Today marks the end of our ninth school year at Ecole de la Grace de Caneille. The region is a far different place than when I first visited.
On each of my visits, I am amazed at the impact small efforts can have in transforming lives. This past Spring, I spent a little over a week in Caneille. In addition to my typical schedule of community meetings, class observations, and fun with the kids; I got to see some amazing impacts of our work.
One of the small efforts where I was able to see an immediate impact was the distribution of about 100 LuminAID solar lights during this trip. These lights, donated to us through the All Saints Episcopal Church Alternative Giving Fair, were distributed to students, teachers, parents, and community members throughout Caneille.
After two days of distributions, I climbed to the roof of the house where I was staying and looked across the mountains to find little lights beaming from homesteads in a community that, just the night before, was completely dark. These lights (which last all night on a single charge) provide light for activities from homework to late-night washing up. The extension of productive hours ensures that students have time to complete both their household chores necessary for the present and their studies, essential for their futures.
Not all impacts are so obviously and immediately visible. One of the most rewarding parts of my visit was the opportunity to reconnect with our first graduating class. I asked Eloge, a dedicated man with whom I have shared many experiences over the past nine years, but with whom I can barely communicate, to call on as many of these students as he could find to ask them to come back and share an afternoon with me.
We spent a few minutes being reacquainted – these students started with us when we opened the school, but, even more, many of them were the out-of-school kids that I met on my very first trip to the region in February 2006. In 2009, they exceeded all expectations when not only did 100% of their class pass the government exam, but they scored some of the highest marks in the region.
Over the several hours we were together, we shared smiles, laughter, and tears as they told me of the triumphs they have found and the heartbreaking struggles they continue to go through to pursue their education. I did my best to encourage them, but they did a much better job encouraging me.
One young man– Illionel – told me that, ‘for this place [the school], I have no words. Everything I am and everything that I can become is because of this place. Thank you.’ Another student comforted me after telling me the story of losing her family support system but still finding a way to pursue her education – ‘If I want things to change — I must continue.’
All of the students that were able to come back to meet with me are currently working towards graduation from secondary school and have amazing dreams on what their education is going to do for their future and the future of their family.
All of this was made possible through the support of a relatively small group of dedicated individuals in Haiti and in the United States who come alongside these children and help them change their community and their country for the better. Thank you.