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Communiqué #033


to the PEOPLE of HAITI

October 11, 2006

September proved to be a reminder of how many children in Haiti would like to go to school and how many cannot go because their family is too poor to send them. It seemed that I had a steady stream of parents or next-of-kin at my door seeking tuition assistance for their children. For a fortunate few, I had funds that were sent by generous donors from the states. For the rest, I had to watch their shoulders droop and listen to a sigh of frustration come forth from their lips, as they left empty-handed. They would leave with polite comments that they understood. But, for me, it proved to be one of the hardest times of the year. Where is the hope for the children that can never go to school or for the children that are sent home part way through the year because the full tuition could not be paid???? For a mere $10 per month a child can attend school, but for so many this amount might as well be one million dollars because it is as equally unobtainable!

I had an equally long line of people at my door needing shoes and school supplies for their children. Just like in the states, September brings “back to school” thoughts. The children here too need tennis shoes and backpacks and the required school books. Our supply of shoes is never sufficient. There are hundreds of dusty little feet that are in need of something to wear! My thanks goes out to the Vacation Bible School kids and the school children and Sunday School classes in the states that have made it a project to supply us with sandals and tennis shoes and church shoes. We would have NOTHING to offer if it were not for you!

Once again, I see the children of our orphanage as the blessed ones! Year after year, they are assured of the opportunity to go to school, to have school uniforms, to have shoes for their feet and to have school books. It is so sad to me that being in an orphanage is the DESIRED place to be!

Mornings are noisy ones around my place, as the school is located directly below where I live. The smells of a charcoal fire wafts up to my room, at an early hour, as the ladies, who cook the noon time meal for the school kids, start their fires to prepare the huge kettles that are used to boil the water that is needed for the staple meal of rice and beans! Children begin arriving by foot, by bicycle or by taxi (motorcycle). The loud voices of children at play precede the ringing of the 8AM bronze hand-held school bell. All line up in neat rows to sing the Haitian National Anthem as the flag is ceremoniously raised up to a makeshift flag pole. It is then off to class where the sounds of recitation can be heard. The little ones are learning to count. The older ones are learning French and the newest kindergarten children can still be heard crying from when their parents left their classroom! The sound of crying is balanced out by Creole songs being sung in yet other classrooms!

While the children are in school, the vendors begin setting up their wares for recess time. The snow cone lady arrives with her cart on wheels. Under the shade of the mango tree, she starts shaving ice and setting out her various flavorings. The wooden box, containing a variety of crackers and candies, is neatly arranged by an elderly lady who sits at the gate of the school. Another lady measures out small cups of peanuts. A large thermos type container is filled with fresh water, waiting for thirsty youngsters to drink from its spout!

Recess begins with a shout and the shuffling of gravel under the feet of the children eager to wear off some of their energy. Those who have a coin or two will purchase a snack. Those who do not will opt for some cool water to drink. No playground equipment has survived the hundreds of kids, so the children make do with playing tag and some occasional stone throwing. By the time recess has ended, the area begins to have the aroma of urine, as many children are unacquainted with toilets and just eliminate as they are accustomed to doing so.

The recently funded lunch program is served at about 11:30AM. School is dismissed at noon for the kindergarten classes and at 1:00PM for the rest of the primary school. The streets of the city are then filled with a variety of colors of uniforms, each unique to the school that the child attends. Bicycles and kids can be seen everywhere!

A sudden quiet comes to the schoolyard. Tomorrow, another school day awaits!

Nora Léon

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time ………….

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