For the past three summers, I have had the honor of volunteering with HavServe for the Haiti Summer Camp and Educational Enrichment Program. Previously, I had been to Haiti four times before, volunteering at an orphanage and helping with several construction projects. Though I loved working with the children at the orphanage, I didn’t feel like I was using my talents to make the most impact.  I decided to research for new programs in Haiti online, and that’s how I discovered HavServe.

As a French teacher, I longed to use my language skills and teaching experience while immersing myself in Haiti’s rich culture. The HavServe Summer Camp and Educational Enrichment Program serves as the perfect opportunity for me to interact with students, teachers, other international volunteers and the amazing community of Lebrun. The past two years, I have helped teach with several local teachers in the Art Station at the camp, and though I am not an artist, I have witnessed firsthand the impact that art education can have on both students and teachers.

For most children at the camp, art is a new experience.  Students in Lebrun rarely have the opportunity to do art projects and to explore their creative sides.  When I first started last year, many of the students were hesitant to complete projects on their own because they were afraid of being wrong. The great thing about art is that there is no right answer.  Students have the capacity to use their minds creatively to express themselves in a fresh ways.  The smiles on the children’s faces when they are done warms my heart because I know it gives them pride to have made something on their own.  Many of the kids in Lebrun are artistically gifted and it’s wonderful that HavServe can provide them an opportunity to showcase their abilities.

Though I cherish the time I spend with the kids in camp, the time I spend with the teachers is most valuable.  Each year, we have worked with the teachers on different skill sets that are impacting the local pedagogy, such as implementing effective ways to improve student behavior and differentiating activities in the classroom so students have the opportunity to tap various methodologies of learning. This year, we focused on encouraging student growth through positive reinforcement. I would sometimes hear a teacher tell a student his or her art project was inadequate because it didn’t quite replicate the example. We talked about finding one positive thing to say to each child and how criticism can stop a child from trying new things out of fear of failure.  Our camp theme this year was “Nou tout gen vale” which means “We all have value.  When you tell a student what they made is insufficient, you are telling them they don’t have value.”  My teachers agreed, and for the next two weeks, I consistently heard them supporting the students in positive manners.  Through art, we have been able to work on effective teaching practices that the teachers can hopefully continue in their classrooms during the school year.  By making these small changes in the classroom in a little village in a remote area in Haiti, amazing things can happen.

The quote, “The greatest discovery a person can make is knowing why he or she was created,” is one that particularly resonates with me while I’ve participated with HavServe.  All of us have been created to serve others, in some way.  The key is finding God’s purpose for you and fulfilling it.  I feel that my time at HavServe is helping me fulfill this purpose.

 

Jennifer Eiken