Community Building in Hinche

During my time at ETE camp, I’ve really engaged with parts of myself that I didn’t know existed. To say I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone would be an understatement. In my time in Haiti, I’ve gained more insight into education but most importantly I’ve witnessed firsthand the necessity of communal transformation. There are many qualities that are accompanied with a good education, including qualified teachers, supportive parents and other adequate resources that’ll contribute to the success of the student. However, a very crucial but often overlooked portion of education is the help of the community. The community is what

Here is a picture of one of my students presenting their project.
Here is one of my students presenting their project.

held ETE camp together. The success of ETE camp wouldn’t be visible without communal interference. The community held all of us responsible for igniting the minds of their children and in return we received their grace and aid. We received their support in the little things such as neighbors accompanying us to the store or simply offering help whenever needed. This also included house maintenance issues we faced during our stay. This performance of community played a role when my supervisor was forced to leave the camp due to unforeseen circumstances. In this time, it was up to us and the Hinche community step up and run the camp efficiently in her absence. The community worked together to still facilitate graduation and final projects despite her absence. The community was able to run this program efficiently without direct oversight of the director. We were able to make all of their certificates, organize and clean the school, and operate breakfast and lunch on our own. One parent even volunteered to video record the entire graduation ceremony. I was so grateful to witness a community uplifting each other and maintaining a positive program made for their community.

Honestly, this internship has left me with more questions than answers as far as my career goals. However, there a few things I can see myself doing after graduation. Primarily, I can without a doubt see myself working with kids. At first, I was pretty certain working with younger kids would require too much emotional and physical labor. Though, by the end of the program, I couldn’t stay away from them. Working with them has given me patience and so much compassion. With that being said, I see myself working for Teach for America. Almost all of my co-workers have worked with Teach for America and described their experiences as nothing less than extraordinary.

For anyone who would like to work with educational nonprofits, I would tell them to always remain ready for improvisation. I tend to thrive in comfort and structure and working in Haiti has shown me that I am capable of bending and making it work. I didn’t believe I had this quality to improvise without leaving students behind. Another thing I would tell them is that, one should always conserve resources. There is rarely a surplus in school supplies and other resources. Save everything! You never know if the budget will be as big as the organization would like. The money needed for that fiscal year will not always meet the demands of the organization’s budget. Donations and sponsors are crucial to the maintenance of the program as these programs offer free services for their community.

The thing I am most proud of however is facilitating a poetry workshop for the students at ETE camp. They created their own acrostic poems in English and Haitian Creole. Their poems composed of adjectives and positive affirmations that described them. I felt that it was crucial for students to be able to express themselves both in English and their native tongue. This project benefits the organization because we are now able to use the student’s work as an incentive for donations. I was so happy to contribute and share the veiled brilliance of my students.

Here are some student highlights of the poetry project.
Here are some student highlights of the poetry project.

Embracing Hinche and Education

Upon arriving to Haiti, I was greeted by customs and eager taxi drivers to drive me to my desired location. Yet, the only person I was excited to see was my supervisor. She greeted me with her warm embrace and reassurance of a transformative time in Haiti. So far, she has lived up to her promise.

Once I arrived in Hinche, our staff was immediately put to work and started organizing the materials for open house the following day. During this time, I was able to bond with my new staff members. Most of the staff members are Boston Public School teachers who have experience teaching Haitian-American students at their local school. I am really grateful to receive insight about the education field through their experiences. In our time of exchanging stories, I found out that three of the staff members are first generation Haitian-Americans. Witnessing the intrinsic motivation to give back to their community was comforting. I knew right then that my staff would instill passion and dedication in their work during their time in Haiti.

The busy and vibrant city of Hinche is encased in voluminous green mountains. Everyone around you is working or going somewhere. To add on to the excitement, the director is pretty much a local celebrity in the community. With that being said, it is a thrilling feeling to migrate through the street and witness the smiling faces of the citizens. In that time, I noticed that

Me and a few of my students
Me and a few of my students

the local citizens really value their Christian faith. Most communal spaces are reserved for religious ceremonies and the citizens outwardly and unapologetically express their faith. It is beautiful to see so many people rejoicing and in celebration together.

On my first day of work, about sixty students were eager to start camp and immediately greeted me. You can see the gratitude plastered on their face as they successfully entered the camp. Gaining a spot in this camp is extremely valuable to the students because they are receiving enrichment and are guaranteed two meals a day for free. Services such as these are usually not free and thus helpful to both the student and their parents. Their desire to be here is beyond admirable. I know students who walk twenty minutes to get to the camp. The students come prepared and are attentive and very respectful. It is safe to say we have a symbiotic relationship too. Since I am teaching them English, the students have agreed to teach me Haitian Creole.

