Home, Bittersweet, Home

After 90 days I have arrived safely back home in Canada and although I’m really happy to be home I already miss Haiti so much.

I am grateful for the amazing memories I made with all the incredible people I got to meet. My last couple weeks were filled with lots of laughing, dancing, singing and no shortage of tears.

I think one of the hardest things I’m going to have to do now is answer the question, “How was your trip?”

How do I possibly simplify the last 3 months in several simple sentences?

It may be impossible to encapsulate every moment, however there are main parts of my trip that I will definitely want to share with friends and family.

The first thing I probably will never stop talking about (no matter how much others may beg me and long after they’ve heard all the stories) is all the connections I made with so many different people. From the students and staff at ADECA, to the Engles and the Myrils at the guesthouse, and all the visitors encountered along the way, you have each become a part of my story and have were always there to support me and encourage me throughout my trip. I cherish the time we spent together and the inspiring stories and perspectives you graciously shared with me and although I probably cried too much when it was time to say goodbye it just shows how much of an impact you’ve all had on me. I refuse to think that my leaving is a definitive goodbye, but instead a to be determined see you later.

The second thing is a combination of all the small adventures or moments that stuck out during my trip. From smaller things like appreciating the sunset from the mountain, feeling proud as I picked up bits and pieces of creole, the kids laughing as they chased each other during duck, duck, chicken, drinking a nice cold Prestige at the end of a long day, the Advanced students getting super competitive on Game day, movie days with Leila, Daniel’s awesome dance moves, fêting with Megan, Danielle and Alex, and even just hearing one of the kids call my name from the playground. Then there were the bigger things like watching the steady development of the paper making project, learning all the dances with everyone at the school, watching the growth of the Advanced students to the point that they could run activities themselves, and seeing the growth in the younger students as well as they knew the songs off by heart. There are many more things I could probably list, but it was all these things combined that helped make my trip the experience that it was.

Lastly, is the amount of personal growth I have had after spending time in Haiti. I feel as though I’ve grown more confident in my abilities as a teacher and am also more open to new challenges and opportunities. I may be unsure about things at first, but my experience has taught me that I’m perfectly capable of leading a class and trusting that the content I’m providing for my students is interesting and helpful. Of course I still have a long way to go, but hopefully  I can keep learning from experiences like this and become more confident, not only just in teaching, but in other areas that I choose to pursue as well.

I could not have possibly gotten luckier this summer. I never once felt unsafe, I always felt supported and did not regret a minute of my trip. Even after a four hour hike up and down a mountain I still had no regrets (probably much to the surprise of many friends and family). I may have been teaching as part of my experience, but my students taught me way more than I could’ve hoped for and I will always carry this life lessons with me.

I miss everyone terribly, but I’m excited now for what the future holds. I’m heading into my final year of my undergraduate degree and after that I’m not really sure where I’ll be, but I know there somewhere along the way Haiti will be a part of my story again.

So thank you to all those that made this trip possible I could not have done it without you, thank you to those with me during my trip who were a source of great encouragement, and thank you to everyone at home for welcoming me back. I am sad I had to leave Haiti, but glad to be back to continue making memories with everyone here at home.


Final picture with all the Advanced students. You’re all amazing!!


The Engle family who couldn’t have taken better care of us during our stay.


Farah is super proud of her artwork on hand-made paper.


One last mango party. Ain’t no party like a mango party 🙂


The view from Fort Jacques at 4400 ft. Walking 2 hours up and 2 hours down, but worth every step.

Two down, two more to go

The last two weeks went by so much faster than I had expected. The first week was nice since there was no school during the day and only Advanced English class in the afternoon. It was a much needed reprieve, but I did find myself missing the kids after a couple days.

The other interns and I also had the opportunity to sit in on a practice of a local singing group in the community. They’re called “New Mind” and they strive to make music that speaks to the struggles of the community and hopefully encourages its members to rally together. They performed one of their songs for us and it was beautiful. The harmonies between the group members were very powerful and although I couldn’t understand every word the intention of their original lyrics really shone through.

