Haiti once was known as the crown jewel of the Caribbean. If one believes today’s news reports, he or she would likely surmise that Haiti’s luster has been so diminished by natural and man-made disasters it cannot ever shine brightly again. The problem is the media forgot to tell the Haitian people that their era of brilliance has passed. Truth be told, the Haitians are right; they are determined to stand tall and strong as “piti piti” (bit by bit) they work toward a bright future.
Haiti is half of Hispaniola, a small tropical island not too far from the British Virgin Islands. The other half of the island is the Dominican Republic, a tropical paradise of lush greenery, indigenous people, and a relatively stable economy. The Haitian portion of the island is portrayed in the media as treeless, helpless, and hopeless; however, that is not the Haiti I know or want to discuss, for near the surface of whatever bleak image anyone conjures of Haiti, percolates the deep conviction that faith, tenacity, and kindness will prevail, elevating Haiti to its rightful status as a glorious place to visit, work, and live.
I know this to be true because I have seen it many times. My three most recent trips to Haiti have been as member of the All Saints’ Episcopal Church and Day School team that regularly visits our partner school and parish, St. Paul’s in Gascogne (in the Central Plateau). Each time our cars crest the hill upon which St. Paul’s sits we are greeted by close to 250 impeccably uniformed children sporting smiles that radiate pure joy. I quickly learned when I first met the children that their bliss is deeply rooted in their faith of an ever-present God; children cannot feign authenticity and reverence. I knew I had much to learn from them and much I wanted to share with people back home.
The opportunity to begin taking seventh and eighth grade students to St. Paul’s a couple of years ago was monumental. I teach Language Arts and words are not usually something in short supply; but, I was often left without words to describe the majesty of watching junior high students bonding deeply with St. Paul’s students. Truly, showing far exceeds telling when it comes to Haiti. The light in the eyes of my students was mirrored in the eyes of their new Haitian friends. I realized that the brilliance of Haiti may not be in the barren mountains, but it most definitely is in its people, particularly its children; the luster never left Haiti, it lives within its people.
Haitians have endured much, yet they personify hope. I believe in Haiti because I have seen its impact on my students, and while struggles continue, “bite pa tonbe” (stumbling is not falling), Haiti will regain its balance and brilliance.