Reports from Haiti

by Tiffany Yeh on June 9, 2008
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I miss Terrier Rouge!

Meagan and I have now moved on to Guatemala.
Please read our blog there for our latest adventures!

{lot mund - the other world}

by Tiffany Yeh on June 7, 2008
Filed under: Uncategorized

Another view of Haiti is one unblocked by a window. It’s higher up, standing in a truck bed like Haitians ride, breathing the same air whipping past your face (the few times the road is paved).

From this perspective, you can see the colours in their full glory. Lush green with fields of rice. Mango trees in their glory, their branches heavy with five, six mangos per bunch. Banana trees sprouting left and right. Bright red flowers blooming in cactus trees. The distant blue shaded mountains looming in the distance, never drawing closer, never disappearing. Behind them lies untouched sandy beaches, where the sun shines perfectly over turquoise coves of cool ocean water.

We rumble into Cap Haitian. The washed white of the square, with a Spanish-styled church towering over the courtyard. The New-Orleans-esque shuttered houses standing in remembrance of a glorious past. The colorful paint on walls selling anything from charging phones to bike gears. The beautiful view of the crystal, unblocked ocean from a bar. You can almost see the ghost town of glorious old Cap appearing through the dust. Then you get back on the truck and ride through town.

The vivid colours of humanity invade. The rust coating bare rebars on unfinished, eroded buildings. The blazing blue of an overpacked school bus (named APOCOLYPSE), with a man in a bright red jersey hanging out the back door. The yellow of the woman’s dress. The red of the malnourished boy’s hair (kwashikor). The yellow ripe mangos piled high alongside the road. The deceiving clarity of the pump’s water. The long distance a small boy carrying two empty jugs has to walk. The greyness of the old woman sitting on bags of charcoal (shabon), all on top of a boney donkey (buik). The thinness of the children running naked along the road.

I ask you, how is such a beautiful, rich country, home to the poorest of the poor? How is Haiti the poorest country in the Western hemisphere?

{ou ge fe?}

by Tiffany Yeh on
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Creole roughly translated as: Are you feeling better?

Oui! (Yes!) After almost two days of fever, it’s amazing what an antibiotic can do for you. My fever dropped and yesterday I was up and teaching.

– As a disclaimer, this entry is a longer, more detailed version of what Meagan has already written below. So if you’re short on time, read Meagan’s entry, no worries –

We had a teacher training session and I thought it went very well. Our designated translator, the tech lab teacher Gary, was fluent in Creole and English, but forced us to speak Creole and we were only allowed to ask him for words we didn’t know. It was like our final exam in Creole! Given, after ever sentence we stuttered, he strung it together more fluidly, but most of the teachers seemed to understand us.

We asked for their feedback and got some good positive comments, about the novel teaching style, the interactive nature of the activities, how we asked questions to assess comprehension, and how we asked individual kids to explain or come up front. They emphasized how critical seeing the microbes were - we got many good anecdotes out of this one. Many of the older kids stopped drinking from the school fountain and started to buy the satchels of water at the gate. Students stopped drinking directly from the pump (as we saw, the popular water hole of the town). Students started asking their parents to chlorinate their water or buy satchels, and the parents even came and told some of the teachers this! Given, there is no guarantee of the water sanitation of the satchels, it’s most likely treated.. hopefully.

After thanking the teachers (”mesi anpil” x10) and getting their opinions, we moved the class upstairs to the tech room where we did a microscope training session. We reviewed how to set up the microscope, start the program, set up a slide, and focus. We imaged Meagan’s cheek cells and realized there was another entire part of science that needs to be covered! Cells! The building blocks of life! Anyway, we gave the teachers a chance to come up and try focusing/using the microscope themselves; most of them got it quickly and by the end, the 1st grade teacher was acting as the instructor and guiding the rest. It was great, the feeling of passing on knowledge.

