Update from Port au Prince
Since arriving in Port au Prince our journey has been hectic, moving and at times overwhelming, but all of the students will agree that it has already been an undeniably amazing experience. We are staying on a compound operated by the Haitian American Caucus in the Michaud region of Croix des Bouquets. We share the compound with about 20 students from Howard University in Washington D.C., a few interns, HAC staff, three dogs and an incredibly small kitten.
On Sunday, we toured Port au Prince and saw the National Cathedral and the Haitian White House, both of which are barely still standing as a reminder of the devastating quake that hit the city in January 2010. An even sadder reminder is the tent city, filled with people, that rests just a few feet away from both of these majestic structures some two years later. After our tour, we returned to the compound to the one year anniversary celebration of HAC's Women empowerment group. Close to 100 women and their children came to the compound and celebrated with dance, song and speeches. At HAC, they believe that when women are strong, the community is stronger, therefore they host financial literacy workshops, English and Creole classes, and sewing classes specifically for the women of Michaud.
On Monday, we began the day at 7:45am with the students who attend school, the Ecole Shalom, at the compound. Each morning the students begin the day by signing a hymn, saying a prayer and singing the Haitian National Anthem. Our students spent Monday, teaching English classes to the students in grades K-6, running the arts and crafts project for the after school program and teaching adults basic English in the afternoon. Some of the group took advantage of the beautiful weather and spent a few hours at the beach.
On Tuesday, the students divided the group and one half spent the morning helping out with the agricultural site, while the other half went to the proposed location of the HAC's Community Bank. Upon completion, this will be the first community bank in Michaud. The hope is that community members will be able to take small loans and open savings accounts. Our students began the arduous process of clearing the brush and preparing the land for construction.
We'll update this site more tomorrow with pictures and once we return to NY, we'll upload videos of this experience. In addition to the service work, our students spend about an hour a day taking Creole classes which helps as we attempt to communicate with the children and their families. The photographers and videographers for this trip are Carl-Olivier Prime, a junior History major from Montreal, who is a Haitian native and Sylvain Habersaat, a junior Art major from Switzerland.