Thank you for following my travels in Haiti these past three weeks. I cannot overstate how heartened I feel by the work being done there by MPMHaiti. Samuel Thidor, our faithful Director of Projects, is a true testament to vision and strength. In a thumbnail sketch, I'd like to show you what I saw:
Clear plastic bottles lined up in the sun, letting UV rays kill the bacteria that causes cholera and other illnesses. Who lined these bottles up for passive solar treatment? A second grader, a fourth grader, a 12 year old and her 9 year old brother... The children of MPMHaiti are not only receiving wonderful educations at school thanks to their sponsors, they are also receiving life-changing health education. And they have embraced it as I could never have imagined.
The first day I arrived in the central yard of 5 homes of children we sponsor, I asked curiously, "So, what kind of water are you drinking nowadays?" They all lit up and explained how they drink solar water now. "How do you do that?" They gave me a look like "What? YOU don't know how to treat your water? Geez, let me explain..." And so I received an education on treating water and the importance of drinking clean water. Some water welled up in my own eyes.
While on our rounds visiting teachers and heads of schools, two of the children's schools asked us to teach this SODIS purification method to the student body. By the end of the week, over 100 elementary school students had begun to treat their own water in the school yard and 30 high school leaders had received training and set up a follow up training date with us for April 19th.
Have you ever noticed how different a child can look when they start to get an education? Perhaps it's not always perceptible, but I feel like you can see it in their eyes, in how they hold themselves, in the way they speak. Here too I was blown away. Bernardo, one of our youngest students, was always a very sweet, shy little boy, who also always looked a little lost to me. His mother is one of our poorest families, renting a two room hut without a proper latrine, and barely making ends meet. This visit, Bernardo came right up to me, bright-faced and standing tall. He started by telling me what his grades were - and they are impressive. He made direct eye contact with me and smiled widely. Is this the same kiddo? I'll post a video interview he asked me to take of him. Incredible. This is the power of education, my friends.
Rose Merline, who was basically a "restavek," or child slave, when I met her in 2006, is now living under the protection of our Project Director's family and is top in her class. Nights without electricity, of which there are many, she studies by candlelight. I asked her what she thought would make a difference for students like her. After a day of discerning her answer, she told me that every kid could use afterschool tutoring. (In five years of classroom teaching in the U.S., I don't think I ever got a request like that from a student.)
"Beans, rice, oil, oatmeal, spaghetti, flour... oh, and soft drinks... I sell a little of everything... I listen to the market." That was Cam-Suze Georges, a dynamic woman in her 20's who formed a group of 5 they call "Fanm Vyann" or "Tough Women" to borrow with MPMHaiti's Microcredit lending program. They meet monthly right near her stand and are incredibly proud of the businesses they've built. Tough, amazing women given the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families.
MariJo Pierre, another strong woman whose group of 5 is called "Solidaritè" (Solidarity), lost both her legs above the knee, has two fingers on her left hand, and has the strength of 3 people put together. She also did a short video interview because she wanted to tell the world that disabled women CAN run a business, that MPMHaiti was the only group that would take a chance on them, and that they continue to grow strong. We were called to a meeting by three of their members - the other two disabled women having gone from their businesses to their afternoon classes to finish their high school degrees (now that they can afford to). Marijo called us together to broker a deal for a larger loan now that they paid off their first one with incredible fidelity. It's not much more they're asking for, but they wanted to make sure they would get the same low interest rate and terms. She drives a hard bargain. This is exactly the kind of woman, the kind of group, we want to lend to.
Our goal is still to raise $15,000 in 2012 to be able to dispense these next loans to groups like "Solidaritè" and "Fanm Vyann." In fact, while I was in Haiti I received a donation notification that a gentleman in England had heard of these groups and had donated $300 to support a businesswoman. It is just like this that MPMHaiti strengthens, grows, and provides real opportunity to real people...
Person by Person... Moun Pou Moun.
Wait? What about the latrine I mentioned Bernardo's family doesn't have? What about this health education program? What about tutoring? More businesswomen? I'm with you, there's a lot in the wings, ready to take off.
This trip I learned another of the thousands of wise Haitian proverbs. This one is also a song, and starts, "Lend me a wing... and I will fly!" Help us fly higher. Spread the word. Moun Pou Moun - Person by Person.