One thing I noticed was the camaraderie among the teachers. While we were waiting for Gary to show up, all the guy teachers were gathered at a table, just chatting. Some were dressed in slacks and a shirt, others in jeans and a tshirt. But all were, as Dan put it, “a grown up version of Haitian schoolboys”. We couldn’t tell what they were saying, but there was a lot of laughing, playing pushing, and arguing. They were so relaxed around each other; they were more like friends who just happened to be co-workers. The women teachers were similar, though a bit quieter and very, very nicely dressed. One of the teachers was stretched out along a bench, chatting from her make-shift cot.

I’m going to sorely miss the teachers, as much as the students, if not more because they actually communicated and worked with us. (M’pral sonje yo) I don’t think either of us are ready to leave Haiti yet.. especially not now when our Creole has finally sunk in. We’ve made some good friends here, we’ve just begun to know the area, and the kids had started to get used to us. All too soon, we move on.

Nou te pale anpil Kreyole jodi a (We spoke a lot of Creole today)!!!

by Meagan Barry on June 6, 2008
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Today was the conclusion of our work at St. Barthelemy School in Terrier Rouge. Tiffany and I organized a final meeting with all of the teachers. The children were given the day off, and today was made into an in-service day for the teachers. All of the teachers arrived on time and started chatting amongst themselves. There was amazing camaraderie in this group of professionals dedicated to educating the children of Terrier Rouge. It was really interesting to see all of the teachers in their “casual” clothes (actually quite dressy), and not the school uniform. We had to wait for half an hour before getting started because the translator was delayed. While we were waiting, we were making small talk in Creole with the professors, telling them how much we had liked working in their classes and how much we were going to miss working with them. When I pulled my camera out and asked if I could take a photo, the teachers started making goofy poses and we all started laughing!!! They were such a good group to work with!!! Once the translator arrived, we asked him if he could start translating our English into Creole for the teachers. He replied (in Creole no less!!!) that we could start talking in Creole to the teachers and he would help us if we needed a difficult term translated. Tiffany and I looked at each other for a moment, wondering how we could possibly communicate all that we wanted to say to the teachers. Not seeing any other choice, we simply started talking to the teachers in our broken Creole. We had to work really hard to fully explain ourselves, but all of the teachers could actually understand what we were saying!!! What an exhausting morning!!! But what a sense of accomplishment!!! After a month of learning Creole, we could communicate to a room of adults!!! Luckily, the translator knew more English than he let on, so he helped us elaborate on nuances and also translated the details of how to operate the microscope for the teachers. The teachers were very excited to learn how to use the microscope and many of them came up to the front of the classroom to practice focusing a specimen! I feel very happy with our work here. The teachers now have more tools and new ideas to help them teach health and science education to the students! And the students that we taught learned the material well, as was apparent in the results of our pre- and post-tests!!! I’ll really miss working here!!!!

Teacher Involvement

by Meagan Barry on June 5, 2008
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I really think the microscope will be used in years to come at St. Barthelemy! In order for the teachers to learn how to use the microscope properly, we have scheduled a special meeting on Friday. We are going to show all of the teachers how hook the microscope up to the school laptops by the USB connection and focus on the specimens. We are also going to suggest experiments that the teachers can perform with the microscope. Last week, when Tiffany and I were teaching about microbes in water, and using the microscope to visualize the microbes, the teachers were very enthusiastic about seeing the microscope! They even started to bring water in from their local wells after class, just to see what their drinking water looked like under magnification. Luckily, we never found any microbes, but there was always visible dirt. The teachers were enthralled to see that water from their wells that looked clean actually had contaminates in it!  We explained that there could be disease-causing organism we couldn’t even see with the microscope, so it was very important to always treat drinking water. The teachers readily agreed. As I said before, once the teachers are trained in how to use the microscope themselves, I think this tool will be very well used at the school!!! 

{sak pase? anye.}

by Tiffany Yeh on June 1, 2008
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Creole lesson: “What’s up? Nothing.”

