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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Laurier Haiti 2013 Service-Learning Trip Final Thoughts

As we debriefed with the group and as I've reflected on the past 10 days, here are my top 10 key take-aways:

1. An amazing experience for everyone involved. We learned more in 10 days than many of us have learned in a year or more of formal education.

2. The group agreed that the opportunity to travel by van to Cap, and to spend a few days in Pignon, gave them a better perspective on the wide range of schools, communities, and geography of Haiti.

3. The workshops in Pignon were well-received and we could take a group to this community to provide more training for teachers and principals. English lessons at College de la Grace or working at Caleb's camp could also be valuable aspects of a future trip.

4. Tours of a variety of schools, from Assumption College to Dutty Boukman to The Key, provided insight into the wide range of public and private schools in Cap-Haitien.

5. Our afternoon English language program was very appreciated by the participating students. The high school students we worked with were really hungry for conversational English language opportunities. They were an amazing group to work with and individual relationships were established. We discussed the possibility of future groups spending the morning working with an English-language teacher in a school such as Assumption College and then spending afternoons with students pooled from a variety of schools (according to level/ability).

6. Although the university (UPNCH) was not able to accommodate us for an English language program this time, there are some potential areas of partnership in the future. We discussed opportunities for an English language lab, supporting on-line course development, and involvement in a Masters of Education program.

7. We were constantly amazed at the incredible hospitality we experienced in Haiti. The epitome of this was the hosting of Justin Metelus, the Director of the Ministry of National Education in the north. Justin is a very well-known man in the community and responsible for directing education in the north, yet he took most of his days last week to spend with the group. He toured us through different schools, hosted us every day for lunch, and spent many hours discussing with us the challenges, and his vision, of education in the north. On a number of occasions we asked ourselves, would any leader in a similar position be as hospitable and generous with time in Canada? Would we?

8. Likewise, we were struck by the passion people have to support development, through education, in Haiti. Symbolic of this was Thelus Wilson. Similarly to Justin, Thelus spent almost every day with us in Cap. He has started a new school, about 20 minutes outside of Cap which is meeting the needs of children who cannot afford to go to school. Although this is the first year of the school operating, Thelus has a great vision for building a larger school where more children can attend. It is hard to describe Thelus but three words come to mind: Humble, committed, and servant-leader.

9. We saw that education is not just about formal schooling but also about the overall development of the child and his/her family unit. The Sacred Heart Centre, and the leadership of Andre there, represented this best for me. The nutrition program and early learning centre are providing amazing programs to support those who are impoverished and marginalized in Cap. Although the challenges are immense, piti piti (little by little) these types of programs are making a difference.

10. Contrasts. Haiti is full of them. From the awe-inspiring beaches of Labadee to the over-populated classrooms of Dutty Boukman, there are so many contrasts in/to Haiti. What a wonderful country.

Thanks Betty Ann, Jesslyn, Blake, Sarah, Heather, Jenni, Amy, Karley, and Jhonel for an amazing trip! Piti piti zwazo fe niche!

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