Today’s post to recount Saturday, June 11, 2016 was written by
Ryan Fulmer ’17 and Kara Kaufman ’19:
Today we were up early, though not quite as early as yesterday, and were packed and ready to depart by 8am to begin our monitoring and evaluation in the rural community of Clory, about 30 minutes outside Hinche. Somehow we were able to cram over eighteen people into our van; calling it a tight squeeze would be putting it lightly. After crossing two rivers and ascending a large hill, we reached the Flower of Hope School in Clory. Together with the translators we made a plan that maximized the number of houses we could visit today. In total all four groups interviewed more than 50 families and learned valuable information regarding our Luci Light and Biosand water filter projects; we also distributed more Luci Lights after each interview, which brought smiles to many friendly Haitian faces. The monitoring and evaluation interviews we conducted today were especially enjoyable for me because they were nostalgically reminiscent of the needs assessment interviews I assisted in conducting about 19 months ago. Pleasure, my group’s translator, happened to be the same translator who helped my group during our needs assessment back in November of 2014. Pleasure grew up in Clory and has been a great help to us over the years; one day he hopes to be a physician. Walking from home to home with Pleasure, Madeleine, and Kara, I not only recognized familiar faces but also recognized a phenomenon I had discovered almost two years ago. Despite the widespread poverty we saw from place to place, we also saw some of the happiest and most grateful people we had ever met. Having grown accustomed to a country in which we are provided so many great opportunities, it has only been until I have returned to Haiti that I remember the consistent lesson the Haitian people have taught me. In Clory happiness lies not in material goods but in the intangibles of family and friendship. People all do what they can to get by, but more important than anything is that the community does so together, united in a common interest in improving the lives of each generation of Haitian children. I still find it hard to imagine that people who have so little can be so happy, and I am glad we have all had the opportunity to form such a close bond with such a friendly community. After conducting interviews for about three hours, we returned to the school, loaded back in the van, and headed back to Hinche. When we got back, we all enjoyed some Cokes with lunch, which are made with real cane sugar in Haiti, and prepared for our afternoon adventures.
Post lunch we piled back into the “homey” van and drove first to Maison Fortuné, which is a local orphanage with two locations – one for girls and one for boys. Half of us unloaded at the girls’ orphanage and the remaining half drove farther to the Azil, a center for treating malnourished children. From the moment we stepped out of the car, we could hear the children. There were mission groups there, too, all playing with the kids. The little girls ran around in pink polka-dotted dresses, the boys in a white-collared shirt tucked into black shorts. There were a few that were different though. Three noticeably younger gals wore flowery dresses. Two noticeably skinnier and sicker boys wore lime green t-shirts and navy shorts. Within 30 seconds of walking into the building, all six of us had a kid in our arms, and James even had one of the young girls on his shoulders (who did not have any diaper on; he found this out later). While the girls loved sitting on our laps and holding our hands, the boys were interested in taking pictures on our phones and wearing our sunglasses. After handing off one girl to James, Ryan pointed to a boy across the room. I walked slowly over the concrete floor and sat down next to him. He was dressed in the lime green t-shirt and navy shorts. His head was heavy compared to his small frame. His arms were a little thicker than the width of my thumb, and his collarbone was defined under the thin t-shirt. He was plagued by fatigue and as I sat down, his eyes slowly lifted to meet mine. His tiny hands grabbed to meet my thumbs, and soon his fragile body was on my lap, lengthy arms wrapped around me and tired head resting on my chest. It was a sudden transition: from joking around with cute, hyper kids to holding a child that could be in an ad on TV. It was almost like we were in our own little world, and I found it strange that while I knew nothing of him, and he of me, we were so connected in the one moment. The boy began to cry when he saw I was leaving, but I was able to soothe him long enough to get (unwillingly) back on the bus. This is what this trip was about. While we packed Luci Lights and created answer sheets and laminated interview guides, the interactions and experiences are what are going to motivate and feed the passion for aiding and working together with people globally now and in our futures.