This interview is with Beata Kana following her first visit to HH4HC’s program in Jeremie Haiti. Ms. Kana is well traveled, a native of the Czech Republic, speaks five languages, and teaches adults in an English as Second Language program in Atlanta.
RPR: What were your first impressions?
BK: I had no expectations prior to going to Haiti. I heard it was the poorest country in the world after the earthquake of 2010. People were very nice, happy even in the midst of their poverty. They don’t have much, but they were still generous. An example, when we went to visit one home, they did not have enough chairs for us. She sent a child to run to the neighbors to get extra chairs so we could sit.
The hospitality was great. Yet I wondered if we are treated differently because we are part of a program that educates their children?
RPR: What was your biggest surprise?
BK: The schools! I was prepared for the fact that the students may not have text books, but the teachers don’t have them either. They are pulling materials from wherever they can get them. It was shocking. And, I looked on your web site, and saw pictures of children sitting at computers. I was not prepared for the fact that they have no electricity to run computers, there is not internet. One school we visited did have a working computer lab, but that was unusual.
The restrooms: one per gender, and they were awful. At one school, their bathroom is a bucket. At that same school, there were over 40 students per class, and the principal wanted us to sponsor more children there.
However, the students were well behaved, respectful. They would all stand and greet us as guests and visitors.
RPR: What did you enjoy most?
BK: Interacting with the locals. I wish I could have done more of that. They are so friendly.
RPR: What was your biggest disappointment?
BK: I lost it when I learned and saw that lunch is only provided for those children in the program. The rest of the children go hungry, and they see children in the program getting to eat. I got curious also: I wondered about the relationship between those children in the program and those who are not. Were they jealous? Do the sponsored children wonder “why me?”
We went to the beach one afternoon. There was trash and litter everywhere. It was really sad.
Since I have been back home, my greatest disappointment is when I talk with people about my trip. They think it is good that I have gone, but the feedback I get is that people here do not trust the money they give to Haiti actually gets to those who need it. There is a complete lack of trust. But I tell them, there are good controls on the money, and with Jane and you going down there regularly, you can see how the money is spent. I guess it is hard to change people’s minds about financial responsibility.
RPR: Your thoughts about the program:
BK: Great! Wonderful! Families are being kept together. The new English program. . .that is where the jobs will be, better jobs working with medical teams and the U.N. I really liked the tutoring program, and I am glad you hired a nurse. I like the nurse, even though I saw where a parent will not give his son medicine because he does not believe in modern medicine.
RPR: How have you been impacted?
BK: I am so glad I went. When I got there I became depressed, I was so unprepared for what I saw. The poverty is overwhelming. I also learned that happiness is not contingent upon all the stuff we have. I get irritated more easily now with petty things that we complain about. I want to return and become more involved in the program. I also realized that $60 per month is not too much to sponsor and save a child.
Also I have become angry here: those children were always dressed nicely, clean, their clothes matched, their hair was done. Even though they live in poverty, they did not act as slobs.
Thank you for this wonderful opportunity