Apr 26, 2011 Scott Manuel Uncategorized
Eight members of our Central New York Alliance for Haiti returned April 8 from northern rural Haiti. Our six-day mission trip was centered around St. Yves Parish in Thibeau, about 30 miles south of Cape Haitian. My initial impression of the area around St. Yves was one of contrasts. For example, of necessity for communication, many people have cell phones, but are lacking in sanitary needs such as running water and toilets.
We were housed and wonderfully fed in the rectory of St. Yves parish. Sunday we adjusted to our new environment and worshiped with about 450 Haitians in a church built with help from people of Central NY. Lunch that day was shared with representatives of the “iF” foundation, a non-profit organization making loans for small local business start-ups. (Example: We ate turkey from an “iF” sponsored turkey farm.)
Monday our real work began. St. Joseph’s Elementary is a school of 288 students supported 100 percent by the efforts of St. James Church in Cazenovia and our Cayuga/Syracuse Presbytery Haiti Educational Partnership and friends.
At the school, team member Harry Dross instructed the principal of St. Joseph’s Elementary on how to use a flip camera and installed a new hard drive for his computer. Members Georgette Schmidt and Karen Dross made final preparations for in-service training in methods for teaching French and math for the local teachers while Marilyn Cornell visited the venue for workshops in art and reading-readiness for pre-school instructors. Georgette and I facilitated communications by interpreting for Marilyn and Karen from English to French and colleagues Wynetta Devore and Stefan Merchant distributed materials and modeled doing the projects in shapes, colors, bubbles and collages.
Marilyn arrived with suitcases full of supplies necessary to complete the lessons. Trip coordinator Bob Hood (from St. James Parish) spent the time inspecting progress in previously planned improvements in the school compound. One of his tasks was to deliver 117 pairs of used eyeglasses collected by students in Jamesville-DeWitt High School to the small medical clinic at St. Joseph’s. These had been measured and marked compliments of Malara Eyecare and Eyewear Gallery in Liverpool prior to our departure.
The next two days were spent implementing the trip goals. After a regular one o’clock dismissal the Americans taught the host teachers, student centered lessons as opposed to rote memorization.
Thursday, the CNY pedagogues watched while the Haitian instructors demonstrated what they had learned with the children. The school day ended with an assembly including singing, dancing and some speeches by the elementary aged students.
That afternoon several of us visited four literacy sites sponsored by our CNY Alliance for Haiti. Most of the classrooms were rustic to say the least, but instruction was most animated and student enthusiasm palpable. Some of the classes were studying voter participation, a timely topic given their recent presidential election.
This program was piloted by our own central New York’s Ruth Colvin, affectionately known in Haiti as Tante Ruth (Aunt Ruth).
Each morning prior to our half hour drive to St. Joseph’s, we taught English lessons to about twenty locals from age ten to sixty. Although the students in attendance varied from day to day, enthusiasm was infectious and the last class ended with requests for more. The classes also gave us an opportunity to practice our Cr ole during instruction. Continuation is planned for the next group scheduled to travel there in June.
Prior to flying back to the US we went on a brief tour of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Little of the effects of the year-ago earthquake have been resolved. Tent cities and port-a-potties are still much in evidence. A bright light was a visit to Matthew 25, a house of hospitality for visitors to Haiti and a school. Recently the tent city housed on its soccer field was closed and the field was now being prepared for play.
Visiting Haiti is an eye opener and many more trips will be needed to continue the progress made so far.
Scott Manuel is a member of the United Church of Fayetteville and the Cayuga Syracuse Presbytery Haiti Educational Partnership Mission & Ministry team.