Haiti Day Three: Class of 2017

Today’s blog was written by Graham Barbour (first half) and Nathalie Danso (second half).

We woke up today at 6:00 am to see the sunrise from a supposedly incredible lookout point on a hill overlooking Hinche. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication with the security guard and the gate was locked, and we missed the sunrise (much to the dismay of our group, because we had woken up an hour earlier than usual). We are going to try again tomorrow. Despite this letdown, our first half of the day was so much fun. At 8:00 we headed to the boys’ orphanage, Maison Fortuné, in Hinche. The ride was very interesting, and we were able to experience downtown Hinche. Even though it was early in the morning, the downtown area was bustling with activity. Motorcycles swerved in and out of the cars, and vendors sold their wares on the sides of the narrow streets.

When we arrived at Maison Fortuné – the boys’ orphanage – we sat in on the English classes. Mr. Boland, Ryan and I were with the boys, and Brother Harry was the teacher. We walked in during the middle of the class, and despite trying to be wallflowers we attracted quite a bit of attention. The class consisted of about 20 boys ranging from ages 16 to 33, but they looked much younger. Mr. Boland, Ryan, and I introduced ourselves, and took a seat in the back of the small classroom. The boys continued class – they were listing words ending in “graphy,” but were not very focused and kept casting furtive glances towards the back of the room. The topic soon changed to us again. Brother Harry asked Mr. Boland to elaborate on his profession of “Ancient History Teacher.” He went up to the front of the room and explained that he taught about the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians.  After explaining to the boys for the umpteenth time what “Ancient History” was, Mr. Boland called us up to the front of the room. We told the class that we are from Virginia, but the students had a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept of many states within a country. Mr. Boland then opened the floor to questions, and they bombarded us.

The girls' English class held every Saturday morning at Maison Fortune.

The girls’ English class held every Saturday morning at Maison Fortune.

Some new friends from the English class.

Some new friends from the English class.

The girls’ English class had five participants and was led by Brittany Tusing, the In-Country Coordinator for Midwives for Haiti. Ms. Massey, Nathalie, Helen, and Justine partnered up with the women attending the class to practice simple dialogue, ranging from “when is your birthday?” to “what did you do yesterday?” The girls exhibited varying levels of English competency so some conversations were more challenging. The girls had a great time and really enjoyed getting to know some of the local women.

When class was dismissed, we stood outside and had one-on-one conversations with the students. It was a bit awkward to be talking to a 30-year-old who was still in school, and I was astonished at how good their English was, and although our different accents made it a challenge to understand each other, we had some great conversations.

Playing at the girls' orphanage.

Playing at the girls’ orphanage.

We left our newfound friends, and drove to the girls’ orphanage, a few minutes away. When we arrived we introduced ourselves, and were greeted with tremendous cheers. The girls sang us a welcome song, and then we dispersed across the grounds, and played games of volleyball, patty-cake, and soccer. The girls were massaging Ryan’s head, and trying to braid Mr. Boland’s hair. Ms. Massey and Helen painted nails, and Justine gave glitter tattoos.

(The following was written by Nathalie Danso.)

When we came back from the girls’ orphanage, we visited the artisan vendors set up outside our house. We each stocked up on some souvenirs. After lunch we all headed to the Azil, which is a feeding center for malnourished children. When we got there, Justine helped to dress the young children for mass. While Ms. Massey, Mr. Boland, Ryan, Graham, Helen, and I helped feed the younger children a special vitamin-enriched porridge. Helen and Ryan both became close with two of the children and the children would cry if they tried to put them back down in the cribs.

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Feeding time at the Azil.

Feeding time at the Azil.

One little girl who was about one year old had come in with her mother for TB. Her mother had died the day before but thankfully the little girl had survived. The little girl was very malnourished to the point that her skin sagged off her bones and when I picked her up I could feel her rib cage. I helped the nun in charge of the facility weigh her and she came out to 4.5 kg. It was shocking! Several of the children looked significantly younger than they are, with blond hair and extended bellies, which are clear signs of malnutrition.

After feeding time at the Azil, we drove back into the boys’ orphanage at Maison Fortune. There were a few older boys playing basketball and the younger ones were just walking around. Helen had a frisbee on her so we started passing it around with the some of the younger children. Some of the older boys started playing soccer so Graham and Ryan went and played with them. Justine, Helen, and I stayed with the younger children. We played with the frisbee for a while longer then the younger boys started showing us their gymnastics tricks. All the boys were walking on their hands and doing flips. Justine also taught them a few of her tricks.20130803-215842.jpg

We also played taps and some hand games with the kids. There was another group from the US that we met and one of them was a midwife. There were also some high schoolers in their group, and it was nice to meet some similarly-aged students from the US in Haiti. We headed back to the MFH house for dinner and a briefing on MFH’s history and operations.

Highlights of the Day:

Graham Barbour: Participating in the Men’s English class, and having conversations with them afterwards.

Nathalie Danso: Playing with the kids at the Azil

Ryan Fulmer: Holding and feeding the 18-month old girl at the Azil.

Justine Kaskel: Putting pen-tattoos on the girls at the orphanage; their smiles were the best.

Helen Shaves: Attending the women’s English class at Maison Fortuné.

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