Open Ears is following a group of Sonova team members as they head to Haiti with the Hear The World Foundation. Julie Garneau is the Technical Documentation Coordinator for Unitron, and her favorite sound is the great-tailed grackle.
Although it was only our first full day, it was one of the most exhausting and rewarding days I’ve ever had.
We went for a drive today, and it was an adventure in itself! The roads themselves are dirt, with potholes – craters, actually – sometimes full of water, sometimes not. There are no lines on the road, no traffic lights, and no stop signs. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of rules or regulations about driving, either. And sometimes chickens run in front of the cars. It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen before, or likely will again.
We started our morning by going to MetalWorks – this amazing little artist community where the majority of the crafts were made with scrap metal. They were unbelievably beautiful, and the artists were the most talented group of people who took so much pride in their work. I even bought several pieces to take home.
From there, we went somewhere that actually had me in complete awe. There’s a small school on the outskirts of Cité Soleil. From the outside of Anacias’ Capva School, there is a guarded metal gate. The inside has a medical center on the right, and a school on the left. Inside the school, there is one room for the smaller children, and four pods for the older ones. They were just finishing classes as we arrived, and many of them ran outside when they saw our vans pull in. We were greeted with more smiles and waves and happiness than I ever have been. I truly felt like a celebrity.
These children were spotlessly clean, their uniforms were in pristine condition, and the ribbons in the girls hair was the same navy blue as their dresses.
Once inside the small two-room building we set to work making peanut butter sandwiches for every single one of the children, and distributing them along with juice, and a cheese puff type of snack. Instead of digging in right away, the kids waited until their teachers told them to eat, although none of us understood that they were waiting for direction. We did hear that some of the kids might take their food home so that their families would also be able to eat something today. It’s just so far from the reality that we all live in. I can’t imagine being five years old and having to worry about how hungry my parents are. It’s heartbreaking.
After lunch, all of the children wanted to have their pictures taken with us. Seeing our cell phones seemed to excite them even more than the food did! They all crowded around to pose in front of the camera, and were so excited to look at the pictures after we took them!
As our van pulled out, they all followed us down the street, waving and smiling, yelling “thank you”, and one little girl was screaming “I love you” as we waved from the back window.
I’ve spent time with many, many children over my lifetime and I’ve yet to see a group so spotlessly clean, well-behaved and most of all, appreciative.
Granted, we didn’t give any of these children the gift of hearing (yet!), however what I took from them was something that I can’t even put into words. Driving past their homes – partially fallen down, partially made of collapsed foundations, and partially made of aluminum; it was really hard to leave them. It’s even harder to see how much pride and joy they get from a simple peanut butter sandwich.
Our afternoon was spent at Apparent Project – a beautiful little spot where they employ Haitians to make beads and jewelry. The majority of the beads are made from cereal boxes – it was unbelievable to see how much beauty can be created from recycling. We were fortunate enough to meet Serge, who gave us a guided tour of the entire facility, and brought us upstairs to the little café so that we could have – what I’ve considered to be – the best smoothie ever. We were able to browse through the store at the Apparent Project, and purchase some of their incredible creations. One of the amazing things about Apparent Project is that while it employs Haitians, it has a daycare for the small children of its employees. We were able to walk through the daycare and spend a few minutes with the toddlers who covered us in hugs and high-fives.
From the Apparent Project, we drove back to New Life, along many streets lined with vendors, garbage and goats. What struck me the most during our drives today was seeing how these people live every day. There are so many little lotto centers and barber shops. There are people selling food, and goods from shoes to cell phones – all from tiny stalls or blankets on the ground. There is murky water running through the cities with all kinds of stuff going on in it – people washing their clothing or their wheelbarrows (there are wheelbarrows everywhere, and they don’t only use them for transporting things; they also use them as a place to relax or take a nap!), there are goats and dogs and chickens all scavenging for food along the water as well. The water is full of garbage, and by garbage, I mean everything from Styrofoam containers to shoes. But the people seem happy. They smile and wave when they see us – there’s a certain joy, or joie de vivre, that I rarely see in North America. They know that we’re there to help them, and they’re truly appreciative of us. It feels amazing to know that someone is smiling because of me.
With today being Canadian Thanksgiving, and me being Canadian, I’m giving thanks for everything that today has given me. I’m thankful that I can make a difference in these peoples’ lives. I’m thankful that I’ve made some new and wonderful friends over the last 24 hours. I’m thankful that even though my role is small, I get to change the world – at least for some people. And finally, I’m thankful to the Sonova Group, and to Hear the World for having provided me with so much to be thankful for.
Follow our journey here on Open Ears and on social media: