Final Days and Coming Home: An Acknowledgment of Privilege

My final days at ETE Camp and in Hinche were filled with last lessons, performances and emotional see-you-laters. After a full month of teaching and playing for hours a day, it was easy to become closely connected with the children. Despite the difficulty in language we learned about each others personalities, interests, temperaments and experiences. Many of the children adjusted so well to the language differences that they developed their own form of communication to interact with me and the other volunteers such as grabbing our arm and pointing to the vacant seat next to them at meal times or using the few English words they knew and the few Creole words they knew we knew to form a completed thought.

During the last week of camp, we spent class time and activity time gearing up for our three big closing activities: The parade around Hinche, The Alumni Show and the Closing Ceremony. The parade was an amazing experience and consisted of all the ETE campers, volunteers and alumni marching through the city singing the songs we had learned at the top of our lungs. The city dwellers were exposed to a small piece of what these people and kids wearing matching t-shirts had been up to for the last month. The lyrics of the songs consisted of a mixture of English and Creole and were both original melodies created by different volunteers as well as lyrics adapted to the melodies of songs such as “I Can”, “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Survivor”. The ETE Camp versions of these songs were “Mwen Konnen Kapab- I Know I Can”, “I Believe I Can Fly” and “I Am A Scholar.”. These songs as well as presentations of all that the students learned this year were all a part of the Closing Ceremony (as seen in the links above). The family members of many of the scholars came to watch them display their English, Leadership and Math skills through skits, songs and mini-lessons. This was truly a moving event that brought the feeling of a “proud mama” to my heart in seeing how much these students had developed their skills and how brave they were to stand on stage and perform the way they did. The students also came up individually to receive their ETE Camp graduation certificates, a moment that brought tears to our eyes. It was the perfect ending to an amazing month of seeing the accomplishments of 60 young leaders and scholars.

Students receiving certificates from myself and the other volunteers during the Closing Ceremony.
The 2014 ETE Campers proudly holding their certificates during the Closing Ceremony.


Coming home meant being shoved face first into the recognition of my comparative wealth and place of privilege. Even as a family who immigrated from Brazil with almost no money and spent most of our time in Brazil and the US financially struggling, I have to acknowledge that this is no longer where we stand due to the privileges and blessings living in the US has afforded us.

What this means is getting picked up at the airport in a relatively new, full functioning luxury SUV after communicating with my parents through our overly priced iPhones. The engine wasn’t roaring loudly and I did not fear that the car would breakdown. Their is A/C and heat in the car for a comfortable ride regardless of the weather outside (which happened to be about 65 degrees, a temperature that I consider cold after a month in 95 degree weather). Inside it I feel safe. The roads are not bumpy, they are smoothly paved. Dust and dirt are not flying into my face, hair and clothing. I do not feel nauseous from the ride home.

At home, I am greeted by a new, brand name watch and a Pandora charm titled, “The Journey of Life” to celebrate my return home. My dad shows me his new toy, a Bluetooth speaker for his phone that not even he fully understands how to use. I use the bathroom and I do not need to use a bucket of water to make the toilet flush. I take a shower and I do not fear that a cockroach will come out of the drain. I do not fear that the shower will stop because the rain water supply has been exhausted. I open my mouth and let the water in, I do not fear that it will make me sick. I do not fear that the lights will go out in the middle of my shower. The water is warm, I control the temperature I want to shower in instead of the steady stream of cold water I had showered under for the last month. 

I eat fresh homemade food left for me on the stove containing all the essential nutrients for my body. A colorful arrangement of vegetables, protein and grain. I brush my teeth. I do not need to find filtered water to do this but instead brush my teeth with faucet water for the first time in a month. I go to bed. It is a full size bed that I can sprawl out on either side of. It is warm, clean and incredibly comfortable and high enough that no unwelcome guests will crawl on me at night. I do not spray myself with bug-spray before bed since all the windows of the house have screens. There are no mosquitoes inside the house and if there were, they would be a slight nuisance but I would not fear that they are carrying illnesses such as Malaria or Chikungunya. 

Tomorrow I will unpack and do my laundry. I will not need to hand wash my clothes with limited water. I will not need to wait for sunshine to hang them up to dry. I will not be without clothes until they are done as I have I several clean options to change into while I wait for the machine to finish what is in many places, still the job of human hands.

In the fall I will return to my senior year at one of the best universities in the US and complete my nearly fully scholarship funded education. I do not fear that my school will get shut down or run out of vital resources. I will use fast pace and readily available internet and phone to make both my social and professional life much easier. I trust that my degree will add to my ability to grow socioeconomically and help to secure an even better life for myself and my family. My classroom is not too hot nor too cold. There are no illness carrying mosquitoes or flies to swat off as I learn or sleep or eat. The electricity and water does not frequently shut down. It is an excessively funded institution and a safe place to study and live. 

To say my life is “better” is a judgment call I neither agree with nor have any interest in making. To say my life is easier in many ways than what I experienced and witnessed for the last month would be accurate. To say that I am at a place of privilege over others that I do not deserve is the pure and troubling reality. I got to personally know and fall in love with over sixty beautiful, intelligent, loving and happy children who are at a systematic disadvantage from my own, despite my being an immigrant and a woman of color in the US. Logically, there is no reason why I should have these privileges and they should not. I am not a better person. I am not more intelligent, more beautiful, more loving, more in touch with God, more deserving of blessings, or more worthy. Essentially I am who they are and they are who I am. This privilege however is provided by one main, crucial factor; I am a beneficiary of the same system that has and continues to keep these and millions of other people in poverty and without many things we (probably anyone with access to this blog post) often take for granted. This acknowledgement doesn’t change the lives of anyone suffering from this system but it does remind us of who and where we are, not for the purposes of containing guilt but of realizing what each of our lives cost others. The course of action beyond that is an individual but crucial decision. 

