After sharing a part of Sylvia’s story in last week’s post, “What Gifts Should I Bring with Me to Haiti?“, we wanted to share her full story, in her own words, here. A huge thank you to Sylvia for reaching out to us – and for giving us permission to reprint her letter here.
January 22, 2016
Connecting with Haiti via Haiti Hub
My name is Sylvia and I am a few weeks away from embarking on a great adventure, traveling from southeastern British Columbia, Canada, on my first trip to Haiti.
In the spring of 2006 I was a newcomer to church, and had the opportunity to sponsor a child through Compassion Canada. I chose a lovely girl in Haiti, and over the last decade, we have shared letters and photos, getting to know one another. Though our lives are as different as can be, I feel very connected to her and so blessed to have her in my life. In February of 2013, I sponsored another sweet and beautiful girl in Haiti, and so began a second friendship via letters and photos. I’ve gotten to know her and her family through our communications.
Last July, Compassion Canada offered an exposure trip to Haiti, for sponsors who want to see the country — to witness the joys and successes, sorrows and hardships, of the beautiful people of Haiti, and the work that Compassion is doing there through 270 centres, serving over 79,000 children. Partnering with the local churches since 1968, these Compassion centres offer children in those communities a chance to go to school, receive health care, attend fun, church-based activities and more. An exposure trip would be my chance to see what my supporter money is actually doing. But above all, it was the opportunity to meet my two girls that inspired and motivated me to find a way to afford the trip. Once I committed to going, I thought about ways to make this trip as meaningful as possible. To me, it was clear that learning Creole was the most important thing I could do.
Online, I researched several language-training sites, and in the end, selected HaitiHub. I read everything on the website and felt this was as much a community of learners as a language training program. I was indeed correct in that. Beyond an excellent course that is logical and progressive, I found a community of people who are passionate about Haiti; and amongst those people, I have new friends. My questions about Creole were always answered, but also of great value to me was the patience with which Haiti Hub staff answered the myriad questions I lobbied at them, about traveling to Haiti for the first time. It’s a joy and privilege to be able to bring gifts along for my girls and their families (after being restricted, for a decade, to things that can fit flat into an envelope!). While it was relatively easy and fun to shop for the girls, it was tougher to work out what to bring for their families, and their moms in particular. Haiti Hub staff helped me sort out what to bring – suggesting things like kitchen towels and utensils, flat sheets and tablecloths, battery-free flashlights, and flatware sets, to name a few items. Having this direction from Haiti Hub gave me confidence that I would bring items of real use to these families.
I am very far from being fluent in Creole, but I go with several hundred words of vocabulary, and a solid idea of how to put together sentences that (hopefully!) will be understood.
This whole trip feels much more meaningful since I have begun to study the language. I’m taking the study notebooks I’ve created as I work through the modules; the Creole dictionary I received from Haiti Hub, two books that I researched on the Creolemadeeasy website, and a printed set of online flashcards Haiti Hub created, of useful phrases, complete with funky, fun artwork.
My Creole-speaking is slow as I search for words, but I’m accurate (mostly), thanks to Haiti Hub’s teaching. Each day that I have time to work on the modules, my Creole gets a bit better. Because I have this language base, I will have a way to connect with these girls, as they teach, correct, encourage and yes, probably laugh at me as I work out how to nasalize those vowels. If they have fun doing that, and I can communicate to them how much I love and cherish them, it will be worth every dime and hour that I’ve invested. I want to go to Haiti not as a tourist, but as a pilgrim. I don’t know what will transpire as I travel, but I strive to keep my heart open to whatever Haiti will teach me. Something inside me knows this won’t be my only trip there…if I have the opportunity to go again, I’m going to go with strong language skills, the ones I’m building through HaitiHub, and with the support and help of a great team of people.