We arrived back in Haiti yesterday, and we were so excited to pull into Hope Rising and see our kids after a month of being away. I will tell you, we were not disappointed by our kids’ reaction. They were just as thrilled as we were to see our truck pull in and we could hear them as soon as the gate was opened. We parked the truck, walked up to their house, and we hugged each of them. For many of our little ones, it was more than a hug as I had to physically remove Maekin from grabbing my leg so I could walk around and greet everyone else. In short, it was a very memorable homecoming and I could not guess who was more excited that we were there, us or the kids. Many of you have been down on trips, and you kind of know what I am talking about. Any time a new team comes in, and especially a team of sponsors or a team that our kids already know, the kids are so excited to see them. I think it has to do with the idea that there are people who love them and care about them, and why would a child not react like that to someone who does nothing but love them. The bottom line is that it is really fun to live in the same place as our kids finally, and it is really great to see their reaction after we were gone for a week.
With that said, we now have one of the busiest times of the year ahead of us…School Time. We have 19 children who live with us and an additional 10 children who still have their tuition, books, and uniforms paid for by All Things New. Some of you may not have known this, but if you sponsor one of the children who were not able to move to Hope Rising with us, we probably still pay for their school to give their parents an opportunity to take care of them even if they cannot afford it. You also may not understand how difficult it can be to get ready for school here in Haiti so I will try to explain some of what happens here compared to there.
First of all is the tuition. The school tuition is not expensive here compared to private schools in America, but for many families here, school is a luxury that they cannot afford. We have seen tuition run anywhere from $125 to $275 depending on the age of the child and the school that they choose to attend. For many of us, this is little more than going out to a nice dinner and a movie, but this can be the equivalent of a year’s salary to people here. For us, we simply have to make trips to the 2 schools that our children attend, make sure everything is in place, make sure our children are in the correct grade, and pay the tuition to the administrator of the school.
The next, and maybe the most difficult aspect of getting ready for school, thing is the books. For many of you who are reading this blog, your child simply shows up at school and the books magically appear on your child’s desk that first day. In Haiti, it is quite the opposite. We go out to different book stores scattered throughout the area, wait in a long line until it is our turn, and then give the list of books we were given by the school to the retailer who then rifles through his inventory to try to find what we need. This is generally at least a 2 week endeavor as many books are in short supply, many bookstores only stock certain things, and we have to make sure that the books we are sold are originals and not photocopies. This is where our employee, Lener, comes into the picture. Without him, there is no way our children would have books in time, but he seems to be able to find what we need almost every time. Finally, for the last 4-7 books that we just cannot find, we go into the big outdoor market in Leogane and just walk around to all the different sellers until we finally find someone who has what we need. I am not doing this process justice, but trust me, this is not an easy task.
The third thing that we have to do to get ready is find uniforms for our kids. Many of the schools here in Haiti give you the fabric for your first uniform, but that is it. After that, it is up to us to find a tailor/seamstress to make the clothes, go into the market with a cloth sample so that we find the right material for a second or third uniform, and then make sure each of the uniforms fit and are exactly how the school wants them to look. In fact, in our meeting with one of the schools today, the principal kept telling us, in english, “not skinny, not skinny” referring to the fact that every young person in Haiti right now is infatuated with skinny jeans.
There are many other things that come up along the way. For instance, our girls have to have their hair done in a very specific way (ie. one of our schools requires 6 braids with the correct number of barrettes and other hair decorations) or they will be sent home from school. For that, we have to go to the outdoor market and find the right color and number of barrettes for each of our girls. We also have to find the right color socks with the right designs on them, the right school supplies (trust me, do not try to use a black pen in a school in Haiti), and what days (if any) each of the schools will be serving lunch so we can know what we need to send with our kids. There are many considerations that go into this time, and these are just a few.
All of you who are parents know how difficult the first week of school is and how your children begin to act as school approaches. Some of them get excited, some of them nervous, some of them do not change, and some of them do not know how to act. Now, multiply that by 19 and add to that the difficulties of returning to school in Haiti and this is what we will be dealing with in the next few weeks. On top of that, nobody in the country really knows when school will start. Last year, it was scheduled for September 4 and then started on September 15, the year before it was supposed to start the first of September and was pushed back to the first of October. This year, it is scheduled for September 7, but with elections coming this Sunday, there is no way to know what will happen to the start of school. We cannot wait for school to start, but please pray for us that we buy all the right things, do all the right things, and get our kids ready for the start of school (whenever that may be).