After graduating in 2008, I went to volunteer at a school in Haiti for one year. One year turned into four, and my life was transformed in the process. Living and working at Louverture Cleary School (LCS) gave me the chance to share some of the gifts I had been given, and in particular the gift of education. But LCS is much more than a collection of classrooms. It is a community of people—students, neighbors, teachers, friends from near and far—who are committed to working toward the vision of a better future for Haiti and the world.Working side by side with Haitian boys and girls after the earthquake in 2010 to turn rubble into building blocks—literally, taking busted walls and working them into usable materials for reconstruction—was one of many experiences I will not forget. The most amazing part, hands down, was witnessing the school’s motto: “Se gratis nou resevwa se gratis tou pou nou bay” (What you receive for free you must give for free — Matt 10:8) put into action every single day in so many ways.Being a volunteer at LCS is superlatively challenging and rewarding. It most certainly isn’t easy. But, of course, many of the best things aren’t.
Living in the community of The Haitian Project at Louverture Cleary School means living the Gospel to its fullest extent. Volunteers and Haitian staff begin and end each day with prayer where we read and reflect on the daily Gospel. I am amazed everyday just how relevant every reading is to my life and work here at LCS. I am asked as a Volunteer to answer “yes,” beginning with my adjustment to the daily lifestyle here two years ago and spanning my classes, our campus work projects, and the ever-changing needs of the community. However, I am not only called to teach, to work, or to cook and clean; I am called to be a disciple, living the Gospel through living in community.A community working together produces tangible results. We can build walls, dig holes, and educate the future leaders of Haiti, none of which I would be able to do on my own. Living here has provided me with the opportunity to always look inward, to understand my own thoughts and actions before questioning others’. Through communication and efficient teamwork, I am able to traverse lingual and cultural barriers in order to move the mission of THP forward. It is not always easy. In fact, I often find it more difficult to hold someone, or myself, accountable than to let things go unnoticed. For the growth of the THP community, though, working through difficult situations is the only way to live authentically. I am encouraged to challenge myself every day here because the work is never done. If a work project is finished, I can move onto the next one. If a task is completed, I can seek to support those who still have work to do. I cannot express how much living in the THP community has affected me - it has permeated every part of who I am and who I am called to be.
The motto of Louverture Cleary School (LCS) comes from the gospel of Matthew “What you receive as a gift, you must give as a gift,” (Mt 10:8). This verse sums up everything I love about serving as a Volunteer for The Haitian Project. Before arriving, I thought I knew what this verse meant for me: my education is a gift from God and I have an opportunity to give back by educating some of the brightest kids in Haiti. While that is an important part of the experience thus far, and our students are some of the brightest kids I’ve ever met, the most important teaching moments at LCS happen outside the classroom. As we work on various projects to maintain and improve the campus, the Volunteer community serves as living, breathing proof of what it means to live that gospel message. Of course, the students aren’t the only ones getting an education. In just a few weeks I’ve learned how to dig a French drain, the most efficient way to wring a wet mop, how to make enough rice for 20 people and even some Kreyol. Not to mention gaining a new appreciation for the physical capacities of the human body. Volunteering at LCS comes with many challenges, some mental, some physical, but we face each one as a community.
Volunteering in a foreign country is inherently challenging, but my experience as a Volunteer with The Haitian Project and as a teacher at Louverture Cleary School has been incredibly rewarding. Teaching is the very minimum that we do as Volunteers; we also lead work projects on campus, organize extra-curricular activities, tutor during study hours and coach various sports teams. We participate in our students’ entire formation — not just their education. The work we do as Volunteers is purposeful and important: We teach and guide individual students, but we also further The Haitian Project’s greater mission of rebuilding Haiti through education. I knew that I wanted to volunteer directly after graduating from Providence College, but I wanted to do meaningful work, work that would create positive change. I found my niche at LCS. Life at LCS feels complete from all perspectives: We live in an integrated community with the students and Haitian staff members where we work alongside each other, prepare meals and eat together, and, most importantly, are united by our faith in God and our conviction that we must give freely what we have received for free.As a Volunteer, I have been able to use my Spanish major by teaching Spanish to the sizyem (7th grade) and senkyem (8th grade) classes and my French major and my experience working in kindergarten classrooms by teaching French Oration to forty children from the neighborhood who attend a day program at LCS. At LCS, Volunteers also have the freedom to share their talents and passions with students. For example, I organized an art club at LCS this year and have brought back last year’s Spanish club. Whether I’m teaching young children or high school students, digging a French drain or painting the cafeteria, singing a Haitian hymn at our prayer service or drawing with Art Club students, my experience at LCS feels complete and I know that I have been enriched because of it.