The World of Work in regards to this specific organization is not too different from university life in my opinion. I live in a shared space with different people, we eat together and we work together. Like Brandeis, we are all working to achieve the same goal even if it is through different paths. Socially, my life here in Haiti is not too different from university life as my staff members all have different values and experiences. The varying experiences and unique perspectives existing in the workspace enhance productivity and the overall richness of the program.

Outside of organizational and team building skills, I believe I’ve gained great experience in project management. I am currently conducting a poetry project at the camp. To complete this project, I had to work closely with my co-teachers to successfully execute the project and be in consistent communication with my director with any updates on the project’s progress. Engaging in this kind of work directly applies to my life at Brandeis. This is especially true in my role as a Community Advisor at Brandeis where planning is essential to maintaining a healthy environment for my residents.

Overall, I am so grateful to have an opportunity to work with such remarkable people to achieve such a meaningful mission.

LaShawn Simmons, ’18

Social Justice WOW Fellow

Ms.LaShawn's English Class
Ms.LaShawn’s English Class

Working with ETE Camp: A Summer of Growth and Literature

Retrieved from Date accessed: June 6, 2016

This summer I will be working with the Empowering Through Education (ETE) Camp located in Hinche, Haiti. This organization’s primary mission is to serve underprivileged youth that do not have access to comprehensive education and positive leadership. One of the ways this organization achieves its mission is by strengthening their students’ academic skills in courses such as Engineering, Math and Literacy/English. Coming into this position, I felt relatively comfortable as I have worked with educators during my last internship as a teaching fellow. Nonetheless, I was eager to gain new ideas and skills to strengthen my curriculum for my camp class.

I am now forming a literacy curriculum that will be critiqued by the Boston Public School English as a Second Language (ESL) volunteer teachers. In this pre-departure section of my internship, I am charged with the task of collecting pieces of literature that would enhance students’ vocabulary in order to form this curriculum. The topics range from writing introductions to learning new vocabulary. The fear I have with this task emerges from the language barrier as most citizens speak Haitian Creole. Additionally, teaching English poses as a challenge for me because my teaching experience reside exclusively in Mathematics, specifically Pre-Algebra and Algebra.

Here is the daily schedule for the camp. I will be teaching three classes with a co-teacher. My classes are circled in blue.
Here is the daily schedule for the camp. I will be teaching three classes with a co-teacher. My classes are circled in blue.

My first week of work was filled with anxiety and uncertainty. However I am aware that comfort and growth do not co-exist. In order to combat my anxiety, it is my desire to perform adequate research in what an English literacy curriculum will look like. This anxiety sheds light on the importance of organizing and planning. This internship allows me to build skills in planning and ultimately developing an efficient curriculum. I am quite simply learning how to properly plan in the realm of education. While improving my planning skills, I am learning that one must consider elements such as environmental factors, time delays, and progress of the students. I am learning to organize a curriculum that is flexible and almost invincible to any possible curve ball. Planning is essential in this internship. During one’s class time, it is important that they maintain composure and diligence in the presence of students.

Thankfully, I have the help of my co-workers and my amazing director. I am learning quite quickly that I should seek help in times of uncertainty. With that being said, self agency is celebrated in my academic life especially at Brandeis. Yet, in collaborative workspaces such as these, asking for help is not a sign of incompetence. As a new employee, I didn’t want to live with the fear of appearing incompetent or too dependent on my director for assistance. After engaging in other conversations with my peers, I’ve learned that many of them seek inspiration from online sources for curriculum ideas from other teachers. Most importantly, I’ve learned that feeling stuck or nervous about the efficacy of one’s curriculum is not a foreign feeling in education. If anything, I am learning that it is a sign of ambition, passion, and intrinsic care for the students. A mantra that is often repeated in this workspace is “Kids don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”

Along with building a literacy curriculum, I plan to conduct a writing project that includes West Indian literature that centers around self-agency or coming of age stories. I wish to include works from the Haitian diaspora including the works of Haitian-American writer Edwidge Dancticat. One of the core texts I wish to examine and pull inspiration is from Haiti Noir 2 : The Classics and The Butterfly’s Way : Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States, a collection of fictional stories created by young writers of Haitian descent. I believe the texts will help me in including materials that are culturally relevant to students and not to mention that both texts are edited by Edwidge Danticat. For those with knowledge of writers from not only Haitian literature but other West Indian literature, please feel free to comment with texts or articles you think will be helpful.

Literacy Curriculum ETE
The director was kind enough to give me a sample Literacy curriculum from previous sessions. This was incredibly helpful. Never be afraid to ask for help!