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Take Me Down To The Paradise Village

Zorange will always be Julie’s paradise


View from the rooftop in Bainet

After 16 trips to Zorange, Haiti, I can certainly say that no two have been the same. This trip I had the pleasure to have two wonderful teachers as traveling companions. As we traveled in the landcruiser, Jordan, a first time traveler, took it all in. We stopped to spend the night in Bainet on
the way, and outgoing Nicole soon had a game of catch with a coconut going o n the beach with some local children. The next morning, we left our beachside resort dormitory to head “home” to Zorange. We all enjoyed the bumpy ride on the road through the river. As always, I was welcomed with greetings and hugs by my Haitian “family” when we arrived. It was Sunday, so wespent the morning praising God, in Creole and French, in church, and we began to meet many of the children and teachers we would be working with for the next two
weeks. Old friends to me; new friends to Jordan and Nicole. We were already enjoying delicious meals prepared by the best host-mom in the world, Vierge. Nicole began our new
dinner time tradition of “peaks and pits,” where we shared our best and worst moments of the day. It was very difficult to think of a pit, while we were overflowing with peaks.

After a restful night’s sleep, we were ready to begin work Monday morning. Nicole shared her expertise as she presented physics lessons to the secondary classes. It was encouraging to see Ronald, the physics teacher, and the entire class, so engaged and curious.  Ashley had come to translate for us and was so helpful for the entire week. We couldn’t, literally, have done it without him. After school, I had a blast teaching eager Haitian teachers English, a continuation of a class I started in October of 2015 and have done ever since.

Julie reading with the primary students in the library

Nicole continued her science classes with Jordan and Ashley (biology this time) while my good friend, Marcel, the English teacher at Unifiee, helped me do a read-aloud and story map of The Cat in the Hat in Falida’s first grade class. I hope that by modeling this type of lesson, the primary teachers for the younger kids will make use of the children’s books in the library to continue reading aloud to them and engaging the students with questions to get them thinking. Speaking of the library, I also visited Brice, our librarian, who has been working hard cataloging books and keeping the library in order. He is very dedicated to his job, which I love to see. I did a little training with him, and ended my day with adult English class again. The students are so eager and get very competitive during the games we play.

Wednesday we continued with another science lesson with the older kids. I also did some creative writing with the 3rd graders. This is difficult for them because they’ve never practiced it, but I know they are just as creative as any other child, if it could just be nurtured and valued. English class that afternoon continued to be filled with laughter and fun.

Nicole did most of our teaching at the teacher training Thursday, but Jordan and I were able to field some questions and volunteer useful information too. Nicole is full of energy, idealism, and big dreams. She began our workshop discussing how to nurture a “school family” in your classroom. We then had the privilege of serving the lunch Vierge had made to the teachers and staff of Unifiee and sitting down and enjoying a nice lunch with them. Then, in the afternoon, she began training with the science teachers. We are very excited that by the beginning of next year, we will have a functional science lab put in place. We will be returning in July to get it set up. The teachers were all very engaged and actively participating in the workshop.

Nicole teaching chemistry with the philo class

Nicole spent all of Friday morning teaching chemistry lessons to the secondary students, while Jordan and I met with Ferne and Tony about a few things. The main topic of conversation was setting up the peer tutoring program. Ever since I have been coming here, one of the most common question I get from teachers is about what to do with learners who are struggling and often far behind in school. I have tried to initiate some interventions, just some hands-on tasks to do with the younger kids, but for the older ones, I have been wanting to set up a peer tutoring program. With feedback from Tony and Ferne, we have finally devised a plan that we are hoping will be successful. We just did not have the time or the translators to make it happen in our short time here this trip. It will begin in October if Tony and Ferne follow through with the tasks we gave them between now and then. I am hopeful we can make this happen. We ended the day with a pleasant walk to the river.

We had a low-key, relaxing weekend, enjoying our tropical paradise. Kim, the optometrist, arrived safely Saturday and settled in, amidst the conjunctivitis epidemic that had begun the day previous. She came with a suitcase stocked with antibiotic drops and the education needed to stop the spread before it got too out of control. Although I could understand little of what was
being said at church, there was a beautiful moment where a group of girls came to the front of the church and sang “You are my All in All” with the refrain in English. It brought tears to my eyes and really made me feel a part of it all. The Haitians are such wonderful people.

Monday, our last full day with the kids, Marcel and I did a read-aloud and story map with the 2nd grade class in the library so Brice and Lovenie could learn how to do one. Brice and Tony and Ferne will create a schedule that includes a library period for every class, including the young ones. I am so excited that we’ve received a grant from MoneyGram again this year to purchase around 200 new French children’s books for our library. The kids benefit so much from getting books in their hands each day. Jordan and I did a creative writing lesson with the 9th graders using imaginative picture prompts. The students did well with describing the pictures but didn’t yet understand the concept of using it to tell a story. We will have to continue to model this skill. While we taught language arts, Nicole co-taught a lesson with Pierre, the primary grades’ science teacher.  We also had some time to observe some classes, looking for their strengths and areas in which we could give suggestions. 

Unifiee’s teaching staff with their workshop certificates

There was school for two hours Tuesday morning, in which we tied up some loose ends and did a little more teaching. Then we said good-bye to all our kiddos. This always makes me sad, but I know I will be back to see them again, God willing.  My morning workshop on learning styles seemed to be a success with many questions and much participation. We shared a last lunch with the teachers and Nicole finished up the day with the continuation of our science workshop. We said our good-byes to those who were leaving to travel home for the Easter holiday.

It seemed quiet around the dorm, as everyone went their separate ways. We spent the next morning going through all of the school supplies and teaching materials at the school. We cataloged, labeled and organized everything and stressed to Tony that these things need to be used, not just sit in boxes. He assured us they would follow through on this. The rest of the day was a lazy day. It was difficult being there but not being in the school with the kids.

Beach view from Bainet

As I sit on the beachfront in Bainet writing this, I look out on the vast ocean and sky of blue, surrounded by a tropical paradise, and think instead of Zorange. That is where my kids are, and that is where my heart is. Someone who has never been here probably cannot understand this feeling but once you are here, if you come with an open mind and heart, you cannot be unchanged.  But as Dr. Seuss has said: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile
because it happened.” I cannot completely follow that advice though. Instead I tear up because it is over, but I smile, not just because it happened, but because it will happen again, in a completely different way.