"The warm midday sun is shining in the clear blue sky and the Haitian school kids, dressed in matching uniforms, are walking home from school down the dirt roads. Some kids walk for up to two hours just to get to and from school. Every day is a half day for school kids in Haiti. The schools are so over-crowded because there are so many kids and so few school rooms to fit them. There are no organized after-school activities like clubs, scouts, dance or gymnastics. Some play soccer with a ball made out of rags in an open lot. Some play cards or dominoes if they have them. Many will sit around in the street and entertain each other with stories or songs acting as each others TVs...that's only if there is no work to be done at home...but there is always work to be done.
The house always needs water so that mother can cook and clean. There is no running water, so kids will carry a 5-gallon bucket to the nearest pump and fill it for their mother. Then they go back to the well with another bucket and carry it home, usually on their heads, so that they can bathe that evening. You stand behind your house, behind a bush to take your bath from a bucket. Many folks bathe out in the open with a pair of shorts. You rinse, you lather, you rinse again, and then dry off…then change into dry shorts. You can also find kids working in the gardens or chopping wood for the fires. If they have the chance, they will watch a tradesman while he does his craft to learn tips and tricks so that they may be an artist one day. Being an artist in Haiti, is like being a doctor or a lawyer in America. It is a well respect job to have that takes talent and skill. It is how most Haitians make their money. Sometimes when money is tight, which is almost always the case, and you don't have a trade to rely on, parents may chose to take their kids out of school, because in Haiti you must pay to go to school. It's a tough decision to make, especially if you want to get an education. So some kids learn a craft early on. One of the most popular...bead making. It is a great way for Haitians to use their resources, whatever they have around them or found on the streets...used cereal boxes cut up into strips and a stick to spin a bead.
There is a boy named Eddie. He is 14 years old and in grade 4. Eddie says, "I enjoy school and am getting good at English. I have one brother and two sisters. We live with our mother in a tent. Since our father left, it has been hard for my mother, so I am grateful for the chance to make some beads and sell them to help support my family. I love my mother more than any other person in this world."
There is a girl named Duprene. She is 11 yrs old and also in grade 4. Duprene says, "I am excellent in English and recently got an award for my English writing. One day I would like to become an interpreter. I live in a tent with my mother and three sisters. One of my sisters is disabled, and my father past away when I was five. I am working hard to make beautiful beads to raise money for my mother. Some days we cannot eat when there is no food, so any money I make helps."
Doing what you can with what you have is sometimes the only way for Haitians to survive - to fill their bellies, to keep a roof over their head, to keep clothes on their backs. And while they may have very little, they have strong spirits and big hearts. They do the best they can every day. That's all any of us can do."
After sitting in meditation, visualizing what it might be like to be a child in Haiti, thirteen of Alluem's young yogis between the ages of 10 and 12 came together to learn how to make beads out of cardboard, just as the children in Haiti do. I was able to share this trade with my students after my visit to Sonje Ayiti on my December Trip to Haiti with The Village Experience. I met a group of teenagers who welcomed me and my group into the new chicken coup, serving as their temporary studio, where they were diligently working on beautiful pieces of art made from up-cycled materials - beads, jewelry, ornaments, bags - truely amazing work. The teenagers were patient enough to teach us just how these pieces were made. With patience and persistence, I got the hang of spinning the cardboard into small beads and I absolutely loved it!! I knew I would have to share it with my students when I returned!
As I watched my students take the time to sit and listen and learn about the culture and artistry of Haiti, I saw them gain a little more awareness and focus. They were determined to sit and try to spin the beads over and over. Some catching on right away...other struggling a bit, but not giving up! By the end of the hour and a half, I could see a sense of accomplishment on their face, a feeling of peace in their hearts and an awareness they may never forget.
A great big THANK YOU to my friends at Sonje Ayiti! They are doing amazing work to empower their community and improving living standards of children and families through solidarity! Click here to learn more: Sonje Ayiti