After a week off we were back at it again, this time with summer camp that was being held at the school for any students interested or in need of extra help, and also to introduce incoming three year old students to the school’s environment and show them what things will be like in September when they start classes.

I have to admit though, a week of summer camp is like constantly swimming through an ocean of children’s tears. This is primarily because the new three year olds are absolutely mortified that they are away from home and their parents and surrounded by so many new people,  but this means it’s even more important that they come to the camp and have time to adjust. Also, this behaviour is exhibited by most small children on their first day of school so it’s perfectly understandable for them to be at least slightly in shock.

Despite some unimpressed toddlers, the rest of camp is super high energy and fun. The kids all meet in a room together to start where everyone prays, sings some songs and does some dancing before the kids are split up into different groups. The groups then rotate between classrooms to different activities. The other interns and I would have a fifteen minute English class for each group, to go over some of the songs and vocabulary words that we normally do. We also played a lot of duck, duck, chicken (the Haitian substitute for duck, duck, goose) and the kids caught on in a matter of seconds and were zooming after each other around the circle.

One of many milestones during this trip was helping one of the new terrified three year olds poop. Yes it is indeed a glamourous time at summer camp. We washed our hands first and then high-fived to celebrate our victory.

We also celebrated Megan’s birthday at the school. She’s one of the interns and the minute the birthday song started playing through the speaker she was quickly swallowed in a sea of little hugs. According to Megan though it was worth every second of it.

Now with two more weeks behind me I only have a little over two weeks left before I come home. What seemed like a substantial amount of time at the beginning of the trip now seems like not enough. I’ll definitely be treasuring these next weeks and soaking in as much as possible before I have to leave.


“New Mind” harmonizing beautifully


Megan and Ronaldou practicing their original song


Summer camp begins!


You can’t have summer camp without dancing and singing


Happy birthday Megan!


School’s Out!

This past week, school at ADECA came to an end and we celebrated with two big graduation ceremonies. One for the Kindergarten students moving in to 1st grade and also for the adults graduating from a program aimed towards preventing violence against women and children.

There was so much life during these celebrations full of music and dancing. During both graduations, students got up on stage to do dances or songs for all their friends and family who were all there to support them. It was amazing standing in the crowd with everyone cheering. It was almost like a wild concert the way everyone was yelling and jumping up and down for the students on stage.

It was also amazing the sheer number of people that came out to the graduations. It was truly the sign of a strong community rallying together.

Then we got a chance to kick back and relax this weekend with a trip to the pool. After such a busy week it was nice to take a moment to get away.

Things are going to calm down around here for a little while, without classes in the morning I’ll only be teaching advanced English. I’m sure it won’t take long though before things get busy again with new challenges ahead.


The Kindergarten students showing off their moves.


The adult students celebrating their graduation.


Pool day!


Enjoying the poolside view.

Getting into the groove

Despite the cheesiness of this saying, I think it definitely applies to the point I’ve reached in my placement. I’m feeling a lot more at ease and comfortable with day to day activities. Where I used to need a notebook on my lap during class to follow my plan, I now grab the bag of books and activities and will try to mix it up to make things more interesting for the young students.

I’ve also caught myself analyzing their behaviour more. When the students seem to be tired are are having trouble being engaged I try to throw in an activity that will bring the energy back up. I’m also really happy with the French class that everyone has once a week. The kids have already started memorizing the songs and all I have to do is sit down and they already start singing the first couple verses of the songs.

I’ve had the same feeling with the advanced class. Especially one day was fun when we tried a whole list of tongue twisters. We were working on pronunciation, because their are certain sounds that are difficult to make when you’re moving from creole to English. The same way some English speakers may have a difficult time pronouncing the French “r” at the back of their throat. It was definitely tricky for some students, but before long they got the hang of it and wanted to be continually challenged.

There are now two new interns here as well who are from Colorado. They’ve both been to Haiti quite a few times before, but this is their first time with Haiti Partners. Despite a new environment compared to what they’re used to, they both became immediately involved and have been coming to classes with me and have been a great help.

