Over the next few weeks, we are going to blog about getting our kids ready for school. If you are a parent, you know how difficult it can be to make sure your children are ready, and if you are not a parent then you can remember getting ready for the first day of school as a child. One of my earliest memories of the difficulties of getting ready for school was when I was about to go to Hollis Hand Elementary (in LaGrange, GA) for the first time. This is actually the school that my Mom and brother-in-law teach at now, and it is a really good school. Anyway, the big thing that everyone needed that year were “3 prong” folders. Not a binder, but those little paper folders with the 3 brass prongs inside of them to keep notebook paper. I am not sure if schools still use those, but that year we needed like 100 of them (probably 3, but back then it seemed like a lot). Anyway, I remember driving around to every store, because our family had a tradition of doing things at the last minute, and just not being able to find those particular folders. Looking back, I am not sure why we could not just use a 3 ring binder or any other apparatus that would hold numerous sheets of notebook paper, but our school was very specific…We needed those particular folders. (Just to put your mind at ease, we did find those notebooks at a small Corley Drugstore that just so happened to have not sold out of them even though every other family in LaGrange was looking for the same thing.) All of that to say, that sometimes schools ask students for very specific things, and no matter how silly it seems or how difficult they are to find…You have to find them.
Now, multiply the headache of searching for things by 29 (because that is how many kids we are helping to start school), multiply the number of things on the supply list that are difficult to find by 1,000 (because we are working without Wal-Mart or Target or even a Corley Drugstore), and add to that the idea that we are in a different country where they speak a different language and have a different culture. At this point, things get “fun.” For instance, later in the blog series, we are going to talk about the difficulty of buying books. In fact, just the other day (about 3 weeks prior to the start of school), we sent one of our employees to the local bookstore to begin purchasing books for our kids. The bookstore was out of books and would not get them in for at least a week (which here means about 2). Last year, school was supposed to start on September 1 and began on September 15. The year before, school was supposed to start on September 2 and started on October 1. This year school is supposed to start on September 7 and we have no idea what day it will actually begin. We have to hire a tailor and seamstress to sew each of our children’s 3 uniforms (for a total of 87 uniforms) and these uniforms have to be ready by the start of school. That means we have to find and purchase the fabric, get the kids measured, and hope that our tailor and seamstress will be finished by the time school begins. Last year, we hired a guy who did not finish on time and it forced 3 of our children to not be able to attend school the first day so we hired a new guy that we hope will be better.
These are all issues that we will run into over the next few weeks as we get our children ready. Even today, we hoped to meet with the principal for the elementary school so that we could make sure everything was ready for our kids, and he was still on break (like he has been for the past 4 weeks) until tomorrow. If you cannot laugh at yourself and the mistakes that you make while you are here, then you are in a lot of trouble, and over the next few weeks, we will be laughing at ourselves a lot. We already have a good story about the first day we tried to accomplish things that Jess will tell in the next couple of days.
The good news is that our kids did much better in school last year than they did the previous year, and we are hoping for even greater gains in the coming school year. We have wonderful tutors, good schools, and our kids genuinely enjoy going to school. They may not genuinely enjoy studying, but they do like school, and this year will really be a make-or-break year for many of our kids. We will have a lot of 6th graders (the first year for the big national exam) and a lot of kids who will be starting a new grade with new coursework (many of our kids were repeating this past year and had the advantage of previously having completed the coursework). So, in the midst of these stories about how the beginning of school is here, please know that we are not complaining. We are so thankful that our children are in a good school and have all of the things that they need to do well and to increase the potential for their futures. We just want the readers (the supporters of All Things New) to be involved in the process and to get a feel for life here. We will try to do more series like this one so that you can get to know the kids better, so you can experience life in Haiti, and so you can see how things happen on a daily basis here. Thanks for reading, and please stay tuned for the next few parts in the series, “Starting School.”