So, we loaded up our makeshift stanchions, foldable tables, a few chairs, books and volunteers and headed out to a small orphanage in the Carfour Marin area. This orphanage although small sponsors a school for the area’s children. We had already registered the children and made their library cards. On the way there it started to rain. It was not looking good for our first library session. I told everyone that it didn’t really matter if many children came or not because it was a good time to figure out the logistics of setting up. Remember, conditions are always rough and one must make do with what is available. So, in the rain we unloaded all of our supplies and set up under a large tent that the kids have school class under. We arranged the stanchions such that the kids came in the front gate and immediately had to go into a line where their cards were handed out and they were allowed “entrance”. We then had benches and tables with the books on them, a check out desk and more benches to sit and read.
Our starting time was 2 p.m. At 2:15 only a few children from the orphanage itself were in the library. A few children then started to peek through the gate and decided to see what this was all about. They were confused. This “activity” looked different than anything we had ever done before. In the past, when the “blancs” visit it was with games, art projects or just playing. This, was different. Some of the kids even showed a little fear as they were made to stand in a line. At first, they were perplexed when faced with hundreds of books laid out on the tables. The kids were told that they could choose a book and look at it. The kids hurriedly chose and went to the checkout table where they were asked their name. The card inside the book was taken out and their name was written on it! Soon the looks of confusion turned into looks of pride. They sensed that they were able to do something special.
As the minutes went by, more and more children showed up! The rain had stopped and the kids poured in. All were orderly, all were looking at books and asking questions! The boys, Patrick, Bony and Jimmy were very busy teaching the children how to take care of books, reading with them and explaining things. It was the coolest thing ever.
At one point, the orphanage had an obviously educated and well respected woman visitor whom asked some of the volunteers what we were doing. She ended up asking me how she could register with our organization to give” her kids” at “her schools” this same opportunity. She was so impressed and said to me “Our Haitian children are eager to learn”. Come to find out she is the Director of a large Haitian organization and a Senator’s wife. We will be meeting later this week.
After this first experience of introducing the Haitian children to the wonderful world of books, I was overcome with knowing that we are on track. What a joy to see the joy in their young faces!