Midrifts and shoulders are always covered. Some children brought their toddler siblings and an elderly couple also attended.
Everyone was encouraged to participate. Some of the boys had tambourines. 3 of the teachers played guitars and flutes and a reluctant Caryn was roped into several duets. Some of the children also got up to sing, alone or in pairs. The songs were in English and Kreyol.
I was glad to have the chance to observe older Haitian children. They watched us shyly. For the most part, they were quiet and respectful, although an hour into the service, they did begin to squirm, and chat among themselves. If I am honest, my concentration was also drifting at that point. Gift bags filled with sweet treats from Canada soon got the childrens' attention!
Afterwards we toured the school and were treated to a traditional Haitian meal of fried chicken, plantains and salad. I wondered why the principal's wife, mother and children had not joined us at the table. Later, I learned that in traditional Haitian households, women and children eat after the men. Apparently, Caryn, Amanda and I were elevated to the status of Haitian men for the day. It is a dubious honor but I for one appreciated the humility of this family. Nixon helped to set the table and even cleared our plates away when the meal was finnished.
His passion for the children in his community is plain to see. This morning, his teachers preached to the children about being humble before God. The little ones in these photographs are blessed to have the chance to receive a basic education, provided by dedicated teachers, who are such true and honest witnesses to the Christian faith. In the context of an extremely patriarchal culture, these men teach the children that they are first in God's Kingdom. God's love for them is not just something they talk about at this school.
I am enjoying my work at the orphanage very much, but it was good to see and experience another side of Haiti. I left the mission with a sense of hope for these children and this country.
Posted by Susan Westwood at 18:13