We have a guest blogger! Katherine Young served on the June missions team with Heart of God Haiti and wrote a reflection on her experience during her short time in Haiti. Thank you Katherine for your insight and I hope this blog encourages some of you out in the internet world to consider coming down to Haiti with a future team. We would be happy to have you:)
“It’s been four weeks since I’ve returned home from my trip to Haiti and not one day has gone by that I haven’t thought about my time in Haiti or the Haitian people I worked with while there. My reality was put into such a new perspective after experiencing their reality for just seven days. Despite living with only their most basic human needs met, every Haitian person I met- in particular the children- lived every day with tenacity, hope, and optimism. I was touched by the kindness they showed towards one another, and towards visitors like myself.
While reflecting on our mission trip, two experiences are the most memorable to me. These are leading a teacher training session and meeting the women who are a part of the Kofael program.
As a high school history teacher with only two years of experience I was initially a bit nervous about leading a training session for a group of twenty other teachers. I prepared a presentation of teaching pedagogy, basic lesson planning skills, and various teaching strategies, primarily ones involving graphic organizers. I was not quite sure of what the teachers already knew or what their needs were, so I prepared a presentation on broad topics and hoped that at least one or two topics would be helpful to each Haitian teacher. When mine and Susan’s (the other teacher leader) presentations were finished, we measured the success of our presentations based on written feedback from the teachers (our students during the sessions).
After reading their responses, we found out that they indeed learned much and wanted more! We were thrilled. Among other things, the teachers were grateful to have specific skills taught and were grateful for the tangible resources we provided. What we also learned is that some want a college education (most teachers only have a high school diploma), longer training sessions, more strategies, and computers. In a school that only recently had lights installed, the computers might be a while still. However, there is so much that can and must be done to continue to educate these teachers!
I witnessed first hand their eagerness to learn and commitment to their students, despite less than ideal working conditions at times. Education is the avenue through with the future of Haiti can truly change. There are few investments more worthy than investing in education. Through teaching the teachers we are not only empowering those twenty teachers, we are building a brighter future for the hundreds of student they serve when their new skills are applied. I implore anyone who is able to help in any realm of Haitian education to do so.
My second memorable experience was meeting the women of the Kofael program during one of their monthly meetings. The Kofael program is a program that gives micro loans to women to aid them in starting their own small businesses (generally these businesses are selling products at the market). Once a woman can repay her first loan, she is eligible for a second, slightly larger loan. The impact of this program goes well beyond the fifty women in the program as each of them has an average of five children. The success of the mother means a better life for her children. Aside from the obvious economic help this program provides, the monthly meetings provide women with a sense of belonging, structure, and commitment. It builds their work ethic and promotes desirable business behaviors through small incentives at each meeting.
What struck me even more than all of this was the visible friendships the women shared with one another. These women share a desire to work hard and provide for their children, and Kofael provides a structure for them to support one another along the way. When four women gave testimonials on how Kofael has positively impacted each of their lives, the first thing each of them mentioned was the friendships. Witnessing this strong union of women was nothing short of inspiring.
Haiti will forever hold a place in my heart and I hope to never forget the needs of the people there. Heart of God Haiti’s work changes hundreds, if not thousands of people’s lives for the better. Carefully planned projects, like those done by Heart of God Haiti, are what will empower the Haitian children and adults and build a population of educated, Christ-loving citizens.
God’s work through Heart of God Haiti is seen in the testimonies of the women in Kofael, in the firm but loving hands of the care takers at the children’s center, in Erin’s dynamic personality as she manages so many aspects of the mission, in Simon’s quick thinking when things do not go as planned, in the teachers’ dedication to their students, and in the smiles and hugs from the children at the center.
Leaving Haiti was difficult, but it was made easier when, while driving away from the center for the last time, Jude shouted out to our van, “God bless you!” with utter sincerity and conviction. God is ready for us to be His hands and His feet for the people of Haiti and it is up to us to respond. I am certainly glad I did.”