Yesterdays ride from Port au Prince to the HATS compound represents three hours of my life I will never forget. As my mind worked in a frantic way to absorb and make some sense of the everyday life of the Haitian people it also tried to gauge the resources available and opportunities for sustainable economic growth. All along the highway there was bustling activity, not unlike any other section of transportation thoroughfare in the world. The only differences were the variety of goods available and the retail infrastructure. My first encounter with the people was exactly what I expected! They smile much more than what I’m used to and exhibit an all around sense of happiness and contentment.
The HATS compound represents twenty years of work by volunteers and financial contributions from outside Haiti. The Executive Director of this organization heads up two boards of directors, one in Haiti and one in Canada. I already feel honoured for the company of Karen Huxter, a fellow Newfoundlander who exhibits a profound concern for the people of this country. Although being in her company for just one day I can say without fear of contradiction that her skill set for maximizing resources and achieving efficiency is exemplary!
After supper last night we walked along a man-made dyke and observed some of the finest rice-growing fields in the country. The dyke, of course, is part of an irrigation system to facilitate agricultural projects in the area. It was a chance to interact with fellow team members and get to know the sixteen children who for a number of reasons refer to Karen as Maman. As the sun set and nighttime fell there was some opportunity to sit with Karen and some of her staff to chat informally about the culture of this place, the accomplishments which have been achieved in the HATS compound, the challenges for the future and the opportunities which represent the dream. Being the only male on the team I get to have an upper deck all to myself for sleeping quarters. After communicating to my wife and children that all is well I took a moment to gaze out over the countryside without interference from light and sound pollution. After taking a generous drink of this peace and tranquility I climbed inside my mosquito-tent covered bed and next thing I knew I was wondering if I had over slept.
Today our team got down to business applying the first coat of the tri-color painting scheme for the newly constructed compound church. But not before we were treated to the early-morning assembly which was the last to be held in an unpainted sanctuary. Over four hundred students are educated at the HATS compound and most of them and their teachers were on hand for the morning devotions. As a former school administrator I was impressed with the level of self-discipline demonstrated by the students. Even the junior high contingent, sitting next to me in the back of the church were totally respectful of their leaders and fellow students. Later we moved to the common outdoor area encircled by classrooms where everyone stood at attention, sang the Haitian national anthem and raised the Haitian flag for the day. As I gazed into the wonder of the smiling eyes of the children around me I somehow felt both honoured and humbled to be just a small part of a dream worth coming true!!