I have been helping behind the scenes while our Director, Marilyn, worked hard all last summer to turn our Preschool into a reality. We opened our Day Care in the Spring of 2014 and it didn’t take long to figure out that we wanted to expand by offering not only a safe place for our artisan’s children while they worked, but a quality education as well.
This week was the first time I was able to see the Preschool in person. I have been spending a lot of time with them. Watching them learn – in both Creole and French. Yesterday, I sat with a few boys while they played with a Mr. Potato Head. The sweet little guy I was sitting with immediately began to spread the pieces out and look at each one. Before I knew it, he was attaching the earrings to his own ears. We laughed and played and I took a photo so he could see how silly he looked – and he laughed all the harder!
The girls next to them were doing simple puzzles. As I sat there watching one little girl figure out what went where, I was overcome with the fact that these simple puzzles and Mr. Potato Head toys are things that we in America take for granted. Toys like these are not found in the one room houses that most of these children come from. Most of them don’t have anything even remotely close to it and yet we have lots of these types of toys for our children and don’t always take the time to consider the critical thinking skills that they are developing because of them.
When the jewelry making first started in 2009, Shelley often had to teach the artisans their colors, patterns and sometimes counting. Poverty can strip someone of those early developmental skills for a few different reasons. One could be that they have a developmental delay from malnutrition. You don’t always catch up from that. Another reason could be that they simply couldn’t afford to go to school. They were never educated in any capacity. The schools here are not free so if you are a poor family and you have to decide between food or school, food will always win.
That being said, there are many Haitians who have grown up in orphanages, have lived in poverty their entire life, have not had an education and simply lack the ability to problem solve easily. They can be taught many things as adults, but because their brains were not stimulated properly the first 5 years of their lives – it may be very difficult to get beyond a certain point. Certain concepts may always remain just out of reach because they were not taught/developed in those crucial years.
The children that sat in front of me with their puzzles and Mr. Potato Head were being shaped and molded. This is the next generation of Haitians. These tools are the foundation for their future education. For their future jobs – their future life.
It was no longer about puzzles and potatoes for me. It was about giving the next generation a running start so they can change their world.
We have seen so much growth in these children just since September. We desire to continue to grow our school as the children grow. This means expanding to a Kindergarten this fall. We were given a generous donation by Trades of Hope that will allow us to rent the building right next door. But, we still have a long way to go to make this next step happen.
Tom will be explaining in future blog posts how you too, can help these little people change their world. It’s going to be awesome!!!!!