At the end of the road in Cascade Pichon, Haiti, a little bit beyond the Heart to Heart International clinic and just past the “hotel” there is a path heading to the left, away from the waterfall.
I recently took this path to check on the construction of a new school building that sits atop a hill, overlooking a valley and more mountains. I was in Cascade Pichon, this time, showing a colleague around Upper Pichon, where the clinic is located. Following us up the hill were four boys who are always together – Antionne, Alex, and brothers Deswin and Fresno.
I’ve developed quite an appreciation for Deswin. He’s very bright and carries little notebooks with him that he uses to teach himself English, French and Spanish. This 10-year-old is an immense help and is always eager to let me practice Creole with him and to teach me new words. Besides Fresno, Deswin has two older brothers who walk a few hours to go to to school in Belle Anse and a sister that lives and attends school in Port-au-Prince. Deswin and his brothers live in Cascade Pichon with their mother. Their father works across the border in the Dominican Republic.
Deswin says to me, “This is going to be the best school in all of Pichon.”
On this particular day, while my colleague tried to find a cell signal at the top of the hill, Deswin says to me, “This is going to be the best school in all of Pichon.” I thought to myself, “Well, that can’t be too difficult… the school you have now is a tiny one-room building with overflow benches outside under a tarp that has seen better days. The school is so small that hundreds of children don’t go to school because there is simply no room.”
Instead, I said, “Oh really? Will you go to school here?” Deswin responded, “I may go to school here or in Belle Anse, but I would like to go here.”
I asked him why he would prefer to attend the school in Cascade Pichon and his reply surprised me. He said that he would prefer to go to school in Pichon because of the volunteers that come there. He explained how it gives him the opportunity to learn more English that will give him more opportunities later.
In my head this is where the work that we do in Haiti comes full circle. Heart to Heart International’s development work in the southeast of Haiti started in Cascade Pichon with a federation, just like all of our work.
A federation is essentially a community civic organization. Federations take ‘ownership’ of the needs in their communities and HHI works with these federations.
The first essential need the Cascade Pichon community wanted to address was healthcare. The federation donated the land for our clinic in Cascade Pichon a few years ago. Once built, the clinic was staffed solely by ex-pat volunteers. Now, a Haitian Medical Team works in the clinic and is supplemented by volunteers. Since the clinic is owned by the federation, the federation keeps half of the consultation fees incurred from patients coming to the clinic.
In 2013, the Cascade Pichon Federation decided it was time to start addressing the next big need – Education. The federation purchased land for the school and then, through building partnerships, Heart to Heart International helped to facilitate the building of the school, working in coordination with the Haitian government which has agreed to send teachers to instruct the children. Hopefully, the building will be completed, staffed and operational this Fall.
I think this is what Development is. And it doesn’t happen quickly. But I can’t wait to see what Deswin is doing in 10 years, to see how he is impacting Haiti because of decisions being made today by elders in his community, supported by HHI and its volunteers.
A few years ago, Deswin’s future certainly looked different. He didn’t have access to healthcare, he didn’t have access to a school in his community, and he didn’t have access to volunteers coming to his village to widen his world-view and let him expand his own horizons and quite literally alter his own future. Now he does.