One of the biggest struggles that we have had since arriving at HATS is trying to overcome the language barrier. Oh, I googled the Creole language before we came; I even watched and studied some you tube videos. I took notes, wrote down key words and phrases, and was comforted by my search results indicating that Creole was a relatively easy language to learn – it was mostly phonetic and loosely based on French. How hard could it be, right? Well, 5 minutes after arriving in the country and having questions rattled off to me in Creole, I decided that my few key phrases like “bonjou”, “mesi”, and “Kijan ou ye?” were slightly inadequate.

The beauty of being at HATS is that kids are the most forgiving of our shortcomings. Mike learned a new word (by sheer necessity) the other day. As I walked to join him and the kids in the devotion/play room I heard him calling out “pataje” again and again. It means “share”. Yes, these kids are sweet and beautiful, but they are kids. With crayons, puzzles and toys and 18 kids we use that new word a LOT.

Dieunel and Karena sharing the blocks


the kids love playing with the animals


Sandra loves to organize the animals


colouring fun


the older kids playing a game of Trouble

The older kids, whose English is pretty good, have been a wonderful help in translating for us to the staff and the younger kids. However, there are times that we are alone with the younger kids and we just talk to them in English/broken Creole. One day I was chatting along to Markenson, who is 5. He looked back at me and rattled something off. Moise, one of the older boys, was close by so I asked him what Markenson had said to me. Moise said that it was just jabber. Well, that makes sense. He thought I was jabbering to him so he jabbered back. And here I thought I was teaching him English!

Sonson actually learned how to take a selfie – not bad for a first attempt for a 2 year old!

We are here to love the children. I don’t think we need effective verbal communication skills to do so, thankfully. Smiles are the same in any language.

~Mike and Nicki