by Patricia Brintle
Lory is a small mountain top village of about 10,000 inhabitants in the Grande Anse department in the south of Haiti. I visited the parish of St. Antoine l’Ermite in 2011 to check on a FHTH project for College St. Augustin, the parish school. The project entailed constructing a 5-stall toilet for the school which had none. My task completed, I expressed my sadness at the fact that College St. Augustin had so little. School supplies were scarce, the school building was unfinished and portions were dangerously open, the stairs
were uneven, had no ramp and invited accidents. The children had to be extremely careful not to take a fall. They had no toilet but this was being remedied by FHTH. The cistern in the yard was filled with rain water but it had no cover, a danger to the children, and inside mosquito larvae swam undisturbed. Pere Charlince Vendredy, the pastor, smiled at my remarks. He said that he was grateful to have the little that was because just a stone’s throw away, at another school, the children had even less.
It was hard to believe, but he took me on a short walk. Just about 500 feet up the road was a school in session. I approached the first classroom, an outdoor construction with four posts, no walls and tin roofing. The teacher had no desk and the attentive children sat with eyes fixed on the teacher as not to miss a word. Their bench brought tears to my eyes: a few rocks on which rested a wood plank.
The teacher approached and welcomed me to the class. I voiced my sadness at the seating. He said that seating was secondary to learning and that the students were happy just to be in class even without a proper classroom or bench. He took me to an edifice where other classes were being held. They had separate classrooms, desks and benches, but the roof was leaking and the floor was just large rocks strewn about.
The image of these children remains with me each day. I cannot help thinking of how much we sometimes take for granted. We open the faucet and expect potable water to flow; we turn on the switch and expect the light to come on; we attend school and expect to sit on proper benches and walk on an even flooring. However, to acknowledge how easy we have it can only help us strive to help those who are less fortunate.