Watching children walk to school in Haiti would be surprising to most of us.
Our sister parish and its 24 chapels and schools are spread throughout the steep mountains and deep valleys two and a half hours away from the crowded capital city of Port Au Prince.
In these tranquil and mostly treeless mountains and valleys, the residents live in many scattered small villages where the primary modes of transportation are walking and motorbikes.
Typically, the only four-wheel vehicle you see is the one driven by the priest and administrator of our sister parish, Father Eddy. He uses his all-wheel drive Toyota SUV to visit the chapels that can be reached by vehicle.
Some of the children must walk a mile or more to school each day. A lucky few get to ride on the long saddle seat of the gasoline-powered two-wheelers so common in the mountains. Often you will see two, three or even four people aboard those precious transports.
There are no sidewalks, just paths, narrow trails or roads filled with dirt and rocks. Many of the children wear sandals and you wonder how they can navigate those unforgiving steep hills and rocks.
But it’s all they have ever known. They spend years getting to and from school on these dusty pathways.
When you pass them on their way to school, in their bright-colored and clean school uniforms, many smile at you and respond to your Bon Jour (good day) with a similar greeting.
In the extensive, widely dispersed Notre Dame de Lourdes sister parish, more than 100 teachers educate some 4,500 children throughout the year.
Most of the schools are open-air or semi-enclosed structures with tin roofs that sometimes leak during the spring rainy season.
Inside, there may be a chalk board, or there may not. The same goes for desks, notebooks, pencils or pens … or even backpacks. Children may have to sit on a dirt floor or a small wooden bench.
With an illiteracy rate of around 40%, Haiti is in desperate need of education. That is the real mission of and reason for having a sister parish in Haiti. The funds raised by All Saints goes toward paying for teacher salaries and school supplies.
The more we raise, the more we can prepare teachers to help students learn to read and write – to become literate. Without school supplies it’s difficult for the students to take what they learn from the classroom home, or even retain that information.
School supplies may even make it possible for students to take their lessons home where it might help their parents learn valuable lessons that could lead to a job or possibly starting a small business.
Renmen Bondye, Sèvi Lòt Moun, Fòm Disip
Love God, Serve Others, Form Disciples.