Haiti: We Cannot Understand

“Hey, you! Hey, you!” Children’s voices follow our tap-taps as we drive over ‘sleeping policemen’ (monster speed bumps that are the primary means of traffic control on paved roads in Haiti) and turn onto Rue David, the street where we will live for the next 5 days. Rue David is a narrow, dusty lane of giant potholes, teeming with life. Small stores, the size of packing crates, line the way. People of all sizes are everywhere. We pass the gate to the Doctors without Borders compound…during the daylight hours there’s always a line waiting for medical care. After sundown, people still wander about…often sitting at makeshift tables lighted by candles…right against the edge of the street. When we turn into the metal gate of Escole Le Chretienne Des Freres Unis, the chaos of daily life outside the compound wall gives way to calm, orderly activity. 

At the time of our Saturday arrival, the courtyard is empty and quiet, until the church choir and musicians arrive for one last practice. Sunday morning, beginning as early as 6:00 AM, the compound begins to fill with families coming to worship. Early each weekday morning, children fill the compound. Standing in rows before their teachers, the young students sing, pray, pledge allegiance to their country’s flag, and hear announcements and encouragements from the headmistress, Madame Jacqueline Dorleans. These are the children from the slums that surround the compound. Some are still living in tents or makeshift shelters. Very few have enough of anything. At school they will receive a hearty meal, vitamins, medical care and an education. Because only 20% of school age children have access to an education in this poor and disaster damaged country, school is a privilege that is not taken lightly. Parents bring the children to school, some walking or riding a bicycle several miles each day. Fathers carry smaller children on their shoulders to keep them out of the dust and mud of Rue David, and wipe their shoes clean before leaving them for the school day. The students must come to school in clean, tidy uniforms. Each wears a backpack with books and assignments. Older children look after their younger siblings. Children, being children, there is noise and laughter and movement, but there is also order and intensity of purpose.

Read the rest of Susan Doughty Otto’s firsthand account here and see more pictures of FPC members serving in Haiti here.

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