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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.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

BlackBerry, Courageous Conversations, and Emotional Intelligence: All in a days work in Haiti

Today was our final full day in Haiti. Tomorrow, we teach the final block of our M.Ed. course and then we head to the airport to return home.

It's been, yet again, a fulfilling trip. We have had excellent partnership meetings and it is clear that Laurier's name in Haiti is becoming more widely known. We have been part of some highly engaging discussions with educational leaders from across Haiti. We have made new friends and experienced hospitality beyond what we deserve.

This country amazes me. I know that I'll never have a complete grasp of the "reality" of Haiti. It is certainly a country of surprises. The complexities of life here can be touched on in long conversations and in snapshot images. I'm challenged and stretched every time I'm on the ground here.

Today's experiences provide a glimpse into the diversity of experiences we have had. This morning, we drove down to Delmas 33 (down the mountain from where we are and approaching downtown Port au Prince) to meet with Jhonel's brother, Jimmy, about his English school. What impressed me during the time we were together were three conversations with three different people. All of these people have been (or are in the midst of) experiencing economic improvement as a result of a belief that Jimmy had in their ability. It takes courage, both on Jimmy's end and on the receiver's end, to take a chance on someone. Yet, these three individuals represent the hope for Haiti ... people can move out of poverty when given hope and a concrete opportunity.

When we returned to Fermathe, we ate lunch with the students. It appears that not many profs eat with the students. I suspect it's because they feel that the food (which is prepared in a large kitchen) may be unsanitary. I've had four meals there this week and feel great; I prefer the Haitian food to the western food we receive at dinner :). I think there's something valuable about demonstrating to our students that we are not above them in any way but that, by enjoying a simple meal together, we are engaging in a hospitable act. In a way, this emotional connection is a powerful learning opportunity.

After our afternoon class discussion on curriculum leadership, a couple of students met up with us for a relaxed time of dialogue this evening. It was great to hear their questions and to have an "off-the-record" conversation. As we were wrapping up, they were curious about BlackBerry and how they might be part of the work we are doing in Haiti with BlackBerry. It's exciting to have this kind of up-take on something I've been working on for a couple of years.

It's been a day of contrasts ... much like Haiti itself.

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