Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Tale of Two Haitis: Christmas Party Edition

Note: I wrote this in December but forgot to post it.

Two Christmas parties. Two entirely different worlds. You probably only have one mental image of Haiti: Anderson Cooper, clad in black tee, reporting from downtown amidst looting and total destruction. You've seen ragged tent cities and orange-haired black children.

Yet, there's more. Haiti has a wealthy elite, and sometimes they invite you to their Christmas parties. I do not for a moment want this post to be a contrast between the "evil rich elite" and the "noble poor". There are no good people.  The wealthy students I teach and their families are, like all people, are on a continuum of loving behavior, with some (like this family) leaning heavily toward the "loving" end with their money and influence.

However, you can't attend these two parties in one week without the contrast smacking you in the face.

So here we begin with the beautiful A family (name abbreviated for privacy) Christmas party. This is the family whose beach house I visited with my discipleship group last spring, and I have become close with their high school girls and the parents. I enjoy them so much.

They had an open house way up on the mosquito-free mountain. Mr. A has a hobby of collecting Christmas village components, and he puts together this massive display including working cable cars (seen below), ferris wheels, and a teeny amusement park (right next to the Gothic cathedral, natch).

I literally stopped in my tracks as I approached this intricate, creative display. He creates little vignettes of over 500 characters, having casual conversations, singing carols, sharing presents, and the like. There's so much artistry, and so much extravagance.
My dear pal Miquette. She's pregnant!
Some discipleship girls with Santa, me, and Brit (also pregnant!).
Between the gorgeous pool and waterfall, laser-lit trees, and the menagerie complete with macaws and crocodiles, I was in awe. I practically pranced around, taking it all in. A total delight. A handful of my high school kids were there, wrapping the gifts that each guest brought for local poor children (over 150 were donated that night). Children scampered underfoot, and everybody kissed me on both cheeks.

It felt like America. It also felt like family. My heart was warm.

Then, just five short days later, I attended a second party, the annual Christmas party for the children of the TeacHaiti program.

A few hundred Haitian children dressed to the nines crowded into the Quisqueya chapel, boys on one side, girls on the other. There was a program full of singing and drama, and then each child was given a bag of treats. Every child was in their Sunday best, which belies the poverty in their homes. Each child is in the TeacHaiti program because of a sponsor. You can be one!
I love their little feet.
Little Guilene. This one is for you, Henry family!
Sharp-dressed men
Art steals gifts from children. Don't let him deny it.
Manoucheka (left) is sponsored by a Texan!
 In the picture above, the laughing boy is Roodolphe. The boy with the red bag between his legs is Roobens, and the girl in the pink dress is Louna. All three of them are sponsored by Texans.

In the photo below, the girl in the white dress is my SARAH, our sponsored child. The girl next to her is Jessica, who is sponsored by my parents and is new to TeacHaiti this year.
Nashka, center, is Roobens' sister. Their parents both work at Quisqueya.
 I could not pass up an opportunity to get another peek at Queency. He has a whole category of posts labeled with his name- see the sidebar at right.

Many of you may recall our time with Queency on the night of the earthquake, when we huddled around his broken body praying he would live through the night.

Three years later, he sat on that same soccer field to receive his Christmas gifts from TeacHaiti. He looked great, and surly as ever :)
Berllange
This is Berllange, sponsored by a family in Coppell, Texas. Thank you, B family!
The girl in the plaid skirt above is Guerline (different from Guiline). A 7th-grader in Richardson, Texas gave a special donation to TeacHaiti last summer, and Miquette used it to send Guerline to the eye doctor for her crossed eyes. Thank you, BR.

Don't let their party clothes fool you. These kids are so poor, they would not be in school without TeacHaiti. Miquette made up a Saturday art program basically as an excuse to feed them, because some don't eat regularly on the weekends. I know one child pictured above was once so malnourished, Miquette thought she might eventually die from it. 

Two parties. Two worlds. One island.

Katie

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