In addition to a blisteringly hot day (the heat index was around 120), we experienced life on the streets of Haiti: a woman rear-ended our van. Both vehicles' bumpers locked up. When we finally pulled to the side of the road (if you could call it that), we awaited as the two drivers worked out an arrangement for the incident. No insurance company or police needed, or available, and we rode off towards Na Rive.
At Na Rive, we witnessed 400 kids, spread out through several buildings, learning academic and practical skills. For most other kids in Haiti, no such programs exists, making it very difficult for education to take root throughout Haiti. Lavarice, the director of the Na Rive programs, showed us many projects, including the crocheting of clothes.
We also witnessed computer skills, English, music, cooking, sewing, arts and crafts, braiding. After a tour of the summer programs we walked through the neighborhood to see the food program that feeds 500 kids a day, as well as the food preparation site. As you can see, the sun was stalking us. Students used words such as stultifying, suffocating, smothering, choking, violent, oppressive. Everyone in Haiti moves at a measured pace in this heat and always seems to have beads of sweat on their foreheads.
Back at the summer camp, we played with the kids and conducted some one-on-one interviews with the older kids to get a sense of what their lives are like and how these programs are creating opportunities that otherwise wouldn't exist. Everyone keeps saying the same thing: "education is the path to liberation and opportunity and the transformation of the Haitian society." They seem to want education for a reason that is slightly different than our's; they want to use education to create a common good that all Haiti can participate in. They never say I want an education to get a job and make a lot of money.
The kids continue to hang on Jane, asking her to dance or simply wanting to hold her hand. She said they feel like family and it feels right to be so close to strangers.
Back at the Matthew 25 House, the neighborhood park was hosting the first day of a citywide soccer tournament. Raggaetone blasting the concrete off the park benches, crowds of several hundred rabid soccer fans, an announcer rivaling any Mexican soccer match, and several dignitaries made the evening special. The Saint Mary's students had no problem integrating into the soccer community, preferring to watch the match with the Haitian rather than from inside the walls of the Matthew 25 House.
The day ended with a brilliant presentation by a young civil rights attorney, named Ellie, and her friend, a young Haitian training to be a lawyer. The dominant themes that emerged were 1) the belief of activist Haitians is that true transformation of society is through the complete re-education of all Haitians; 2) the cure must come from the people and not the corrupt political systems; 3) Haiti must undo the consciousness of "dependency" that reaches back more than 300 years. This can only happen through an education revolution, where everyone re-learns what it means to be Haitian--and human. This education can happen in both formal schooling and culture programs.