Looking Back: Reflections on Haiti Visit, Part 5

By November 14, 2011Our Efforts: Haiti Project

Our final interview is with Brock, the 5th member of the Rubicon Educational Foundation team who travelled to Haiti last year on a fact-finding, partnership-building mission.

Why did you decide to visit Haiti with Rubicon’s team?
I wanted to visit Haiti for both philanthropic and selfish reasons.  Like everyone else, I’d seen pictures and videos of the devastation and thought our Foundation was in a unique position to help.  However, I knew that going down there would be an experience like nothing else I’d come in contact with in my life.  I was looking for an opportunity of true understanding and first hand assistance, as opposed to knowledge gained through media outlets simply eliciting disconnected and indirect donations or contributions.

What appeals to you in Sister School Partnership Program?
The Sister School Partnership Program offers a chance to provide real, nearly immediate support, directly to the foundation of Haitian youth who will help to sculpt the Haiti of tomorrow.  The program is hands-on, and allows partner schools to be as involved as they want to be (for a direct connection, or a more passive donation).  There is the possibility of knowing exactly who your contributions are going to, and to even see the results and impact your direct involvement has had.  It’s an opportunity to really help transform learning and the perception of education in Haiti in the long term, while seeing the immediate impact one partner school can have on so many Haitian children’s lives in the short-term.  And the result of a partner schools’ aid is not a band-aid solution or one-time financial injection; by supporting Haitian schools you will be supporting internal growth and sustainability within Haiti.  If the next generation of Haitian youth is well educated, they will be more equipped to help lead the country of Haiti to prosper in years to come.  The Sister School Partnership Program allows for any school to be involved with that.

What were some of the expectations you had before the trip about the country, people, and your possible work in Haiti?
I think I can honestly say that I didn’t have many expectations.  I had some fears of what I might witness and how I might handle it, but I didn’t have any expectations for what Haiti could or should be like when we got there. 

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? 
The statistics surrounding education in Haiti are staggering.  What American’s view as their civil right (a decent education) Haitians see as luxury.  When you’re worried about whether or not you will eat in the coming few days, or where you will sleep, or how you will get clean water to drink – going to school might take a back seat.  Parent’s want their children to be educated and to go to school, but sometimes just don’t have the means to do anything about it.  Some schools offer a hot meal a day to incentivize kids to come, but food costs money.  Most children, if they actually have the means to go to a school, then don’t then have the means to buy shoes, or proper school materials (pencil, paper, etc).  Some families choose between the school supplies or the shoes/clothing, if they’re lucky.  And schools in Haiti are not civil institutions, they are businesses.  They are a way for people to make money.  The focus isn’t always on education, especially when the teachers themselves didn’t complete a secondary education (or the 8th grade).  These are some of the elements we wanted to address, after a great deal of reflection upon our return.

What were the some of the challenges during your visit in Haiti? 
The challenges ranged from logistical, to communicative and anywhere in-between.  However, the challenges that were the most difficult were internal.  While being there we didn’t know how to help, but we wanted to aid nearly every person and child.  The amount of devastation, the lack of basic human needs, and the sheer volume of poverty in every direction was not easy to stomach.  I feel I can speak for the entire team who visited when I say each of us struggled with how much need there was in Haiti, and for me it was very difficult to manage.  We all were there because we wanted to help so badly, but we just didn’t know where to start or how to utilize the resources we have to have a maximum impact. 

What single image do you have in mind now, a year later, when you think of your trip to Haiti?
I see the kids we interacted with.  At restoration ministries, at the orphanages and schools, and even at George’s sundries shop behind where we stayed.  Olivia’s smile (along with many others) will always be imprinted in my mind.