Today is our last day in Haiti. We awoke and packed up our belongings to head to the orphanage one last time. The realization of leaving these children we had just met a few days prior began to set in. We climbed into a car and began the trek to the orphanage. Again we turned off the main road onto the rocky road with massive ruts. Only this time it seemed as though the ruts were bigger than the previous days. The driver strategically maneuvered the vehicle to stay on the higher portions of the road to minimize bottoming the car out.
Once we passed the tall walls of the orphanage it seemed as though we were all the sudden at the gate honking for the security guards to open it for us. We drove in and quickly hopped out of the car to catch a few of the children finishing breakfast. We then headed out of the Community Center to see the children in lines with their class walking up the hill to attend mass. It was so heart warming to see all of the children dressed in their school attire with proud faces.
90% of schools are non-public and are managed by local communities, religious organizations or NGO’s
The Learning Academy at HaitiChildren has been providing education to children for over a decade. There are 295 children who attend the Learning Academy yearly. Fourty-four of them are from our children’s residence and 251 attend from nearby villages, Duco 1 and Duco 2. These are the villages that we went to do administer free medical care. Duco 1 and Duco 2 do not have schools in the village. These children walk over an hour and a half down the mountain to attend school.
The Learning Academy provides a curriculum that includes mathematics, geography, French, grammer, health, sciences and history among other subjects. Due to the extreme poverty in Haiti the Learning Academy provides one hot meal per school day for every child and teacher which amounts to over 85,000 meals annually. For some of the children this may be their only meal for the day. HaitiChildren has established a program to sponsor children to go to school.
It costs $30 per month to send a child to school and to give them the gift of education.
After spending time with the kids in the classrooms and seeing some of their lessons, we made our way to the HaitiChildren Special Education Center. This is the second onsite school in the HaitiChildren Village. It was opened in 2016. In the Special Education Center we provide tailored education to each of our 30 students with special needs. The curriculum is designed to focus on refinement of motor skills and social interaction using music, sports and team building games.
The Special Education Center is ran by our social workers in collaboration with our occupational therapists. It was amazing to get to see these children write out numbers while learning how to say them, use colors to color in numbers and see them build structures with play blocks. We spent some time with the children and saw a lot of progress during the hour we were with them. It was so inspiring to see them learn how to write a number they had never written before. We clapped and encouraged them to keep learning.
We then made our way to the HaitiChildren Rehabilitation and Therapy Center. This center serves 66 of our 119 children daily. We are one of the few orphanages in Haiti that accepts children with disabilities into a permanent home. Many of the children who are disabled when they came to use were mostly immobile and dependent on the assistance of the aids and physical therapists. Now some of them are able to walk with walkers and wheel themselves around in wheel chairs. These children show so much joy for life. Smiling, laughing and yelling to get your attention.
It was extremely powerful to see these children in action. They have such a look of wonder in their eyes when you are trying to show them something. Most of them do not speak a lot of words if any but their facial expressions show their love for life, their curiosity for life and their determination to live to their fullest potential. These children especially found a special place in our hearts. To think without HaitiChildren these children would have been forever abandoned and forgotten about. It simply is amazing how many children’s lives HaitiChildren has saved and enhanced over the twenty-six years of operation.
Our time was coming to an end. Even though our time in Haiti was short we developed good relationships with a lot of the children and staff. Each child at HaitiChildren has so much light and love that they bring into the world. They all seem to get a long very well and the staff constantly encourages them to be and do their best in every aspect of life. We made our rounds saying good-bye to the children. We were so impacted by every single child we had the pleasure of getting to spend time with. We were grateful to them for letting have a glimpse into their daily lives and welcoming us with open arms.