It is the end of our first day in Haiti. It's beautiful here. Incredible mountains giving way to valleys and ocean and houses and business studded throughout. It feels like every inch of lush Port-au-Prince is occupied. You can still see a lot of the damage from the earthquake in the crumbled buildings and USAID tarps that many use as roofing.
Today we visited a state public school. The school we visited today services 950 children from around Port-au-Prince and will be running a LitClub through the TOYA foundation on Saturdays. All the girls have wonderful ribbons that match their uniforms decorating their braids. we visited a few classrooms and we created a group story with the 5th graders where a boy and girl, Jude and Jennifer, are walking down a road, are confronted by an angry dog, run away, fall into a ditch, and finally are rescued and taken to a hospital where everything works out. Tells you a lot about what kids worry about here. The principal said the two main concerns for the children in his school are safety and hunger.
We then went to a meeting with 10 women leaders of various organizations throughout Haiti. Their organizations run programs focusing on everything from HIV/AIDS education and prevention to financial education to women's political participation. Many of these orgs work with Restavek (creole from the french, "rester avec" or "stay with") children. These are children whose families sent them to the city to try and make a better life for themselves, but they are often sold as child labor or prostituted. The women running the organizations are strong, passionate and striving to do good work. Many of these women met for the first time today. We will be training several of their girls in their programs tomorrow and Sunday so they can start LitClubs at their sites.
In the afternoon we went with one of these women, Marti, to visit her program. She services mostly Restavek and orphaned children out of her own home. This was my favorite part of the day. We sang and danced, they recited poems for us and sang us songs and showed us this very intense game in which everyone chants and cheers while two kids race to finish a liter of bubblegum flavored soda known in english as "fruit champagne". They are all fans of the Hokey Pokey and we are fans of Papillon, a game in which you do a butterfly dance which looks very similar to Beyonce's single ladies shimmy. In this photo you can see how big the group is (this is just about half the kids).