My favourite time of year is September, not only because it is fall and that means that we are much closer to Christmas (and it starts to cool off here in the Caribbean), but it is also my favourite time of year because all of our little ones are back at school and enjoying dance class 4 days a week. The children here in Haiti have a different level of respect for school vs the children in North America (I am one of those typical North American children). Most of us do whatever we can to miss out on a day of having a teacher tell us what we need to know and what we need to do. However, here in Haiti, our kids refuse to take a day off even when they are running a fever or coughing up a lung, and even when I insist that they stay home; they still want to go. This is simply because they are grateful, and that warms my heart. Over 50 percent of primary aged children in Haiti do not attend school due to poverty. The lack of education is widespread throughout the country for both children and adults. Our main focus and what drives me with passion is providing our children with a quality education and an opportunity for the future. Most of our children have come from situations where they had never attended school or for our younger ones just starting school- never would have been given the opportunity. They love waking up at 5am, rushing to get ready, and heading out the door in their perfectly pressed uniforms. When they return home, it is very unlikely that I have to even ask them to complete their homework, they are usually already sitting in a circle completely focused on the task at hand.
I am going to share a story with you of one of our boys:
Wendel is 12 years old. We first met Wendel when we lived in our small house in Montrouis. Each day, a small frail child would pass our front gate carrying a large pail of water. He was not wearing any shoes, his clothes were tattered and torn, he was severely malnourished, and he looked hopeless. He would often stop and just gaze into our yard watching our children play. Shortly after noticing that he was malnourished,Wendel began joining our kids for meals, but never speaking to them. As time went on we learned that Wendel's mother had been killed in a car accident when he was younger and his father was sent to Prison (for unknown reasons) and was killed while serving his time. Wendel was left an orphan. A local family took him in. However, they did not take him in and shelter him with the love and affection that he needed. Instead, Wendel worked as a Restavek in order to have a roof over his head. Wendel was abused, neglected, and malnourished. He was 8 years old and had never attended school. He was completely illiterate.
When Wendel joined our home he began attending school. It was hard though, because the teachers just kept failing him. None of his teachers took the time to help him. And although we made countless efforts at the home to teach him to read and write, he just didn't seem to get it. After awhile I realized that Wendel was slightly dyslexic- he was writing his numbers and letters backwards. When we moved to our new home in Port Au Prince in October 2012, the kids began attending a better school. The teachers paid a little more attention to Wendel's needs as did we. This past year was the first year that Wendel passed his classes. He has been improving more and more with each passing semester and he has become so dedicated to his studies. He makes me so proud as he has come such a long way!
It is stories like Wendel's that make the hard days worthwhile. It makes you realize that although you may often doubt it, you are making a small difference, even just to one child, and that giving up your previous life of luxury was necessary so that you could witness these little miracles. Thank you to the many child sponsors that make this possible!
These past few months have felt like a whirlwind. We have had numerous volunteers, lots of celebrated birthdays, and also.... learned that a new little member will be joining our family in March 2016. Thats rights, I am pregnant (currently 16 weeks)! In some ways Haiti has aged me beyond my years, and I know that is has prepared me for this very moment. The kids have prepared me for motherhood and have already taught me unconditional love- even when that means waking all hours of the night to give them a bottle or to soothe them from their nightmares.
It has been chaotic for Ryan and I trying to figure out life here, but we know that everything will fall into place, as it always does. We have just moved into our new apartment which is right around the corner from my babies and I am heading home this week for a quick visit to get in some much needed family time! I am so excited to be able to celebrate thanksgiving with the family as I have missed it the last few years. Pumpkin pie here I come!!!