We are now in the midst of the final week of school and the last day is very quickly approaching. Before I know it I’ll be starting on my final month here in Haiti so I’ve got to make the most out of every moment I can.


Fun and games with the kids


Musical chairs is always a classic


I can never get over the amazing sunsets here



Jumping in with both feet

Getting used to teaching full time every day has definitely been a learning experience all on its own even without the difference in culture, and not going to lie and can’t help but look forward to the last day of school. Now I have a small taste of how teachers at home must feel as we are on the verge of summer vacation.

But I think any good teacher will tell you that even if you’re tired and may sometimes get frustrated, your students will continually surprise you and those moments make everything worth it.

The other day while teaching English to the four year olds we were doing a song with actions about different action verbs. When I asked them which gesture they wanted to do next, instead they sang an entirely different song we had been learning all on their own!

I’m also always impressed by the work ethic of the older students and their hunger for new words and expressions. When speaking in your maternal language you don’t realize how often you really use them and when you start to break them down you discover how integral a part of your language they really are.

Paper making has also been under way though I’ve only been able to see the product of the work rather than be a part of it, but I hope to join in when school is out. The paper being made is all natural using things from wild grass, corn husks, and even mango peels. The team is working so hard every day to produce quality paper, a long process, but definitely worth it in the end.

Highlights of this week were another mango party and ain’t no party like a mango party.

I’m definitely debating putting that on a shirt or something.

I’m also picking up more and more creole which is really exciting. The students in the advanced class and faculty and staff at the school have been starting conversations with me in creole and they hope that I pick up a lot of it during my stay here. It definitely helps how close the language is to French. When I first arrived I could only catch words here and there but the more I pay closer attention the more it makes sense and the similarities become clearer. Here’s to hopefully becoming fluent by the end of July! 😉

N’a wè pita!

(See you later!)


Getting ready to make paper


Enjoying the view of the city below


Hanging out with Ronaldo (a student from the advanced class) and Quella (a student in the 5 year old class)


The paper-making process continues


It’s important to relax after a long day


Ain’t no party like a mango party!

Filling the plate


Last week was a week of actual and mental preparation. I continued teaching the advanced class in the late afternoon, but also shadowed Lisa the English teacher at the school and talked with her about different ideas for planning. I have to get ready for the coming weeks.

We said goodbye to Lisa on Friday as she headed back home to spend time in the U.S. before coming back in July. This, however means I was on deck to take over the classes. I was definitely nervous and probably  made more lists and charts and plans than actually necessary, but I wanted to be ready. So Friday was my first day teaching all day long. For the next few weeks I’ll be teaching English to all five classes to the school, I will starting teaching French to all the classes on Wednesday, Thursdays I will be teaching music and Thursday and Friday I’ll be teaching gym class. I have a break for a couple hours in between before prepping to teach the advanced class in the late afternoon every day as well. So my plate is looking moderately full at the moment, but as many friends and family know it’s not often I allow myself to have an empty plate.

I’m also appreciating the little surprising moments that come along. The other day in the classroom two kids were lying on one of the cots when suddenly they pointed at the floor and said, “Crab!”

It was not a crab.

Just a fuzzy tarantula taking a calm stroll under the tables. Thankfully this was before Lisa had left and she was the brave one that swept our little curious visitor out of the classroom.

Then this weekend we had the chance to get all dolled up as one of the teachers, Esther, was getting married. The church was completely packed and definitely warm inside, but there was a lot of music sung by friends and family and jokes shared as well. The bride looked radiant and her new husband looked excited.

We also have a new visitor this weekend who is named Hector and he is from Argentina. He is an artists who specializes in making paper and then using it for his own art. He’s come to Haiti to teach members of the community how to make paper so that they can move towards starting a new business to support the school. Hopefully I can pick up some new tricks along the way as well and it will be wonderful to see everyone’s artistic side come out.

Until next time!


All dressed up and ready to go!


