One of the really cool things about living in a developing country is watching it, well, develop.
Since we moved here in 2012, we have seen signs of progress like road signs, new businesses, an explosion of smart phones, and more vehicles on the road. Progress doesn’t come without its problems, that’s for sure. Sometimes, the demand can’t keep up with the infrastructure. This is evident when we see 6-hour traffic jams and no internet for days on end. (I have no doubt that if the blog mood struck me on a day when we were dealing with either one of those issues, this post would have a completely different feel to it.)
We live out in the “sticks” so things take a little longer to reach us; evidence of progress is harder to see in our area. One local gem, however, is a community library.
The library opened in April 2016, and we’ve been visiting it off and on ever since. I remember the early days when there was talk about issuing library cards and loaning books… at some point in the future. Time was needed for the community to fully understand what a library is and how it could benefit those using it. The leadership team – Haitian and American – was intentional about their progress.
Fast forward to 2018… the library is now issuing cards, loaning books, and has over 300 members! (Yes, I applied for my card too.) It hosts regular educational symposiums, the most recent one focusing on the importance of a clean environment. They have a kids club that meets every Saturday morning. They have computer classes and science clubs. For those who know anything about the First Lego League, the youth from the library competed in Cap Haitian and placed second in their first ever competition. How cool is that?!?!
We are even seeing a middle class community pop up in the land around the library. The homes under construction are somewhat larger with poured concrete floors and added detailing, like bow windows and porches. I’m finding it amazing, intriguing, and humbling to witness this kind of positive development.
Lately, I’ve been on a mini crusade to make sure that the staff here knows about this precious resource. Some of it probably stems from the fact that our daughter works at a library (go, Alex!). I also remember how helpful it was to Jucado when he emmigrated from Haiti to Brooklyn. I could probably pen an entire post on that experience alone.
Earlier in the week, I was chatting with one of our security guards about his family. Schools in Haiti recently finished their third round of exams for the year, and his son, Widson, was eagerly awaiting his results. If he improved his grades from a six to a seven (out of 10), Dad promised him a bike. Trust me, that’s a pretty big deal here. In the course of conversation, the guard told me how much Widson loves to read; everywhere he goes, he tries to read whatever he sees. You can probably guess where my thoughts went when I heard this.
The very next day, I picked up father and son on the side of the road, and we went on a little field trip to the library. I’m happy to report that both are now card carrying members of the Community Library of Deschappelles (or will be when their cards come in)! Father and son spent a solid half-hour reading books together while I chatted with the library staff, and then we were given a formal tour so that the library’s newest members fully understood all that was available to them. It. Was. Awesome.
I was chatting with the same guard again last night, and he told me that Widson hadn’t stopped talking about our field trip. They are hoping to return with Widson’s mom so that she can become familiar with the library and also accompany Wid when Dad isn’t available.
Perhaps I’m over-reacting, but I am excited about the opportunities available to our friends. Not only is it a quiet place in an otherwise noisy world, but it’s opportunity for quality time with Mom and Dad. The learning potential is out of this world since books are available in French, Creole, and English. In a country where people are denied travel opportunities, their minds have the freedom to go anywhere when they immerse themselves in a book. The development we are witnessing here goes way beyond just infrastructure.
For those wondering, Widson got his report card, and though it wasn’t bad, he didn’t make it to level seven. The bike will have to wait. It will be interesting to see if there’s a change in the fourth quarter since he now has the capability to do something with his love of reading.
Development takes on many shapes and forms, doesn’t it?
Oh, and in case I haven’t mentioned it recently, I’m so thankful that we get to live here, and we get to do this job.