Friday, June 12, 2015

Haiti - 2015 - Day 5 - Final Day of Camp

New Saints
(Editor's Note: Tonight, I intended to pawn off this duty to two students, but we got so late in our reflection that I felt bad keeping them up any longer and decided to write the entry myself.  I consider myself extremely fortunate to be with a group of students and faculty where the risk of an overlong-but-still-meaningful reflection is real and present.) 
Final Day Swimming
Final Day Shenanigans

As the director roved the seminary grounds rounding up the children for our final fairwells, there were a few moments when students lingered around the water (we went swimming in the afternoon today) and the Director of St. Paul's School, Edson, shared short conversations with students before ushering them forward towards the central court.  The conversations, though, did not seem disciplinary in nature; rather, they wafted in soft tones towards us, the faculty chaperones, as we watched on the sidelines.  Madame Scott approached Edson to ask about those conversations, and he explained that they were short because the conversations were pretty simple: the kids didn't want to leave, didn't want it to be over yet.  It looks like we've got some new members of our Saints community, and not just because they're wearing the t-shirts.
Ms. Engelberg notices me taking a photo of her showing photos to St. Paul's students
I spent the last half year with the students trying to plan for as many contingencies as possible in this project, but I don't think I could have anticipated how visible our impact was.  Over the last few hours of the camp, I could see and feel the connections that students forged.  When I picture Giddings (and Palmer, and Sammy, and Katerina, and more), I now picture them with what seem like dozens of girls clinging to their arms and following them about.  I picture Margaret in the ocean with Haitian students swarming around her, vying to appeal to her attention.  I picture Josiah in the quad with Haitian students swarming around him, trying to tackle him to the ground in the cruelest-friendly way possible.  Finally, I picture Jenn in the final farewells of the camp with a young child so comfortable in her arms that the girl fell asleep and Jenn had to stay with the girl until she woke up, long past when the majority of students had left back up the shaded path of the seminary and back up busy Rte. 1 back to their homes.  As an English teacher, I sometimes get caught up in academics and its myriad abstractions, but at the end of this camp, reality wrenched me from my own mind and left me stunned.  We had planned so many activities--in English, arts and crafts, athletics, and today, video making--but now, I can't believe that it's only these activities that delivered us to this point.
Giddings and only one other girl this time
Swimming Buddies
Father Walin (center) gets in on the action

We worked on updating our last mission, the computer lab, today.
Final Mural-Making at St. Paul's School
Not Happy

I once heard someone say that the promise of a great school is that it should be a place where each child is known.  Someone will know that child's name and that child's story and no one will be a simple number.  In listening to the students speak about their experiences in the times we spend together in casual conversation over dinner or in transit from place to place, it seems these students have, at least in small part, done this.  We shared the different pictures of what we now call "our" kids and reflected on our hopes on what these students would do or become.  Over our reflection tonight, though we talked about large ideas that no single person can hope to solve, we always returned to the stories of the individuals we'd met, never forgetting that these problems affect actual human beings and are not simply concepts in abstraction or words and numbers on a printed page.  I'll always remember Don Luigi, the student who pulled me aside to say a goodbye he pieced together out of the little (but still impressive) English he knew.  As he grasped for the words to express his thoughts, I realized that he was trying to say that he was sad that I was going and that he'd miss me.  I realized I'd have to teach him how to say those words, mostly because I realized I'd have to use them to express how I felt in that moment.

Don Luigi and I
We gave them bubbles...
...and enjoyed them ourselves...
...which led to some competition.
My experience with Don Luigi illustrates that this is not a one-way relationship, either.  Earlier in the week, Father Walin, the pastor of the Montrouis community, chastised the students of St. Paul's for calling us all by generic names for "foreigner."  Almost as though to prove a point, in his final act at the camp was to ask us to raise our hands separately to ask the group of students to give each of us individual thanks.  Though there was some stumbling over more difficult names, the crowd of students offered each of us, by name, effusive thanks.  As the students filtered out, they all asked for phone numbers, Facebook pages, and the like to keep in touch.  It's easy to think that this is the perfunctory end-of-summer-camp activity, but one of the SSSAS students actually received a call from one of the students about ten minutes after the end of the day!

Dokken walks with a new friend
More people walk with new friends
We'd discussed a possibility over dinner that our feelings and relationships that we've gained over this project might be a bit selfish--that we are more helping ourselves grow and learn, and not necessarily benefitting the community of Montrouis as much as we are benefitting ourselves.  Though I think this is a very real danger, the depth of stories and the difficulty of questioning leads me to believe that we have made a small step towards achieving otherwise.  We get to take a break from the physical rigors of the camp, but I know that we won't be taking a break from the pictures in our minds anytime soon.  Plus, we're still in Haiti!  Personally, I can't wait to see what the next two days--and beyond--bring.

They just really wanted their picture taken
Halle and two boys, one of whom is very happy to be with her (or to have a bag of water)
Final moments of camp
Jenn and the Sleeping Child

1 comment:

Serena Beeks said...

I miss you guys already! Serena