— By Dorene Palermo
Thanks to great support and conversations with mission teams from Indiana, contacts from Florida, Haiti Outreach Ministries (HOM) board members, Pastor Leon and his daughter Nadege, and other friends in Haiti, WPC’s Education Mission Team proceeded to Port au Prince for a very successful trip.
This time we worked with teachers and staff at two HOM elementary schools: Repatriot, where we went in 2018, and Terre Noire, a campus new to most of us.
A reduced number of team members necessitated a revision of our original plans for the children’s classes, but thanks to creativity, planning, team work, and good translators, our team, with the help of the Haitian teachers, was able to introduce materials and methods to every level (pre-K through second grade), including the use of Kindle Fire tablets. The noise, the excitement, the sounds of children responding to questions, the joy on the faces of the Haitian teachers, and even the thanks we got from the translators, reflected the value of the classroom experiences for everyone involved.
This year our music class was entirely led by Kathy Hancock, her flute, and a translator, who also played guitar. Kathy played the flute as part of the church service on Sunday for the 600-member Haitian congregation. As it was last year, the delicate music of the flute was an interesting contrast to the bold, rhythmic music of Haiti.
In addition to the value and experience of our in-classroom work, we were able to give the schools a lot of materials and teaching tools — from pencils, erasers, chalk, and wall posters in French to manipulatives and materials for math and science studies, maps, and puzzles. While these things are basic to our classes here, they’re not available to the teachers in Haiti.
In Repatriot, the “brain child” of Stacy Whitenight, who was unable to make the trip down, was developed and delivered to all 17 teachers of grades pre-K through sixth grade by JoAnn Lytle-Olson. Aided by her techie husband, Jon, she selected age-appropriate applications, games, and books in French and English to be used in the classrooms. Working with the librarian at Repatriot, herself a graduate of HOM schools and a great tech-savvy translator, JoAnn set up a Media Center at the new library in Repatriot. By the second day the librarian — now called the Media Administrator — was able to lead classes for the teachers in the use of and care for the tablets. By the last day, every teacher was able to bring a few students to the class and start to train their own “teaching assistants “on the tablets. At the end of the week we held a “graduation lunch” of sandwiches in the library for all the teachers, which was a great success.
This Media Center endeavor is one we need to focus our attention on for future trips – providing additional tablets, setting up access to appropriate content, extending the opportunity to the other schools, and providing funding for purchasing content. I believe this is the way we can make the greatest contribution to HOM students’ education in the future, preparing them to be global citizens.
Because of the political situation at this time in Haiti and because HOM does everything necessary to preserve our safety, we did not go “shopping” at the Tin Market or visiting downtown museums. Instead we toured the ever-growing campuses of HOM, seeing the classrooms, watching the high school add buildings and classrooms each year. (They now have the BEST chemistry classroom in Port au Prince and top teachers are asking to come to Barye Fe school to be able to teach in the great lab there!).
On Cite Soliel campus are the classrooms, the church, library, the medical clinic with a full-time Haitian staff, the pharmacy (where our medical teams go), a dental office and eye exam rooms for mission teams, and vocational school classrooms for sewing and for computer training.
On Terre Noire campus are the classrooms, church, library, a medical clinic used by Family Health Ministries (a Durham NGO), a guest house for mission teams, a vocational school for sewing, and the offices for Nadege Gay, daughter of Pastor Leon, and his wife Jacky. Nadege is in charge of all three elementary schools. Helen Harrison and Emily Strader will be going to Terre Noire this month to provide supplies and inspiration to the students in the sewing school, along with additional clothing (created by our Mission Stitches ministry) and shoes for students.
On the Repatriot Campus, the newest elementary school has added a sixth grade class and a new kitchen. Now they have a new media center, too.
At the newest campus, Barye Fe, the high school is growing year by year, managed by Pastor Leon’s wife Jacky. She has been creating this new facility one grade at a time – they’re currently at the tenth grade. HOM pays for students to go to other private schools to finish high school for grades they don’t have, so completing the high school will simplify the efforts and improve opportunities for the HOM high school students.
From discussions with Nadege and several of the teachers and watching the videos of the tablet class at Repatriot, it is clear that our trip was a tremendous success, in spite of the last-minute challenges. Serving in Haiti is life-changing and demands flexibility, creativity, a sense of humor, faith, and stamina. The song we sang here recently at worship – “The Summons” by John Bell and Graham Maule – was one we sang one evening in Haiti as part of devotions. It should be our Mission theme song!
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?