Ten students traveled to Haiti March 10-18, 2018
By Jennifer LaForest, Science Teacher and Haitian Trip Chaperone
The first thing you notice about Haiti is that it is an island of contrasts. It starts as you are landing. You notice how one side of the island is green and the other is brown. This is due to the deforestation that Haiti has endured over the last one hundred years due to excessive use of timber and the subsequent soil erosion as a result. You also notice the acrid smell of burning trash as you step off the clean-smelling airplane on which you were just sitting. Once you are in Haiti and have spent some time with the people, you notice how amazing, kind, and giving they are in the face of the extreme poverty they survive in each and every day.
Mademoiselle Cressin and I travelled to Haiti with a group of ten Miss Hall’s students during Spring Break. We arrived in Port-au-Prince on Sunday afternoon, March 11th, and were greeted by our hosts, my Haitian friend Felix Despagne and Kimball Butler, head of the Vermont Haiti Project. We drove to the Tchaka Inn, operated by Despagne’s wife, and settled in for the next two nights. The girls played cards and got to know the family. The next day, we were treated to the national Haitian dish of soup joumou as we got ready to travel to several amazing places around Port-au-Prince. We went to the Apparent Project, a local craft organization that employs Haitian women who otherwise would have no income and would be forced to put their children up for adoption. (Check out their work here: https://papillonmarketplace.com/.) Next, we visited the Musee Nationale (national museum), where we received a guided tour of Haitian history for the last 400 years, and after which we enjoyed lunch on the plaza with sandwiches and plantains bought from a street vendor. We finished the day by visiting the famous Hotel Oloffson, a place frequented by many famous authors in its heyday in the 1950s and ’60s, and we enjoyed cool drinks on the veranda with a view that stretched all the way to the ocean.
On Tuesday, March 13th, we were up bright and early for the seven-hour drive to the village of Duchity, where Despagne grew up and where he has built his amazing vocational school so that the young Haitian men of Duchity do not have to travel all the way to Port-au-Prince to learn valuable skills. We enjoyed a stop at the beach along the way, as well as several stops to buy mangoes, water, and other various supplies. Once we arrived in the village, we were greeted by the school director and principal and settled in.
Life in the village was exciting and busy. The girls taught various songs to the elementary children, and they ran a workshop to make macaroni necklaces and color with the children. The girls also helped the high school students practice their English, and they were introduced to Haitian dance by a Haitian high school dancer. They, in turn, taught her some dances. We visited a tree farm, where a young Haitian man is working hard to repopulate the decimated hillside after the recent hurricane. The girls also helped run a party for the elementary students at the end of the week. They danced, sang songs, handed out food, and watched the elementary students win prizes for their performance on recent exams. On the last evening, the Miss Hall’s girls played against the Duchity village girls in a soccer match and were victorious, no small feat considering they did not have cleats or shin guards and were on a very rough field!
The last day in Haiti was spent travelling back to Port-au-Prince, where the girls enjoyed another stop at the beach and were treated to drinking fresh coconut water out of coconuts. The girls made lasting friendships with the students in the village and the family members in Port-au-Prince. There were many tearful goodbyes and promises to someday return to this beautiful and welcoming country.