July, 2018 Vacation Bible School in Jeremie, Haiti
As a frequent visitor to Haiti, I had a new experience this July. For the first time, my wife, Jan, came with me to see the program and help with Vacation Bible School. It was an opportunity to see Haiti through fresh eyes, filled with excitement, fear, concerns about heat, health, food, safety. Through this time, I received more than I anticipated, both from the children and staff in the program and the connection to my wife.
Haiti is hot in the summer. Hot like the southern U.S., but without the electricity to run air conditioners. Yet, through the sweat, the children, teachers, and staff come prepared to fully participate in the program. Add to it this year, there was a manifestation going on in the country. Manifestation is a Haitian term, we in first world countries would call it “riots.” The government raised the gas tax 40% which caused an uproar: burning tires, streets blockaded, commerce interrupted. Phone service was stopped due to some problems, and many markets closed. While we were aware of violence in Port au Prince, no one was attacked in Jeremie. While inconvenienced, our staff took excellent care of us, where we never felt threatened. Nor was the conflict with us. . .Haitians have told me how much they appreciate my work in Haiti, as they know I spend my vacation time, my money, and efforts to help the families of Jeremie.
Yet with all the conflict in the country, every child showed up to participate in the program. Some walked two miles to be there. They came, they were dressed in their best, they were clean, and ready to learn. While our project was to teach some Bible stories, they came engage us as concerned global citizens. Their energy, their joy, their enthusiasm was contagious which helped us move through the language and cultural barriers. Our teachers. . . my wife is an educator who coaches teachers in math, they engaged her, wanted her feedback, sought to share their experiences. One in particular, Marc Daniel, is something to watch.
Each time I go, I think this is it. Maybe my last time, but once more I was filled to the brim with the power of relationship, connection, that only this type of experience can bring.
Robert P. Roney
President, Haitian Homes for Haitian Children