Certainly, I have much to contemplate in the ways this trip has cut me apart and rearranged the pieces. I’m still trying to find the right words and feelings.
Which is somewhat ironic, as that’s precisely what I was there to teach.
On a shoestring budget, our little team completed nine workshops in 16 days, reaching about 140 people in more than 15 communities and three provinces of Haiti. I am so grateful for the incredible translation skills and energy that Dr. Liz Fleming brought each day. And the thoughtful observations Rhonda contributed to each session and how she listened patiently to me as I blundered around my emotional reactions. And to Rick, whose significant driving and mechanical skills kept us safe and got us (mostly) to our destinations on time.
Each day, as I looked into the faces looking back at me, I wondered…how will they react? Will they find this useful? What will come out of this? And each evening when we headed back to our accommodations, I gave thanks that I was allowed to see into such beautiful hearts – to laugh with them, to hear their stories, share their hopes, learn their culture. To listen to their unselfish dreams.
How I wanted to sit down with each one and question them to find out more, to record their words for myself. To understand who they are, how they live, what they have endured and where they find strength and resolve. I could only imagine the stories that remained hidden. The memories that are, perhaps, too painful to touch just yet.
But that’s not why I was there.
Although I witnessed a level of poverty that I had only read about in books – where an infected tooth or cut could become life-threatening, where rats may nibble toes at night, where the rain runs in through the cracks and holes in the walls – I came away with hope for Haiti.
Simply because the Haitians I met – people like Eric Jean-Baptist (a CHE master trainer) – are excited about the improvements they’ve been able to implement in their communities.
Although they are a small group in comparison to the entire population, they are courageously and generously volunteering their time to improve the health of the villages where they live. They are smart and wise. They care about their neighbours. They are visionaries; committed to Haiti’s future.
They are hard workers, organized and cohesive. They really don’t need foreigner work crews coming to build them schools – they want and need to work themselves. (Rhonda wrote a great blog post on this.) They are able to organize their own kombits – work crews of 10-15 – when needed. They have plans for their community development that use their existing skills and abilities, but what they really need to leap forward, is to partner with organizations that have the money to invest in their infrastructure needs.
Eric, who travels from village to village doing training for AMDH and helps deliver health programs in his community, took us on a walking tour of Mombin Crochu, showing us the large school currently under construction. He hopes he can continue to earn enough money so his children will be able to attend.
I sat down with AMDH Director, Ossé St. Juste and asked about his hopes for his country. Ossé was one of eight children. His parents farmed, sold produce, worked hard to put their children through school.
They taught him well: “You have to respect everyone, whether children or older people. And you should not be of two words. Always do what your promise. If you say yes, I will do something, do it; if you borrow something, give it back. We should not have what is not ours. These are the things that will protect you in life so you will live in peace with others.”
This quiet, humble man was a tailor before he started with CHE in 1992, making not quite enough for he and his wife to get by on, yet still volunteering in schools. For twenty years, he has been on the front lines, working for children, encouraging adults, helping Haitians uncover their own God-given abilities and potential. He has seen foreigners with lofty ideas and solutions come and go. He’s seen people with good intentions make promises, start projects then sometimes, be unable to finish them. He has watched political leaders rise and fall. He has witnessed political and civil unrest.
Much has happened in Haiti that remains unspeakable but still, he has hope. And faith.
He feels the CHE program “is a beautiful philosophy that can bring a physical and spiritual transformation – first for the people who participate directly and then indirectly for those who benefit from the changes. ”
“I think that when you speak to people who take our trainings, even if they are not able to act because their means, either economical or ability, don’t allow them to, but you feel there is action happening in their head and a change that is starting to happen. They begin to see things in a different way and have another way of reflecting and confronting the problems of the country.
“The changes start in an individual and then move to his family, then the neighbours, and then the community. This then moves to the province, then the national.”
And so with such wise words, I think…yes. This, then, is real hope for Haiti. Great change will start with changing one single heart.
Mine has certainly been changed.
But then, I wonder, whose heart will come next?