January Mission Experience: Empowering Haitians through Education

By Sara Dessieux

Last month, during our trip to Haiti, I found myself once again in front of a group of Haitian students teaching them English. Besides a couple hours last spring, I haven’t done that for more than twelve years but I was thrilled to be back at it.  I know firsthand that when we help Haitians learn English, we are giving them an opportunity to be empowered.

I taught English in Haiti for two years some years back and I was blessed to see so many fruits from our efforts in that school.  Our students went on to get jobs and to help their country. I had one student named Thonny Fabien that we actually just got to spend the week with because he is now Project Living Hope’s Operations Manager!  I get excited to think what may come from teaching English in this new community we’re in.


PLH’s vice president, Sarah Comstock, recruited her mother, Julie Williams, to join us in teaching English and she was a marvelous addition to the team.  Julie has lots of experience teaching English, including eight years in Portugal. She knew just what to do with the students we had who are at the very beginning of their English language journeys.  Each afternoon we taught students in Camp Marie. We met for class in a school being constructed at the local church. Students found out about it via word-of-mouth from friends and each day we had more students come.  We had invited a third-year interpretation student, Gerald, to join us us for the week. He interpreted for Julie, assisted with her classes and saw how she makes her classes engaging and successful.

On the second day, we split the students into two classes.  I took the more advanced, but still beginning, students while Julie and Gerald stayed with the rest of the students. I enjoyed seeing how much English my students had already acquired and how eager they are to keep learning.  My sister, Laura, who has two years of experience teaching English in South Korea joined me in teaching partway through the week. After four days of class, the students were eager to know what the plan was going forward. I was SO glad we did have a plan.  It would have done little good to teach them for only one week and then tell them, well, someday we’ll come back and do some more. Instead, Guesly paid a visit to our classes and explained to them that Gerald would be returning to teach them after we left! They were so grateful to hear that.


We have since learned that even more students showed up the following week, willing to pay the small tuition fee we set for a chance to learn English from a qualified instructor.  Before leaving the students, we also told them that more teams would be coming and that we’d arrange for them to visit their classes and practice with them. We are still learning about this community and the possibilities it holds, and considering what kinds of training we may want to offer there, but English will definitely be among them.