Below is a reflection written by Upper Midwest staff member, Robert Sevenich, after visiting NPFS Haiti.
Haiti has faced indescribable political and environmental devastation resulting in abject poverty and myriad deaths. It’s easy to believe that there is irrevocable damage in Haiti when visiting areas of Port-au-Prince, namely Cité Soleil. Some criticize groups within the population for their lack of emphasis on commonality in the community in the wake of desolation. The need to survive often cripples the ability to mobilize for social change.
In the midst of the impenetrable darkness, there is indeed light. In the communities surrounding Kenscoff, a town located in the mountains 15 miles south of Port-au-Prince, hundreds of children and their parents rise long before the break of day to make the long trek up the mountain’s steep incline to attend NPH’s Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH) primary school. Often mothers will wake in the middle of the night, ignite a small fire to cook the only daily meal for her family – a meal that will help sustain the children during the long journey and day at school. Families make this quotidian sacrifice to secure the opportunity for their children to learn.
St. Helene Foyer is home to 376 orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children, and it also provides a primary education to nearly 484 external youths while employing numerous local people to run its programs. As an enthusiastic community center for learning and employment, St. Helene’s home and school are a true testament of the Haitians’ shared desire for knowledge and communal sustainability. For example, after the school day, children will study on the side of the streets at night to glean enough muted light to study. This is one of the many practices people prioritize to improve their education.
NPH’s programs, along with many others, challenges the notion that Haitians lack the foresight to create systematic change. There indeed exists a blazing yearning for education and societal advancement within the Haitian community. One of the key pillars of NPH’s mission is to teach children the importance of shared responsibility. More appropriately, however, NPH teaches Haiti – and every other nation it where works – the necessity and urgency of community engagement and noble leadership.