Equipping for the Present

By Sarah Smith

Here at Project 117, we talk a lot about equipping and empowering. Whether we’re talking about what the new Prodigy Building will allow us to do or casting vision for the kind of work we see our graduates doing after school, those two words seem to come up often.

There’s no denying we have big dreams. We want to equip and empower our students to change the narratives in Haiti and to find solutions to complicated problems. A lot of times, though, I can get pretty caught up in dreaming about “the future.” To me, a lot of what we do seems to be laying the groundwork for the future. I get swept up in what that future might be instead of focusing on the stories of the present. Stories like Yvrose’s and the amazing initiative she’s taking to care for our students.

In October, a team of volunteers traveled with us to Haiti for a serving trip. The team accomplished a lot of amazing things—health care checks for each student, painting an art mural, helping to run classroom crafts, breaking ground on the Prodigy Building—but one of the most encouraging results of the team’s visit happened after they left. As part of our healthcare initiative, the team brought down medical and first aid supplies to leave with the staff so that they’re equipped to care for our students throughout the year.

Cough syrup, bandaids, and antibiotic ointment may seem like small things, but they empowered Yvrose to take ownership in how she cares for our students. She’s new to the Project 117 team this year; we hired her as an administrative assistant to help out in the school office. She has no healthcare background, and none of her initial responsibilities required that she act as school nurse. But when Phania, one of our K–1 students, developed a severe case of painful blisters, Yvrose launched into action because of a newly developed ongoing wellness system—one that makes her responsible for weekly check-ins with each teacher to make sure that kids with health issues are getting the treatment they need. She made a schedule to make sure Phania was being treated with antibiotic ointment every day and took ownership of her care. Three weeks later, the blisters were gone.

Since then, Yvrose has taken even more action as she steps up to the plate of advocating for our students’ health. Through the work of some awesome volunteers stateside, we’re equipping her to facilitate monthly healthcare workshops in each of our classes. She’ll talk with our students about the importance of hand washing, teeth brushing, and so many other things that they can do to improve their quality of life.

Yvrose’s story reminds me that we’re not just laying the groundwork for our students to be able to re-write stories in the future. We’re helping our staff take ownership and initiative in rewriting them now. That we can talk of “equipping and empowering” with grand vision, but sometimes it comes down to something as simple as bandaids and ointment.