Monday, October 25, 2010

This Ain't the Oregon Trail...

When I was in elementry school we would go to the computer lab and play computer games. The game everyone loved most was Oregon Trail.

The purpose was to take your 8-bit settler family and travel across the United States in a covered wagon via the Oregon Trail. There were many perils: snake bites, dead oxen, broken wagons, flooded rivers and diseases like cholera.

I suppose that we are in the middle of our own peril here in Haiti.
This cholera outbreak hit while we were traveling. Honestly, I did not know anything about it because the first major stories came out while I was trying to not give in to my ADD while sitting on a plane. It felt very strange to have someone in America tell me about breaking news in Haiti.

Today at school it was very interesting. Many of the students had their own hand sanitizer and large bottles of water; two things that they did not have last week. A few more than usual brought their lunches saying that they did not trust our school cafeteria. Really?

Here is where I struggle. I want to be sensitive but I also want to encourage students to use common sense something that they are lacking since they are, ya know, teenagers. They have eaten every day at the cafeteria for months, no one has gotten sick. But now they are concerned. What changed? Did the schools food prep and sanitation become poor? Did someone in the elementary go down with the runs?

A few students tried to tell me that the school water wasn't safe. I answered by taking a long refreshing gulp from my Nalgene. School water. Filtered. UV treated. Safe. When I asked if it had ever made them sick before and got a classroom full of no's then I asked why would it make them sick now?

It was a topic of conversation in every class. I think many students are scared. And to be sure there is cause for alarm for some people, but I also wanted to get them to talk openly and to think about the cause and effect of epidemics. I asked my freshman class how many of them drink, "poo-water"? Riotous laughter ensued. Not to make fun of this very serious situation but the reality is that many of my students drink filtered water. Eat food prepared with filtered water. They do not live like average Haitians. The likelihood of infection for them is rare and as long as they are wise they will be fine. This is what they need to hear.

Katie and I and the rest of the QCS staff are taking this outbreak seriously we have all been briefed on symptoms and treatments. However, we are the adults and this is our job. Our students jobs is to be just that-students, to learn to be somewhat care free.

They have been through so much in the last 9 months that I think the fear mongering that they hear from adults does them more harm than good.


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