Today, we had the opportunity to take our kids from Cite Soleil on a field trip to “OK Corral” in Santos, Haiti. Cite Soleil is a pretty tough place to grow up, ranking as one of the toughest places to live in the poorest country in the western hemisphere. When the kids have an opportunity to visit somewhere else for the day it’s a big deal!
To get all 64 kids and 10 teachers over there, everyone was loaded into two “tap-taps”, which is the pickup truck and taxi cab combo seen everywhere in Haiti. We’re still not entirely sure how all of the kids fit in there, but they made it over safely and were excited for their day away.
All of the kids looked happy and well. The girls had their hair tied up in beautiful braids and decorated with berets and ribbons. The boys had big smiles and plenty of high-fives for the team. One of their favorite things to do during the visit was to get their picture taken using our cell phones and then see their photos on the screen. There were some true hams in this audience!
The day started with singing and devotionals lead by the Jean Phillipe, the school director for J Nissi School, along with his amazing team of teachers. The messages to the kids were clear:
- Just because you live in Cite Soleil, does not mean you are a bad person.
- Getting an education is difficult, but it is what you need to have a chance to make something of your life.
- Don’t miss this opportunity that your parents have given to you.
- Those of us in America who support the school care about you. Your education, health, and future is important to us
We took a snack break around mid-morning and the students enjoyed bread that was baked 20 feet away by the Heartline Ministries bakery along with a cup of fruit juice. During that time we had a great chance to converse with some of the teachers and learn more about their backgrounds. Many of them grew up in Cite Soleil and are great role models for the kids.
Next up was school uniforms and backpacks. Think back to how excited you used to get when you got your school supplies. Now multiply that times ten… that’s how these kids are feeling when they get to try on the brand new uniforms and are handed a nice backpack! The girls came out like they were famous models walking down the catwalk and posing for photographs. The boys were strutting around like bigshots. It was quite fun.
For lunch, we enjoyed fried chicken, rice and beans, and coleslaw that was prepared by the mother of one of our Haitian team members. The meal was absolutely delicious, even the wild chickens running around the property seemed to want to join in the feast!
It’s easy how to take food for granted when you come from a culture like ours. For these kids, the lunch that they get daily as part of their schooling is often the lone meal of the day. To grow a healthy mind and body, and to be able to concentrate on their classwork, requires nutrition. It was a joy sharing that meal with the students today.
One of the boys that we were thrilled to see today is Lovensen. He is a 6th grader that joined the school six years ago when it opened. Lovensen lives just three doors down from the school in family of eight. The reason that he works so hard in school is because he wants to help his family someday. His long term dream is to become a doctor.
After a wonderful day enjoying time with the kids and building relationships with the J Nissi School staff, it was time to load the kids back into the tap-taps and say goodbye. Having a day like this is so important to our goal. We need to see them, talk to them, laugh with them, and make it crystal clear that we care about them.