Saturday, October 30, 2010

Light bulbs for Haiti - a lesson in empathy

"We need to buy light bulbs for Haiti," my daughter announced one afternoon as I picked her up from school.

Wow. Heavy response from a 5 year old, who usually reports in on what she played at recess. But, as she explained to me, the kids in Haiti don't have lights in their classrooms. And that day, they colored in the dark to see what it's like.

"I didn't have any problems," she reported. But something stuck with her nonetheless. For the first time, she talked about sharing her toys for the Haiti sale and giving away clothes and shoes that didn't fit her - instead of dramatically insisting how "special" each item was.

This week, priests from Haiti are visiting our congregation. And my daughter, just 5, is learning about life an ocean away and a little bit about generosity as well.

In recent years, my parish has made an affiliation with a church and school in Haiti. The wonderful thing about this mission is that they have made it very real for the families. We support it through an annual children's clothing sale, and fundraisers include buying a desk (about $30-40, by my recollection). It makes it real, as few people are actually able to make the mission trips.

But what's impressed me most is what they've impressed upon the children.

The school shared its lesson ideas and preparations with the parents. The creativity in teaching empathy was awesome:
  • Students should spend time sharing books, desks, and chairs and other supplies
  • Haitian children/adults struggle to find adequate footwear, often wearing worn out, mis-sized shoes or no shoes at all. Students and teachers should spend some class time (in the classroom) without wearing their shoes, or wearing worn-out, outgrown or old shoes.
  • Haitian schools do not have electricity, technology, modern conveniences (i.e. restrooms) etc. Blinds should be drawn to mimic the darkened classrooms in Haiti. Lights should be turned off for all or part of the day.
  • Most students walk miles everyday up rocky terrain to get to school. Many grade levels(40+ students) are taught in one room by one teacher. Students and teachers should spend time walking, discussing thechallenges of attending school in partial/no shelter, etc. A“mountain school” will be set up outside and available for use.
  • Have students share books (1 for every 2 or 3 students) for 1class period. Stack ½ of your desks and ½ chairs, then have girls use desks and boys use chairs, then switch after lunch.
  • Push all desks against the wall and have students sit with
  • Have students walk an “obstacle course” through your room without their shoes on. Put some small toys, pieces of paper, etc. on the floor so that they are in the walking path.
  • Use NO technology or electricity all day-no computers, smartboards, lights, projectors, dvd players, etc. Do not use email to contact other teachers (send notes when necessary).
  • Arrange with teachers from a couple of other grades to teach all of your students together in one room at the same time.

This week, we've had a lot of conversations about life in Haiti and about poverty - each sparked by a blossom planted by my child. I'm grateful for those. As she grows, she'll become an amazing member of society!

Counting my blessings,

Going Green Mama


JAM said...

Wow - that's awesome. Inspiring way to start my day - thanks!

Marcia said...

Thanks for sharing. We all need reality checks from time to time.

Kathryn Grace said...

Wonderful lessons. We all need to do more of this, not only with our children, but we adults need to experience such differences in lifestyle as well, along with educating ourselves about real ways we can be useful in helping to solve the problems.

Your post heartens me just when I've felt a bit discouraged about what seems like rampant selfishness in our western culture. Thank you for sharing this story.


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