This past week has been quite busy. I feel very productive and as if now we’re really working up to our internship requirements. We’ve taught four classes a day and got to all the classes twice! We covered the importance of hand-washing on MTW and then discussed microbes and used the microscope of WThF. I’ve been hearing echoes of the song all around school and more than once I’ve woken up with “gade koman men mwen sal…” in my head. I wish Judy could hear what a success her song has become!

The microbes and microscope lesson has been a hit. We started off with a brief overview of how we get sick and how microbes get inside of us. Then, we whipped out our ultimate weapon - the 80$ microscope and a vial of dirty water. We showed them the vial of dirty water we collected from a puddle near a pump and placed it under the microscope. Then, we explained the function of a microscope and showed them the enlarged image on a laptop. More than one student and teacher has gaped in awe of these microbes swimming, moving across the computer screen through the dirt-dust-filled dirty water. Though the younger students may not have understood it, the older ones definitely did and pointed at the various single-celled organisms swimming around on the screen, “like fish” one said. The teachers were equally amazed and I felt that they were a key audience often forgotten. These are the educated adults who influence their community, not to mention hundreds of children. For them, it was a first to see these microbes they teach about and actually realize that they are in the water! We compared dirty water with water from the pump/sink (which has small particles of dust and dirt) and water that we blan drink (which was clear of everything, thank goodness). It was great bringing an abstract idea into reality and showing to the students and teachers that, look, microbes really DO exist! Many of the teachers (especially the pre-k ones) asked us a variety of questions, including how to clean water, which lead in nicely to our final lesson.

I love the 2nd grade teachers Benz & Chantal - they are interactive, interested in what we have to teach, are effective at getting their class to understand, and on top of that, go beyond what we say to include more relevant information. Chantal is soft-spoken, but her class is the most in-line I’ve seen. Benz was the first one we’ve seen so far to use our hand-washing posters.

After class, I showed the microbes video to Lanaud, Fraudaline, and Fabiola, and explained to them each what was going on. Haha I hope they, too, have a new perception of what a “microbe” is. They already knew about treating water with Clorox and that it was key to wash your hands, but it’s different from actually seeing the things that cause malad. I really wish I could spend time with the staff more often; they are the sweetest people and do so much work for us. The three of them have become good friends of ours and really, without Lanaud, our Creole would be a wreck. I’m going to miss them sorely. As a quick aside, I’ve been sick (stomach, throat, fever - you name it) for the past 3 days, and the staff has been super attentive, checking in on me (”we just wanted to see you!”) and bringing me my meals.

On our last day of school, classes are canceled and the teachers are asked to come in for a training session by us - so that they can learn how to set up the microscope and how to use it for different things, as well as our other teaching materials.

Feedback from the Community

by Meagan Barry on May 30, 2008
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Tiffany and I received the best feedback today from a member of the community in Terrier Rouge!!!! We have spent the last three days teaching the students about microbes and disease prevention. We discussed what microbes are, they types of diseases they can cause, and how they can enter the body. We then took a sample of dirty water from a puddle (now christened “Infection Perfection”) and a sample of water from our purified water jugs. We showed the students the two water samples under the microscope we had brought. This microscope was perfect because it had a USB connection so we could connect it to a laptop and many students could simultaneously view the water, rather than one student at a time looking through the ocular piece. The students LOVED seeing the microbes in the dirty water crawling across the computer screen!!!!! We asked them to compare the two water sources and then draw a conclusion about which water source was better to drink. We stressed the importance of treating water to kill microbes and mentioned that next week we will demonstrate how to treat water.


Then this afternoon we saw a gentleman visiting with Pere Bruno. We stopped to say hello, and Pere Bruno introduced us as the visiting students who were teaching at the school. At the mention of this, the gentleman stated speaking to us in very excited rapid Creole! After Pere Bruno helped us a bit with the translation of this deluge of Creole, we discovered that this gentleman has two children at the school. He said that his children had come home very excited after seeing our lesson! They were describing to their father how they had seen the microbes and how they wanted to start drinking treated water so that they wouldn’t get sick. Their father thanked us for teaching his children this important material!!! Tiffany and I were so happy that the children were sharing their experiences with their parents and that they understood the purpose of the experiments! We were also very happy that this parent was supportive of our curriculum and the changes in lifestyle we are promoting!!!!! 

