We’re very pleased to let everyone know that after a couple of years of trying a trip to a developing country is finally coming together. The country is Haiti.
Haiti is on the island of Hispaniola about 900 air miles from the tip of Florida. It is close to Puerto Rico, just beyond Cuba. Haiti covers about one-third of the western side of the island; the Dominican Republic the remaining eastern two-thirds. Hispaniola was discovered by the western world on Columbus’s first voyage to the new world in 1492. The population of Haiti is 10.6 million. It is one of the poorest countries in the world.
Through the Haiti Education Foundation, headquartered in El Dorado, Arkansas, we have discovered the small crossroads village of Cherident in the mountains on the western side of Haiti where several young Haitian students are already taking violin lessons. Those lessons are being given by a young man who is blind. (You may have noticed a short video of several of the students and their teacher on our facebook page.
During our stay we will be both giving fiddle lessons during the daytime and performing (probably in conjunction with the day time students) in the evening. On Sunday, the final day of our stay, we will be giving a performance at the church services at Cherident.
We are quite encouraged. The projected date for the trip is July 10 through July 17.
On this trip we are working very closely with Haiti Education Foundation who has sponsored elementary and secondary schools in Haiti for many years. (Our minister referred us to the Foundation which is headquartered in El Dorado, Arkansas.) The Haiti Education Foundation has an excellent web site at Haiteducationfoundation.org that explains much of their history and work. Education, especially for children, is highly encouraged. In Cherident, where we will be staying and performing, some children, clad in spotless uniforms, walk an hour and a half one way each day to attend class.
Several weeks ago Karlene and I, along with Steve Lance, met in Mt. Home, Arkansas with Susan Turbeville, Director of the Haiti Education Foundation, and her mother, Mary J Oliver, the treasurer of the Haiti Education Foundation, to discuss the trip. Our discussion lasted a couple of hours. All of us left the meeting excited about the trip and the possibilities of fostering not only our mutual love of music but the exchange of cultural ties and friendships.
Here are the plans we developed. Plans call for us to leave from Springfield on Monday, July 10, change airplanes in Dallas and then fly on to Miami where we will spend Monday night. On the following morning, Tuesday, July 11, we will take an early morning flight on to the capitol of Haiti, Port au Prince, where we will be met by drivers of three vans to transport us on a three hour ride over bumpy rough roads to Cherident. (According to airline prices, these dates may change slightly.)
In addition to sponsoring the St. Mathias Elementary School in Cherident, the Haiti Educational Foundation maintains a guest house comprised of two bays, (one for boys, the other for girls) and a dividing kitchen and conference room where we will be staying. We will probably be giving lessons on the large front porch. Cold but safe drinking water is available as well as flush toilets. Nothing fancy here. We will be met by the village priest, an indigenous pastor, Father Frederick Manilla of the Episcopal Church. Father Manilla and members of his congregation already know of our plans and are delighted that we will be visiting.
Our schedule calls for us to give lessons to elementary students in the morning and to high school students in the afternoon. In the evening, we’ll be giving concerts to the community. Since Haitians speak French and Creole we’ll be working through interpreters to give lessons. We understand that there will be no shortage of students nor lack of interest from the community. They are excited we’ll be coming. Finally, on Sunday at church services, we’ll have a church concert at a gathering of several congregations in the region. The community will also offer some cultural experiences so that we learn about the Haitian culture. This will be a very rewarding time for all.
And, a word of caution. We’ve carefully explored every avenue we know about determining the risks of traveling in Haiti. It’s our opinion that the risks of this trip are little more than they might be on a trip we might take in our everyday lives here in the U.S. We will travel as a group and adhere to cautious travel practices. First of all, we will insist that the group remain together at all times and dress carefully (probably in red T shirts while traveling) so that we can identify participants at a distance. We keep track of all group members all the time. We anticipate this to be a life-changing experience not only for the Haitian students but for our own musicians as well.
We expect this to be not only a physically exhausting trip but a mentally draining one as well. Immersing oneself into a foreign culture, if even for a few days, is astoundingly taxing. Thus we’ve asked only the older Possums and ex-Possums to join the group. We need several instructors for the fiddle, a rhythm guitarist or two, and the penny whistle. To date Steve Lance, Harry, Luke Thomas, Josh Lee, and Reuben Fansler have committed to the trip. At least one other musician is considering participating.
Participants will need a passport and several shots, early group airline reservations to assure the best prices, and time for both practice and fund-raising efforts. We’re requesting that all musicians give at least some lessons to another student before going.
We will do our best to keep everyone informed of plans for the trip as they are formalized. Do not hesitate to contact Karlene with additional questions. We will need a group meeting sometime in the near future.
Here are some things you will need for the trip.
You will need a passport. You will need to apply for it at your local post office in the very near future. And, you need some shots and immunization. Here is the list that our doctor gave us for anyone going to Haiti.
An up-to-date tetanus shot.
Hepatitis A shot
Hepatitis B shot
(The malaria tablets are taken as a series that begins before the trip and extends until after the return from the trip.)
We understand that it is quite possible that your local county health department can give you these shots and tablets.
We hope that you will give this trip your very serious consideration. We believe this could be a life-changing experience for both you and your family and the young people we meet in Haiti
Security, of course, is the very first concern for all of us. We’re aware that there is a security warning out for tourists to Haiti who visit any crime-ridden area. We will avoid such areas. And we will have local residents who work for and with the Haiti Educational Foundation with us at all times. And we’ll registers our group with a special program sponsored by the State Department so they can monitor our travel. We’ll take all necessary precautions and feel that we’ll be quite safe on this trip.
Copyright 2013. Robert McGill. All rights reserved