By Sarah Smith
We’re closing out the One 17 Challenge, and this year it’s all focused on injustice. Every participant in the Challenge is not only raising money, but raising awareness for a particular injustice that our students in Haiti face on a regular basis.
It’d be easy to get caught up in this picture of Haiti as simply a country that’s been ravaged by injustice. While it’s true that the need in Haiti looms large and that there’s a lot of work to be done, we would be doing the people of Haiti a massive disservice if we limit ourselves to a single story of injustice. So while we continue to raise awareness of the challenges of life in Haiti, we want to spend some time focusing on the things we love about Haiti and its people.
One of the first things that I noticed about Haiti when I visited for the first time last May was its breathtaking beauty. Looking out at the countryside from our school, God’s handiwork is so evident in so many ways. From the clouds rolling over the mountains to incredible sunsets to the lush greenery of the rainy season, Haiti is home to so much beauty and one breathtaking moment after another.
But more than Haiti’s topography, we’re incredibly motivated by the beauty of the stories we see in our students and staff. In our teachers and principal, we see a group of inspired and inspiring people who believe that our students have the potential to do incredible things to rewrite Haiti’s story. Greg—our Haitian principal—has such a tangible passion for the things that our students can go on to do. It truly is contagious. I’ll never forget sitting in the back of an SUV during a bumpy ride over the mountain into Port-au-Prince, talking to Greg about his take on the problems Haiti’s facing. What struck me in that conversation was how undaunted he was in the face of those challenges. Instead, he was excited and energetic and passionate about being able to equip and empower our students to meet and overcome them. He’s infused his passion into our school culture, and our teachers have undeniably bought into it. We love how they’re pouring into our students and how their passion for education and the opportunities it brings is so tangible as soon as you set foot in their classroom. They know that the students they’re teaching to read and write will someday be the students that create complex solutions that Haiti’s complex problems demand.
And finally, we’re inspired by our students themselves. We love the grit and determination they’re showing as they chase after their education. We love soaking up the excitement of our 1st and 2nd graders as they learn about the world around them, and we’re inspired by the motivation of our adult literacy students to chase new challenges as they learn how to read and write. Whether we’re watching six- and seven-year-olds step into leadership roles among their peers or grown adults write their names for the very first time, we know that there’s something special about the group of students we’re lucky enough to have. We don’t know exactly where they’ll go, but we can’t wait to watch them get there.
Yes, Haiti is a country with great need and it’s vital that we’re aware of it. But it’s just as important to remember that Haiti is an incredibly beautiful country, full of people that have the passion and determination to write a new story for Haiti—a story that rewrites the narratives of injustice. As we take inspiration from our staff and students—young and old—we’re honored to be able to play even a small part in that story.