Inside the church


The happy couple 🙂

More visitors and new responsibilities

This week I began teaching the advanced English class on my own and the students have been incredible. They’re incredibly supportive and participate in all the activities I plan without hesitation. It’s clear how much they want to learn.

Friday was especially fun because it was game day and with help to plan how everything would work, we played baseball! We learned the vocabulary and walked through the rules and then it was time to play ball. Everyone’s competitive side came out as players took turns up at bat. By the end the score was 7 – 4 and there was one home run and one grand slam. Needless to say I think or at least hope everyone enjoyed themselves.

I also did a lot of dancing this weekend with a couple girls from the class. They taught me different dances to songs they knew and I tried to choreograph something for them as well. I don’t know what it is, but every Haitian I’ve met has been a fantastic dancer, especially the girls who get together in circles to show off their moves. I’ve got a lot to learn from them!

We also had the chance to visit a store and cafe called Papillon in Pétion-ville. They sell artisanal products made by local artists and the money goes towards supporting them. Driving through the city is always amazing just to see everyone go about their day to day activities, but still be so different from home. The city was buzzing with lots of activity, though I still have no idea how the rules of the road work we make it to our destinations safely every time. We were also celebrating the release of Kent Annan’s book “Slow Kingdom Coming”, at the cafe where he was doing a book signing. He is one of the co-founders of Haiti Partners and his book can be purchased on Amazon.

Following the visit of the medical students, we had a whole new group of visitors. They were a group of students from Pennsylvania working on their senior projects. They came to present a small skit to parents, teachers and kids about the importance of taking care of your teeth. People responded really well, asking lots of questions and taking the information to heart. Then at the school the students all got new toothbrushes and we went over how to brush your teeth properly.

I love meeting so many new and different people and hearing their stories. Despite staying in one place this summer I’ve been able to meet and connect with a lot of people and I’m looking forward to future visits.


View from Papillon


A busy marketplace


Behind the scenes.


Listening attentively to the presentation.


Excited with their brand new toothbrushes.


Keeping those pearly whites nice and clean.


Never a dull moment

This past week was an especially busy one right from the get-go. Wednesday was Flag Day here where Haitians celebrate their flag and their independence. Haitians express their pride in their country with music, singing, parades and lots and lots of flags of course. From down below where I’m staying we could hear voices rising up from the city as people rallied together for the festivities.

Classes were cancelled Wednesday, but Tuesday all the students celebrated together with a huge parade and everyone carrying home-made flags as we trekked down the mountain waving and singing to passersby. I’ve got to give the kids credit because their kinds of parades are the real deal and not the pretend parades we had in elementary school when you circled the field once and that was good enough because it was lunch time. The kids marched proudly waving their flags and singing the national anthem as they made their way down a very rocky and sloping path and then all the way back up again. It was a mean thigh work out, but a lot of fun too!

Tuesday was also the first wave of visitors we had this week. A group of medical students from Florida and a group of students from Indiana. So very quickly we had a full house! The students from Florida were staying a week, but the students from Indiana were only staying for a night before they started a week long hike through Haiti as they experienced different kinds of development that is taking place and which efforts make the biggest impact.

The medical students gave the young students here at the school physical examinations to see how everyone was doing. The kids were definitely nervous at first, but the students made them feel comfortable and all worry was wiped away when they received a congratulatory sticker at the end.

Then this weekend was the second wave of visitors when a group of doctors from Florida came down to work at the clinic. It was go go go all weekend as the doctors and medical students saw as many patients as possible. In total they were able to see about 350 people. It was amazing watching them help so many people and learning so much from them along the way. I was mostly running around trying to help out where they could use me, like handing out water to people waiting in line, looking for files, and calling numbers as the doctors were ready to see the next patients. They even taught me how to take blood pressure! Don’t worry no one was hurt in the process, I had very good teachers.

The weekend wrapped up with the start of a new choir that I’m super excited to be a part of! We’ve picked a song and for our first rehearsal focused on the dance portion of things, but I can’t wait too see how everyone’s going to do in a couple weeks!

Things have kind of calmed down for now, but I’m sure that in no time things will pick up and we’ll be off to the races again with a whole new set of new experiences!


