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Today we spent the entire day at our translator's youth empowerment program located in the heart of Cite Soleil. To give you an idea of our visit, each student has written a brief account of their most authentic moment of the day. We've interspersed some photos throughout the reflections. Hope you enjoy this new format.
Since arriving in Haiti, one of my biggest desires was to play soccer with the Haitian children. Sakala made this possible, and while playing one moment encapsulated the feeling around the camp. After putting the ball through the legs (nutmegging) of one of the children, he broke out in laughter and a ear to ear smile emerged on his face. I could feel the elation of the other Haitian children as well as they knew I had somehow managed to embarrass this enthusiastic, outgoing individual. For me this young man, who then went on the high five and hug me, is a perfect example of the mission of Sakala. In the heart of Cite Soleil, one of the most impoverished cities in the world, these children can experience such joy. While it may have just been a simple nutmeg, in this moment the true nature of the Haitian people came forth. They simply are so resilient and the laughter after the nutmeg, for me symbolizes there ability to shrug off the bigger obstacles the countries faces and find solutions, Sakala a perfect example of one.
Today was my first day at Sakala and quite frankly I wasn't sure what to expect, I found myself trying to compare my recent experience at Na Rive in order to prepare myself and feel comfortable for what was ahead. From the amazing fruit to the exchange of cultures with some teenagers at Sakala I began to feel comfortable with my surroundings even though it was the first day. Spoons, who knew a card game could make a first day feel like being at home with friends. From the laughter to the competitiveness of wanting to win the game, I shared genuine laughter and felt friendship from people I didn't know existed just a few hours ago. Even though I'm considered a "Blan" today I felt apart of the Haitian community.
It wasn't a particular moment that stood out in my mind from the day today, but more of an appreciation of an observation. Daniel, today, talked for a while about his program at Sakala and what his goals are for the program, for his town of Citi Soleil, and for Haiti as a whole. Along with this, he mentioned, somewhat jokingly, his coming retirement. For a lot of programs, especially one like Sakala that has only been in existence for 7 years, this would create uncertainty for the future of that program. However, not only did Daniel introduce his program to us, he introduced the other leadership of the program including a young man, fresh out of high school, that is recognized as Daniels successor. For me, i found it interesting to observe the level of trust and hope that Daniel has put out unto his protégés, so to speak, and their willingness to respond to his call, and contrasting it with the lack of willingness larger, more powerful hatian leaders, have to respond to this same call. I just found it ironic how in a place where opportunity and ability is considered to be minimal leaders can lead effectively, yet in a place where opportunity and ability is optimal, leaders have failed to lead effectively for centuries. It just goes to show that the perceptions of disfunction and inability in Citi Soleil need to be erased..the same perceptions that Daniel has dedicated most of his life to erasing.
Though most consider it a very competetive sport, the Haitian kids at Sakala look at basketball as a resort. The harsh life that most of these kids have living in Cite Soleil is almost forgotten once these kids step on the court. Whether or not you score, or whether or not your team wins, you are bound to have a great time with every individual on the court. There is nothing but love shared between all people, whether they are teammates or even opposing players because everyone understands that watching that ball go through the basket symbolizes much more than just a score; it symbolizes hope, hope that these kids can one day be just like the basketball, and find their ways to achieving their goals.
I was standing on top of this building that overlooks the soccer field right next to Matthew 25 where we stay and I was watching a soccer game with Kyle and the hundred or so Haitians that were there. I looked down from the building and there was a group of Haitian kids staring up at me. They had stern looks on their faces at first but as soon as I smiled and waved at them, they returned the gesture with bigger smiles than mine and laughter. Their response is pretty much the same response I get from every Haitian kid who I say hi to and never before have I encountered a whole group of people who are so friendly and loving.
One of Daniel's wishes for the kids of Sakala is for them to feel valued and to not be judged based off of the violent perceptions of people from City Solei. At the end of our visit a group of us played card games with a group of older kids from Sakala. As they taught us their favorite, and complicated, game called "Casino" you could tell that they felt respected that we were playing the games they normally play. Later we taught them the game "Spoons"; as the game grew more intense our bond became more natural and it felt like it was just a bunch of friends playing cards and loving each others company. This experience reminded me of the warm feelings of comfort and respect that the strong brotherhood and close community at Sakala gives children.
One of the items we brought down to Sakala were two inflatable pools for the kids to bathe in. Due today's blistering heat, they decided to set up the pools for the younger kids to cool down in. When I arrived to observe what was going on with the pools, two little kids, probably no older than three and so cute they seemed unreal, were already splashing around. One by one, I began to notice some boys, probably no older than eleven, stumbling with giant buckets of water to fill the second pool for more of the younger kids to swim in, albeit being young kids themselves. One boy who must've been about struggling so much with his bucket that water was sloshing everywhere. I tried to ask the boy if he wanted help, but he didn't understand due to the language barrier. Finally through some motions he understood what I was offering and nodded his head. Together we lifted the bucket, which was actually really heavy, and carried it the remainder of the way to the pool. Once we had dumped it, the little boy turned to me with a huge grin and murmured a heavily accented "Thanks" in English before going to refill his bucket.
Jane "that's my name" Verlaine:
We arrived at Sakala today with skateboard decks and parts Sutphin had scavenged for at flea markets back home. Upon our arrival, the kids aided us in assembling the boards and without hesitation began riding around the program space, none of them having ridden a skateboard before. It doesn't seem like there would be much of a "skateboard-calling" in Port-au-Prince seeing as there are very few paved roads in the city, however much of the Sakala area is located on a slick slab of concrete that is perfect for skating. Everyone dove head first into this new venture- losing their balance, falling, sliding, and nearly colliding with each other. Each time they failed they got right back up with smiles on their faces, their resiliency radiating from this small act. It makes me wonder if kids in the U.S. would approach this in the same way.
At SAKALA I once again saw a good friend I made during the March trip, Wenley Moise. Besides practicing Spanish with him and playing a great game of spoons with him and some others, it was cool getting to hangout with such a driven and humble guy again. During a history skit that was presented, he seemed the most interested and inspired, afterwards thanking the group for reminding him of his history, and promising to share the story of Haiti with others. He's one of the many young people I have met here who really inspire me.
The moment I stepped out of the van I was greeted by friendly and familiar faces. One older boy, Daniel's right hand man Delto, approached me right away and gave me a kiss on the cheek. The last time I had visited Sakala we had played ping pong right before I had left, and ever since I had argued that I was still a better player than him even though I had lost. So once there was a more relaxed moment, I jumped on the opportunity and challenged him to a re-match. We begun playing , but as i begun to lose badly he suddenly stopped the game. He then suggested that we play with partners. I was all for the idea because I was losing, but then I looked around and saw that we only had one paddle. Despite this he confidently invited two other people to play. I was going to say that we couldn't possibly play four people when he explained that he would hit the ball and hand the paddle to his partner so that once I hit it his partner could hit it to mine. It was just such an innovative idea in my eyes, but to him it was simple and obvious. Of course he would include everyone.It made the game so much more memorable and fun. This experience really embodied the spirit of solidarity and sharing that we have sensed in all the people that we have met this week.