16 May 2014

The Power of Children (and Beaches)

Posing with Onama in the playground

As part of my orientation upon arrival, I was advised that promises are incredibly important in Haiti. To say, "I promise I'll get that for you/do that work"etc. is to swear an oath which should never be broken. So when 11 year-old Fiama brushed my hair aside, stood up on the tips of her toes and whispered "n'oubliez pas la semaine prochaine, d'accord?" (don't forget next week, okay?) last Thursday, I assured her that I would return to their class the following week without any words which were binding just in case my statement became impossible to uphold (that's the prospective lawyer in me, I think).

True to my word, I walked up to Frères school clutching the piece of note paper with the names and ages of the three girls I had met the week before alongside their class and tutor information. Madame Desroaches, the headmistress of the school, chuckled as I explained to her that I needed to find that particular class and immediately walked me over to where I needed to be. As ever, the children were incredibly receptive and anxious to know if I remembered them - how could I possibly forget? - but as they were in the middle of a lesson I didn't want to be the cause of too much disruption.

I stayed with my 5ème (Year 5) class through to Sport, and it soon became apparent that they would not have let me leave unless I had taken a substantial number of photographs.

With Madame Laurette

"Comme ça, les enfants? C'est d'accord?"

There's a great quote from Chimamanda Ngozi Adicihie's novel Americanah which urges young African Americans to shed the feigned WASPy personas that they upheld around their peers. "Unzip yourself", she writes, "This is a safe space." The moment above captured by one of the kids reminds me of that quote.

Most people describe me as being reserved which, in many ways, is not too far from the truth. But being around these children really encouraged me to be more care-free than I usually am. The girls absolutely loved posing for the camera, but when Fiama turned the camera on me to shoot solo I retreated to my default when-strangers-take-photos-of-me-and-people-are-watching stance: meek grin, hands clasped and at my front, left knee slightly tucked behind my right. The children were having none of it. "Faites comme ça! Faites comme ça!" (do like this) they shouted, motioning for me to play with my hair or jut my hip or flash a wide smile. Eventually "unzipping myself", I succumbed to their wishes and played along, delighting them immeasurably.

The next morning I went to visit a school in Canaan, which is on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Fanfan, the school owner and headmaster, was so passionate about educating the children there and ensuring that their needs were met where possible. That was so wonderful to see. The school itself was a large room, with blackboards in each corner and groups of classes in front of them covering a variety of topics. After spending much time reading to the nursery school children, they played with my hair and sang songs to me. 'Unzipping myself' once again, I sang along.

Upon leaving the school at Canaan we then visited Leveque, a Methodist school on our way to Wahoo Bay Beach - our final destination. Our original intention was to see the outside of the school and promptly leave, but a few children caught a glimpse of us and sprinted over, giggling and screaming. We couldn't help but take photographs.

Wahoo Bay Beach is a lovely resort in the Côte-Des-Arcadins. I won't say too much about it except for the fact that it was the perfect place to end a long day.


  1. This is all sorts of beautiful! *wipes tear*

    1. Larry honestly these kids had me feeling some type of way! I don't want to leave!