Sunday, October 19, 2014

One little library in Haiti

 "Little by little the bird builds its nest" 

This Haitian proverb seems relevant to the project I was able to join in September 2014. With the  organization Hearts and Hands for Haiti -  we set up a school library in Tarasse near Gonaives, Haiti.  Now 400 children have a library full of books to increase their learning and fuel their imaginations. 

It's a little library, but it is a start. 

Brenda and I giving the teachers a library orientation
Tarasse School, Haiti now has a library. As we were giving the teachers a tour of the library, they expressed great joy at having all these books to use. One teacher asked if we could return to give instruction on how to incorporate the books in their classroom instruction and principal Cherismond Delva, said that he had never dreamed that he would have such a library at his school.

Tarasse School library
View from the library
Our team --6 people from Raleigh, NC and me the sole Canadian, arrived at Tarasse School to find out that the library--on the 2nd floor-- wasn't ready. The roof had to go on and the shelves needed paint, construction dust was everywhere. But that didn't stop us.
Our team set up a work room in one of the new classrooms downstairs. We cataloged approximately 650 books--many we had brought with us and some books were from Cherismond's office.
The library team: Sarah, Janet, Paul, Mindy, Mieke, Anne and Brenda
           We worked hard in  32-35 degree heat and high humidity. We had battery operated fans to help move the air around--all I can say is--it was really hot and muggy but everyone was cheerful. 

Anne & Paul adding labels
Mindy on the computer
Janet working on the Encyclopedies Mega

Jonas, librarian at Poteau helping me catalogue
Brenda (in orange shirt) our fearless leader

Haiti's main language is Creole. French, the official language is introduced in early grades in school and taught exclusively in the higher grades.Schools are competitive, school fees are charged and children must wear uniforms 

Although laws are changing, many children in Haiti do not attend school because they cannot afford fees or uniforms

Delicious rice and beans for lunch
Hearts and Hands for Haiti supports 7 schools in or near Gonaives--helping to cover school fees and providing food for lunches. Schools are highly competitive, wearing a school uniform from a particular school is a status symbol. 
Schools can have 30 to 50 children in a classroom with wooden desks and just a blackboard for class instruction. 

"Why should we let the children read fiction stories?" 

As we gave a tour of the library to the school staff someone asked this question, and it is a good question to ask. We brought out some examples of books that although they are "imagine" they are so relevant to encourage a reading lifestyle and can be useful in the classroom. 

In Haiti there is a lack of a reading culture.

Jonas, who works in the first library at Poteau, reads aloud to the children

It is humbling and satisfying to know that this project met a direct need at a school that had no library, no books for classroom instruction or for pleasure reading. 

|This is how we commuted to Tarasse, 40 min drive from Poteau
It was so fun to read Brown bear, Brown Bear in French "Ours brun, ours brun, dis moi ce que tu vois?"

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