Kate in Haiti's Blog

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The teachers become the students. January 30, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kateinhaiti @ 4:50 pm

I have a staff member called Archelet, who is one of my Education Supervisors. Last October he asked if I would come and see his teacher’s training, the next time he did it, and I agreed. Sure enough, last week he called in my promise, and on Friday I went to a school, which we had built, to see more than 200 teachers learning and discussing together.

I come from a family of teachers – both my Mum and my sister are teachers – so I have always felt a certain level of respect for the commitment required from teachers. We support more than 100 schools, which totals almost 600 teachers – many of whom don’t know when their next paycheque is coming, as it depends on when the children can afford to pay their school fees. 90% of the schools in Haiti are private, and as the limited number of Government schools could never accomodate all the children in the Country, parents are forced to send their children to fee paying schools. Of the 100 schools we support, for example, 99 are privatley owned.

The subjects we are teaching the teachers this month will help them to improve the educational quality in their schools, in a country which still teaches by rote; we are teaching child/educational psychology, dealing with the stigmatism of children at school (for example if they have HIV or cholera) and alternative/interactive teaching methods.  At the moment I have a French teacher, who started to teach us by rote – memorising and repeating verb tables, independantly of any context or variety. A couple of weeks ago we asked him to teach us differently, and having experienced the new, contextual, interactive style, I have recognised what an aid this is to learning. I feel that I am making progress, rather than just failing to adequatley memorise tables,  for which I am unsure the context of when I should use them.

Often when I have visited training sessions, in other countries where I have worked, it is a room of tired people – indeed, sometimes they are often asleep at the back of the room by the afternoon! – who are just waiting for their free lunch. When I arrived at the school on Friday it was three classrooms full of animated discussions, laughter and concentrated  learning.  I was impressed, happy and very, very proud of my dedicated team.


Protests and a providential truck. January 27, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kateinhaiti @ 12:11 am

The more alert of you – if indeed I have any followers left after such a long break – may have noticed that it has been some time since I last blogged. For this I can only apologise, swear that I’ll be more considerate of my adoring public in future, and promise to update you now on the reasons for the interval. I notice that I last blogged on 5th December, which is shortly before the country went to the polls to vote in their new President. As you may have seen on the news at the time, the results which were announced were not pleasing to everyone and many of them took to the streets in protest. Unfortunately for me and some of my colleagues, one of these road blockades was on the road between the mountains and Leogane town, so we became stuck up in the hills – with only one change of clothes and a very limited supply of teabags. The situation was grave indeed.

The first day that I was forced to drink coffee, we made our escape.

I called my contact at the UN and told him that we were going to walk across the mountains to freedom, in the manner of ‘The sound of music’. He told me that I had an ‘indomitable spirit’ and wished me well. Myself, two international colleagues and 13 Haitian colleagues all left our compound prepared to walk an anticipated 4 hours to Leogane – and came face-to-face with a banana truck. A quick negotiation with the driver saw me and the other expats hidden amongst the bananas, with the Haitian staff around us as a human shield. We drove the 18 kms in that way, through three road blocks (which were moved to make way for trade, but not for internationals), and got to Leogane undiscovered. A walk along the main road, and we were home – to a shower, a change of clothes and a cup of tea. Several cups of tea. Throughout the whole experience, we were never in any real danger. The most you could say about the International community during that time is that we were in the way; we weren’t the target, and we weren’t blamed. We hibernated in the guesthouse in Leogane for several days, laying low and letting things blow over – which they did.

The issues occurred because there were 3 main candidates; Madame Manigat (a former Senator and First Lady), Jude Celestin (the son-in-law of the current President, and also of his political party) and ‘Sweet Micky’ (a pop singer, who enjoys giving the message of his manifesto via song, often wearing drag). Only the first two would go through to the run-off vote, and Sweet Micky’s supporters were not happy that their man had come in 3rd. As it turns out, they were right to be angry – an independent recount shows that Sweet Micky did come in 2nd, and Celestin had fixed the vote to get through. After a few nervous weeks of deliberation, Celestin dropped out of the race yesterday – to the discontent of no-one, proving probably that he did pay his ‘supporters’ after all. We await the date to be set for the final vote to decide on the President; if Sweet Micky doesn’t win, we can expect more violence.

Since coming back after Christmas I have been so busy with the project, but also have so many stories to tell – things are getting exciting as we are starting to build houses, repair roads, help farmers with seeds, plant tree nurseries, help communities establish businesses, and finish up all our school construction. Tomorrow, I will start to tell you a few – but until then, here is a photo of a distribution we did today of Household Repair kits, to victims of Hurricane Tomas which passed through last November. Each kit contained wood, plastic sheeting, rope, nails, nurricane strapping (which holds the roof on for next time) and a blanket. Thank God, the distribution passed off smoothly (sometimes they can get a bit wild) and we look forward to giving out more in the next couple of weeks – to 300 families in total.