This was my first but will not be my last trip to Hinche, Haiti and among volunteering, there are many ways to get involved with ETE Camp, simply because we can and because every child deserves the best chances to succeed in this world that they can get.

A Day In a Life: Teaching and Living in Hinche, Haiti

It has been two weeks since I arrived in Hinche, Haiti and began my experience at ETE Camp. These two weeks have been filled to the brim with new experiences and lessons learned. The first week was one of adjustments. The heat here is unlike what I have experienced anywhere else. Even after living in the northeast of Brazil for six months. Although I prefer the heat to any other weather, it took my body some time to adjust to the constant heat of the Caribbean sun especially during the day or on long car rides. Food and mosquitoes have been another adjustment. Hinche is a small town a two hour drive through the mountains from Port-au-Prince and is calm and laid back. Our first interaction with the students was Opening Day when over 100 parents and children came to try to take part in this free and educational opportunity. We registered and met the 60 children that I would be working with and learning from the next month.

Myself and the other volunteers walking to Opening Day.

From 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., Monday- Friday nothing, including the mosquitos or the heat, matters besides the 60 wonderful, intelligent, creative, loving and energetic ETE camp scholars. A day in the life consists of Morning Motivation, breakfast, teaching three classes, lunch and an afternoon activity. There are four subjects being taught in one day: Math, Science, English Writing and Leadership and each teaching pair is off for one period. I have been co-teaching English Writing, and I have never met such eager to learn children who are so excited to be in school. They are always doing the best they can to learn as much as possible. Once in a while there are discipline issues to take care of as with any children but for the most part they are extremely well-behaved. The daily chorus of “Good Morning, Miss Amanda” has proven to always make me smile, as have the moments during meal times when the children sing their prayers in unison or someone grabs my arm and asks me to sit next to them.


The language barrier was another adjustment as I spoke no Creole and only some children spoke a couple of words in English. We have however come to an understanding and a rhythm of how to communicate without words or with the few we know of one another’s language. Both I and the students learn new vocabulary each day through interactions and in English class with Daily Words. In many instances words are not even needed to communicate as every child knows what a stern look means when they have done something wrong or what a smile and a sticker means when they have successfully completed a task. Through this they are also learning how to communicate with all people through a common language we all speak that doesn’t include words. Theses exchanges and their classes are contributing greatly to their growth into the leaders of Haiti and of the world that they all have an incredible potential to be.

Amanda Pereira ’15

Getting Ready for Takeoff: Prework for ETE Camp in Hinche, Haiti

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From personal experience, I have learned that access to education is one avenue that can completely change the destiny of an individual and a community. Shaina Gilbert (Brandeis ’10) also knew this when she started Empowering Through Education Camp in Hinche, Haiti in 2008. When she started the camp she thought it would serve as a one year event and never expected that through the help of donors, volunteers and the community, it would be running for six consecutive years.

ETE camp is made up of over 150 of Hinche’s most vulnerable youth and is focused on preparing them to become future leaders by strengthening their academic skills, increasing self-confidence, and actively building community and parental support. Through critical classes like Math, Literacy and Leadership Building, academic skills are strengthened. By promoting teamwork and leadership the self-confidence of the students is increased and works to better many areas of their lives. Finally, active community building and parental support is created by connecting them with respected community leaders such as the mayor, and planning community-wide events that allow parents to witness the development and potential of their children through education as well as hosting an afternoon adult English learners class.

For the first part of my internship, I have been working on preparation work for the four week camp to come. The camp is set to begin with an Open House on Sunday, July 6th with the first day of camp beginning on the following day and running until the final Closing Ceremony on August 1st. Prep work has included inventory, data entry, curriculum development, researching cost efficient supplies and grant writing. In order to be ready for the many excited campers inventory and data entry needed to be done to ensure that there were enough supplies such as notebooks, pens, pencils and hand sanitizer. During the month of June, I also worked with Shaina, who is currently a teacher in Boston, to help develop the curriculum that we will be using during ETE Camp 2014. It is important that in order to ensure that ETE Camp continues to run smoothly in years following, financial research for the most cost efficient supplies and grant writing needed to be taken care of. During the length of the camp, I will be co-teaching English classes as well as leading leadership and extracurricular activities. Finally, staff bios were put together for ETE Camp’s website about this year’s staff including one about me.

I found out about ETE Camp through a friend and Brandeis alum who attended and helped fundraise for ETE camp in previous years. When he told me about his experience and how the camp came to be, I knew that it was something I needed to be a part of. He put me in contact with Shaina and after speaking to her about the work that she has been doing I was blown away by her drive and the stories she shared with me about the children who she has worked with. So far my experience just in making preparations has proven to be even better than I had expected and I cannot imagine what it will be like upon my arrival to Haiti on July 4th. I am so excited to meet and begin working with the wonderful and intelligent children of Hinche who will be attending this year’s camp. I have spoken to other volunteers and have heard only amazing things about the passion and love these children have for learning and for life. This will truly be a life-changing experience and I look forward to learning how to develop my teaching and leadership skills as well as what it takes to run a camp such as this one. More than anything, I am looking forward to learning all that the children have to teach me both about their community and about life. I hope and believe this experience will be one of mutual growth and learning and I am counting down the days until take off on Friday, July 4th!

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Amanda Pereira