Soraya, a curriculum mapping consultant at Rubicon International, traveled to Haiti on behalf of the Rubicon Educational Foundation. We recently caught up with her and asked her to reflect on that trip, one year ago.
Why did you decide to visit Haiti with Rubicon’s team?
It seemed like an amazing opportunity to see how we could truly help. Through all of our preliminary work, we discovered that communication wasn’t easy with people in Haiti for many reasons, and it was hard to get answers to the questions we had. Although nervous, I was also really excited to get there and connect in person with the organizations and schools.
What appeals to you in Sister School Partnership Program?
Taking a long hard look at what we really had to offer, it was a very natural fit. We work with so many schools and educators around the world, and we were confident that they would want to get involved and support our mission in Haiti. Not only making the connections based on need, but making sure that there was a mutual cultural exchange, was a top priority, and one that provoked shining eyes and smiles from everyone we spoke with in Haiti.
What were some of the expectations you had before the trip about the country, people, and your possible work in Haiti?
We had taken some Kreyol classes before leaving, which for me provided more than the vocabulary and grammar. The teacher was very warm and friendly, and told evocative stories of swimming in the ocean, and eating the “best mangos in the world”. Even with the earthquake, there was a sense of hope, and focus on the positive. Although I was still really nervous about what we would find when we got there, and how dangerous the situation might be, the classes helped me to also imagine some of the positive things we might find.
What emerged out of the meetings with schools and teachers? What were the lessons about Haitian educational system that you brought back to the Foundation’s Board?
Every single person we met with had a drive and determination to address the deep rooted issues with the education system which existed long before the earthquake. There is so much energy to be harnessed for reform, and there was more consensus between all the diverse people we met with than I had thought possible. They all agreed on the major issues and were very open and willing to listen to anything that could help.
What were the some of the challenges during your visit in Haiti?
The heat, the dirt, the fact that it took hours on broken roads to get to a meeting; trying to stay calm and not show how emotionally affected I was when we met children living in the worst circumstances; feeling guilty for having good food waiting for us at the guesthouse as we drove by the camps that went on for miles.
What single image do you have in mind now, a year later, when you think of your trip to Haiti?
The disabled little boy who took me by the hand at the orphanage he had grown up in and proudly gave me a tour of his home. The matter of fact way he showed me the graveyard where his friends were buried and pointed to the photo board at each person who had died, telling me their names. Another image I remember is the fact that when I looked at someone, they looked me straight back in the eye with a serious face, and as soon as I smiled, they broke into the biggest, friendliest smile in return.
Do you feel like you personally were able to help in any way a crisis of such magnitude?
In the short term, I feel that by being there and interacting with the children that maybe it made their days a little better. In the long term, we are still working on our projects to help schools around the country.