I was working at my desk when I heard a knock on the door. I turned and saw our second grade teacher. She had missed a few days of school this week because she was sick. Last week at the teacher meeting she had explained that she had strong pain behind her neck and was scheduled to get three injections, two of which she had already received. I was confused as to what her problem could be when she gave that explanation, and then additionally curious when she missed a few days the following week.
“I just came to let you know that registration has reopened.” She was talking about registration to the university where she is studying Education. I had accompanied her before but registration was closed when we went. So we planned to return.
“Do you feel better?” I asked.
“Yeah, I´m okay. I´m trying.”
“What was wrong with you?” She went on to talk about her neck pain and how severe it became in the past few days. She could barely move her head.
“What is it from?” I asked. She then told me that she had been injured several times on one side of the body and continued talking faster about the pain and her immobility. I interrupted her to ask about the injuries. She then quickly rattled off that she had broken this leg, caught a bullet in this hip, had a screw in this arm, and continued talking quickly.
I interrupted her again to ask about the bullet. She then told me about thieves running
away from police when she lived in Haiti. They were apparently firing shots as they ran away. She was in a public taxi and the driver was shot and killed. He fell on her chest. She didn´t realize she was shot at first. She then felt a burning sensation and found herself bleeding. Sometime in the midst of all of this, she saw that the thieves saw her so she laid on the ground and played dead until all of the commotion died down. She suspected that if she had not played dead, they could have killed her in order to save their identity.
Someone eventually took her to the hospital and she lay bleeding for a long time before she was attended to. As she lay there bleeding and unable to do anything, someone stole her shoes off of her feet. She was unable to stop him. One of the thieves was there laying close to her. He had been shot and ended up dying in her presence.
Wow! I expressed my surprise all along as she told the story with wide eyes, jaw dropped, and head shaking in disbelief. As far as the pain was concerned, I told her about my successful experience with chiropractice care, as well as the success of friends and family. I explained that pain can stem from a pinched nerve due to bones and vertebrae that are out of place. She asked if I knew where she could find a chiropractor and pricing. I did my best to inform her. She eventually praised God that the pain had subsided and said,
“God is going to get rid of this. I believe in prayer.”
“I do too,” I told her.
The story reminded me of a time when we were visiting my husband´s family in Port-au-Prince. I was getting my hair braided and a friend of the family came by. He let us know that he had just been robbed at gun point after receiving a much needed money transfer he had been waiting for. Others asked him if he hadn´t put up any sort of a fight. He replied with, “You don´t know how much of a coward I am.” Everyone laughed. I did not laugh. The story seemed to fade off into the other chit chat that was taking place and that was that.
I share this to portray the apparent desensitization to this sort of thing… or the extent to which people are used to this sort of thing in Haiti. (Desensitization may not be the best word, since people are obviously still sensitive to these things as it causes many to leave and sometimes fear returning). There was no “Did you go to the police?” or anything of that nature. It was more of an attitude of, “That´s too bad, man” or “That jerk got ya good!” I have heard Port-au-Prince referred to as the kidnapping capital of the world. I´m not saying it´s so dangerous that you should not visit, but…it is dangerous!
I have a point to sharing these depressing stories. One point is to give insight into the background of some of our teachers and students. The other is to explain why sometimes it seems like things may be advancing quite slowly. I´m not trying to say that all Haitians who have grown up in Haiti are emotionally traumatized, but I do actually think that a large percentage are. Many of our students and employees who have lived in Haiti share horrific stories: stories that make your eyes widen, your jaw drop, and your head shake.
I think back to elementary school and the special ed. class that each grade level had. Some of the students in the class needed the special education because they were mentally handicapped or had learning disabilities, but some were there because they were emotionally traumatized. They also needed special attention and patience. They had reasons that kept them from advancing at the “normal” pace.
And we can relate to that. Our second grade teacher, for example, is an excellent teacher. She has a passion for teaching and takes initiative in doing special projects with little resources, like planting seeds so her kids can see how they grow. But we have had some issues with her use of violence and verbal humiliation for the purpose of discipline. I have not judged her because I know the challenges she was up against, as she previously taught a higher grade level. But we have worked with behavior charts, different forms of reward and punishment, and constructive phrases to use in the classroom. Examples of dysfunctionality with a background of trauma like this are plentiful and it can give insight into why certain progress may seem to take longer here.
But enough talk about the negative! Let´s think positive. Please take the time to check out GoodFruitDesigns, a business we set up to financially support Project Esperanza and to engage people in positive thinking. We are holding a design contest with the theme “Change”. All entries are due November 25, 2016. The winning design will be printed on t-shirts, sold, and the designer will receive a prize. Learn more and see current designs at: www.GoodFruitDesigns.
And if you would like to specifically help our second grade teacher with her health issues or her college education, please send us an e-mail at Info@EsperanzaMeansHope.org.