Heading down the mountain altogether for Flag Day


Taking a well-deserved break after the parade


Okay, but you can’t not melt when Woodley smiles


Doctors and nurses hard at work seeing patients


Taking on new challenges


Things are busy as usual at the school and the kids are always full of energy. They definitely keep me on my toes!

This week though is my last chance to prepare myself for when I’ll be taking over teaching the Advanced English class as well as teaching the kids in the morning when I’m needed. I’m building up a lot of expectations for myself which can sometimes be constructive, but can also be a hindrance. I think I’ll just have to find my groove with the classes and figure out what works best with my style as well as what the students respond most to, rather than be concerned that I’m doing everything perfectly.

I also had the chance help plan music class for the students and even choreographed a little dance that I’m hoping we can add to each week. It’s to Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There” so it’s a real feel-good song. If you haven’t listened to it in a while you really should.

I had the pleasure of being a part of more celebrations this week as well. The school celebrated the awards their program had won at WorldBlu in Miami, Florida. Four awards in total and watching the teachers pass the awards around their circle was really moving. Everyone here works so hard, they really deserve to be recognized for all of their effort and achievements.

We also had a mango party! There was loud music, dancing and mangoes of course. Each and every kid ended up coated in thick layer of mango juice and they beamed with proud grins on their faces. I have to admit eating a mango without getting coated in juice is a skill I have yet to master without utensils. So then the water hose came out and the kids danced in the water as the juice washed away.

Seeing this incredible sense of community everyday is amazing. There’s so much spirit and life here I just hope to embrace every moment of it while I can.


The teachers gathered to celebrate their awards.


Mango party!!





Washing off that mango juice 🙂

First couple weeks

Tomorrow will mark two weeks that I have been here in Haiti and I’m continuing to learn as much as I can.

Slowly but surely I’m learning the names of the students and getting to know their personalities as well.

I had the opportunity to work on my own with the afternoon class last week which at first was a very daunting task, however with support from parents and older students I started to get the hang of things and plan some activities to help the students work on their English vocabulary. I learned they really enjoy sharing their own stories which I think all of us can relate to on some level. We all seek to share our personal experiences with others in order to form a real and meaningful connection.

I also learned that a lot of Haitians love to dance and they’re really good at it too! Especially all the little girls, the minute the music comes on they’re moving and grooving and know all the steps off by heart. I hope to try and pick up a few steps along the way.

We also had some visitors from the U.S. stay a night. They were teachers who came to do a workshop with the teachers at the school and showed us a multitude of ways that they could instruct students in reading and recognizing letters using only their names. The activities were simple enough, but innovative in how they could really connect with a student and help them grasp the difference between letters and words. The next day though they were off to visit other schools with their own organization.

This past week was also a week of celebrations. First John celebrated 25 years of being in Haiti and then Matt celebrated his 24th birthday. I have never eaten so much cake in so few days, but I have no regrets! It was nice to gather around together and celebrate the accomplishments that had been made and look forward to the ones we can make in the future.

I’m also learning to cherish all the little special moments that happen and trying to make a list so that I don’t forget. Whether it’s something a student does or a meaningful conversation I want to make sure I remember. One moment in particular that happened was in the afternoon when a group of at least thirty students came for English class and one of the little 3 year olds fell asleep in his chair. The students were yelling answers excitedly, but he slept soundly through it. I have to admit I was kind of jealous he was able to nod off with everything that was going on around him. He had definitely had a long day.

I’ve managed to take a couple photos so far but it’s almost impossible to capture what it really feels like to drive through the mountains every day and see the school on the hillside, or to look out from a classroom and see almost the entire city and the port. Hopefully these give a little bit of an idea.


View from one side of the school


View from the office


View from the other side of the school


It’s a huge celebration whenever any of the students have a birthday.


The students here are definitely not camera shy, she asked that I take her photo and posed for me


Biverly showing off her beautiful artwork

I hope to continue to really get to know the students and learn new ways to create engaging activities that allow them to share their stories with others.