View from the Top of the Citadelle

by Meagan Barry on
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View from the Top of the Citadelle

Hardly any time left…

by Meagan Barry on May 29, 2008
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Both Tiffany and I feel that the time here is quickly slipping past us. We’ve realized how much information we still want to teach the children!!! Because of this, we decided to teach two lessons this week, rather than one lesson a week like we did in our first week. This means that we’re teaching all 10 classes two times each!!! We’re seeing all 450 children twice a week!!! There are 3 classes of Montessori Kindergarten, two first grades, two second grades, a third, a fourth, and a fifth! It’s a pretty exhausting pace but it has been quite worthwhile!!! The teachers have become very friendly now that they are seeing us more often! They remember our names and welcome us into their classrooms. I think this will really help to improve the chances of the curriculum we designed being used after we have left. We even saw one of the teachers after work, at the town square. He came up to us and we chatted for a while!!! We were a bit sheepish though, because after teaching his class a lesson on nutrition, Tiffany, Dan, and I were sitting at the town square sharing a can of Pringles :-) He repeated our lesson about not eating too much snack food back to us with a grin on his face, and we all laughed together! I think that we’re going to try to keep up this pace and see each class twice next week as well!

Gade koman men mwen sal; frote ak dlo, frote, frote, frote

by Tiffany Yeh on May 28, 2008
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Subject line: Look how dirty my hands are; scrub with water, scrub, scrub, scrub.

We’ve officially graduated from being just “blan yo!” Now, when we walk through the school and even through the town, people call us by name. Mainly they call “Este-fa-nie”, because it’s a name they already know (not many Meagans here). Nevertheless, we have names now and, on top of that, people don’t stare AS much.

This past week, we went through all the classes and taught them the hand-washing song. We sang it solo, with our -amazing- voices, and on top of that, in Creole. t’s to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle”, so it’s pretty catchy, and the kids seemed to really enjoy it (at least, got a kick out of us singing). The funny thing is, now we hear it almost all morning from the younger classes. After school, students run up to us and start singing it. Kids passing by the school compound yell the first two line rather than “blan!”. From my point of view, it’s great advertising, reminding the whole community to wash their hands!

On another note, the school has a computer lab here, equipped with eight to ten IBM Thinkpads loaded with Windows XP. They have Wordpad, Paint, and probably the Microsoft Office programs (Word, Excel, etc). Almost all the kids have a “technology” period, where they are sent to the computer lab. I peeked in on a few classes and was a bit disappointed to see the what they were up to. The teacher was playing a game on his laptop while the kids were left to play either a motorcycle racing game or pound away on the keyboard, clicking randomly. Once in a while, the teacher would make rounds of the class, clearing any major computer errors. On the board were stark instructions on how to get to MS Paint, but you can tell that no one was following them. I feel that, aside from the overload of excessive input to the CPU, the computers were not being used to their full potential. The students could be learning how to type, how to calculate with Excel, how to write essays, how to navigate their way through folders and files - the possibilites are endless!

When I went up to install the microscope program into one of the laptops, I asked Fabiola (one of the staff girls, 13 years old) if she would like to learn how to use a computer. I opened up WordPad for her and asked her to try writing a few sentences. After a bit of coaxing, she was able to hunt-and-peck for letters and copy out a sentence I typed before. The space and enter keys confused her a bit, but she got the hang of it quickly. Just 15 minutes later, she had become more familiar with the keyboard and was able to type five words in succession! After that, I decided that I am going to make my mission for the next week and a half to try and teach Fabiola (and hopefully Fraudaline) how to type. Though they probably don’t have computers at home, I feel it’s a pretty important skill these days and hopefully, it can help them to gain opportunities in the future.

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