Consider making a donation to the Haiti EcoVillage School to honor the teachers in your life today. We will mail you the card for your child to present, or we will mail the card to the teacher you are honoring. Donate here and email the number of cards you need and your instructions for mailing. Thank you for supporting and affirming learning!
It brings me great joy to see the pensive look and ready hand of this girl. She does not know that she lives in a country abandoned by her own government and disparaged by foreigners. What she does know is that today she has the opportunity to learn and be all that she can be.
As I review the photos and travel logs from our most recent mission team trip to the EcoVillages in Haiti, I find myself reflecting on all they have accomplished. Sure, the people could not have gotten the school built without our help. But we did not construct the building, hire staff, and manage the budget. We do not oversee day to day operations. THEY DO. It's their school and what a marvelous job they are doing with the gift they have been given.
It started with the simple question "how can we help?" and the principle that we wouldn't do for others what they can do for themselves. The result is something that exceeds our expectations and demonstrates what is possible. As our friend, Mark Hare, put it "I don't know if there's hope for Haiti but there is hope in Haiti". Despite all the disadvantages and lack of opportunity, the people are eager to work and the children are eager to learn.
As we gather with our families and friends to express gratitude for our blessings, a different kind of “thanks” giving emanates from the people of the EcoVillages. This Haitian version of gratitude is directed towards YOU.
They are thankful for your gift of learning. You have helped provide the classroom, the workbook, the teacher and the full belly for this child to learn. And 266 other kids like him. When we visited in October, parents and children asked us to deliver this message to you. “Mesi!”
They are thankful for your gift of community. The school has become the center of community life. People collaborate to raise the food that feeds the kids so they can learn. “Mesi.”
They are thankful for the gift of optimism. For people who are rebuilding their lives from the personal devastation of earthquake, from the uncertainty of endless days in tent cities and from the hungry months of drought in their new homes, optimism is an incredible contrast. Make no mistake. It has been and still is hard, requiring enormous resilience just to keep going. They have done the backbreaking work required to scratch a living from fallow soil. They have had to adapt to living among people who were strangers in the beginning. But now they can see the results. The EcoVillages are lush with growing food. Children play with abandon like children are supposed to play. Parents see the possibility of a more prosperous life where there is something left over after the family has eaten. They are optimistic that they will control their own destiny soon and that their own efforts will sustain their school.
They want you to know how they feel about your support: “Mesi. Mesi anpil.”
On this Thanksgiving as you express your gratitude for the ways others have enriched your life, hear the voices of your unseen friends. You have done a good thing. Let their Mesi brighten your holiday.
Education. Enrollment at the school has grown from 170 last year to 267 this year. A new 7th grade classroom was added.
The thirst for learning is contagious. Parents are now clamoring for adult literacy classes so that they can learn to read and help their kids in school.
Electricity. It doesn’t look like much, but a pole can be a beautiful thing. Our partners at the Unitarian-Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) in Boston approved a grant to bring electricity to the six EcoVillages this year. The power is now on! There is a pole next to the community center building in each village which provides light at night. Residents must buy a meter to bring power to their own homes, which some have already done. Residents are already imagining how their lives might change.
Water. Wells in two of the villages were broken last year. UUSC paid to have them fixed. Now there is nearby water for everyone. Clean clothes feel good.
Food. Everywhere you look there is food: congo beans, cassava, plantains, papaya, bananas, peppers, cabbage, squash. You even hear chickens peck and goats bleat and an occasional pig grunt. The days of empty pots and lean harvests are behind them – at least for now.
Collaboration. Parents understand that they must coordinate their efforts to grow food for school lunches. Thanks in part to a grant from PATH (Atlanta’s Presbyterian Answer to Hunger) new school gardens have been planted, expanding their contribution dramatically. Hot, organic meals are served to the students every day of the week. Cassava came in this month, cabbage next week and squash in November. As a result, the school budget for food has been slashed so that precious funds can be allocated elsewhere.
When asked about his life in the village, one man replied matter-of-factly, “Sometimes it’s good, sometimes not.” In other words, for many life has returned to familiar routines. The struggle for basics -- survival and safety and a place to belong – is being replaced by the struggle to get ahead. You know -- normalcy.
Tomorrow I will travel to Haiti with Claude Henry Pierre and Marty Maxwell, two new members of the steering committee of our Haiti EcoVillage School Partnership. Claude will translate both the language and the culture for us while looking for ways to improve our long distance communication with our partners in Haiti. Marty will study the prospects of forming a sewing business using the six machines that have been donated and the ample enthusiasm of the people to learn both how to sew at a commercial level and how to run a successful business.
One of the joys during our trip will be to deliver many books for the children. Supporters have been providing funds for books each year for the past 3 years. This year, for the first time, we have targeted a wide range of interests beyond just early Kreyol readers. Here are some of the books we will be taking to the school.
Follow our posts this week as we deliver the books and talk about our trip to the school and the EcoVillages.