Reflection by Carmen Inoa:
In October 2013 I had the opportunity to travel to Petit Goave, Haiti to volunteer at the Child Jesus School (Ecole de L’enfant Jesus), an Elementary school for the poorest of the poor.
The children enrolled at this school would not be able to attend school because their families can’t afford the monthly fees required in the school system. Fortunately, the Servants of Mary Center is making it possible for these children to receive an education, school supplies, uniforms and a nourishing meal each day at no cost to them.
The staff of 6 teachers and the principal are very committed to providing the children with an education. I was dumbfounded when I learned that the average salary for a teacher in Haiti is about $3 a day (the cost of a Starbucks latte here in the U.S.)
The time spent with the children was very rewarding. Throughout the week we were involved in class room activities. We made bracelets and necklaces using colorful beads and also presented a slideshow on dental hygiene. We provided each child with a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss.
During recess, jumping rope with the girls and dancing around in circles as they sang songs in creole, reminding me of my own childhood. I watched in amazement how the boys ran barefoot kicking a soccer ball on the hot concrete ground, a playground that is in serious need of resurfacing.
The children at the school don’t have the luxury of having a different menu selection each day. Their lunch consist of white rice, bean sauce and canned sardines.
Although most of my time was spent at the school in Petit Goave, I had the opportunity to tour the city of Port-A-Prince on our first day. The poverty there is unimaginable and most heartbreaking are the children living in such poor conditions. I witnessed that when we visited what was once the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. The Earthquake of 2010 demolished it and all that remains is part of a wall with a stain glass window still intact and a statue of Jesus on the cross. After the earthquake that devastated this already poverty stricken country, families have made the area outside the crumbled walls their homes. Rows of tents are stacked alongside the cathedral with barely any space between them. As soon as we stepped out of the truck, we were mobbed by mothers carrying their babies with one hand, and begging for money with the other. They were speaking to us in Creole and although I did not understand what they were saying, the look of desperation was quite clear. Kids ran up to us also begging for food and money. I had to take my thoughts elsewhere to refrain from breaking down. I was deeply saddened that I had nothing to offer them at that moment.
I also had an opportunity to visit one of the shelters for elders and disabled in Petit-Goave. I have a soft heart for seniors and seeing the conditions they lived in due to lack of resources really broke my heart. We handed everyone there a bar of soap, $3 dollars and two pieces of candy. An image that will stay forever in my heart was when I handed an elderly man the items and immediately tears rolled down his face. I will never forget how I felt at that moment. I could not believe how such a small gesture could impact someone so deeply.
Many of the people in Haiti depend on the generosity of others for most of their basic needs and it may take decades before progress is seen in this poor country, but educating a child can provide the foundation for social and economic progress. With the help of donations to keep this school open, these children can look forward to a promising future.