Day 5 – First day of camp!

It was finally time to head to Project Esperanza and begin our work with the kids!  We joined their routine of circle time that included introductions and songs and then began the classroom rotations. 

At camp today, I was one of the counselors for the Active Games rotation. We played vocab games, mini-basketball and vocab pong. The kids picked up the rules very fast and were very appreciative of us helping them learn English.   – Gus Thomas 

In Arts and Crafts we taught the kids the vocab words big, small, quick, and slow by making animal masks – bears, mice, rabbits, and turtles. In fact, the kids loved the activity so much that they wore the masks all day!  – Dylan Kaminski

The Pace students proved to be engaged and effective leaders. The volunteer service coordinator serving at Project Esperanza remarked that this was one of the best groups of counselors all summer!

At the end of today’s session each of us was paired up with a buddy from the school, and we will do activities with them each afternoon. Today we went out for a pizza lunch and then rode a cable car up Isabel de Torres. On the way home we stopped for ice cream! As the day went on, we got to know our buddies more and more!                 – Austin Chastain 

Day 4 – Heading to the DR!

It was an early trip to the bus station to board the bus that would take us to the Dominican Republic. After luggage inspection and document check at the border, we continued on to Santiago.  A van then took us for the last leg to Puerto Plata. We moved into Villa Carolina which will be our home for the week of camp. 

After dinner the students heard from Caitlyn, the Director of Project Esperanza, about the school’s history, purpose, and students.  We will be the sole camp counselors for the week, teaching English  to the kids. We then prepared for the camp classes that they would lead Monday morning including arts & crafts, vocabulary, and active games. 

Day 3 – Walking through Haitian history

After an early breakfast, the group bid farewell to Labadie and again boarded the water taxi for Cap Haitien. A bus then took us to the Palais Sans Souci where we met Maurice, our guide for the day.
Palais Sans Souci
At the Palais Sans Souci, we learned about the Haitian rebellion from France and Haiti’s King Christophe’s rebuilding of the country. The Palais was built in 1810, and we saw where the King tricked two French spies into believing his army was much bigger than it actually was. We also saw the impressive backyard and gardens consisting of two swimming pools, a stable, a printing press, officers’ quarters, and an excellent view of the mountains.                           – Ned Coleman

Hike to Citadel Laferriere

After our group visited the Palais Sans Souci, we rode to the hike that will take us to the Citadel on the top of a mountain. Although we were hiking on a stone path, it was still steep, hot, and challenging. King Christophe, we learned, built the Citadel under the fear that the French would come back to Haiti. He also built a second fort to protect his city from his enemies in the South. The Haitians worked incredibly hard to build the fort as they wanted to die working for freedom and pass on to paradise, or live to be free. Although the Citadel was never attacked, the troops were prepared to defend Haiti and also to evacuate in case of siege through secret tunnels, making sure to render the fort and their weapons useless before leaving.

– Amalie Little 

Lunch at the Cultural Center in Milot/ chat with Maurice

Our group ate lunch at our tour guide’s house after a long hike up to the Citadel. We were serenaded by a band as we entered and served cashew chicken, rice, salad, fruit juice, and fried pineapple with coconut for dessert. Maurice our tour guide told us about the history and culture of his city, Milot.    – Grayson O’Berry

After the delicious lunch we stopped by the market and bargained with locals for a few souvenirs and stopped at a family business that makes cassava  bread, a traditional Haitian delicacy.  It was a great day!

Day 2 – Labadie & Amiga Island

Over breakfast, the students discussed the challenges of sleeping under mosquito nets and without air conditioning. Our new conditions were quickly put into perspective during a walk through the tiny fishing village of Labadie. There students observed women doing laundry by hand in tubs on the street and food being cooked on the curbs over charcoal fires. In contrast, we went into a public school classroom that was unexpectedly clean and adequately furnished. The heart of the village was the water source – large pipes spilling water into a shallow stream. Many young children and women were filling large plastic containers of water and carrying them on their heads back to their home.  
At our hotel, the water taxi returned to take us to Amiga Island, a small uninhabited island, for some relaxing beach time. We enjoyed snorkeling, football in the surf, and napping under palm trees. The highlight of afternoon was a traditional Haitian BBQ on the beach with fish and lobster that we had watched being caught by fisherman just off the island’s shore! The wind picked up a bit and there were many screams and laughs as those in the front of the water taxi were drenched during the ride home!

Day 1 – Off to Cap Haitien

Nine eager students met early Thursday morning at Hartsfield ready to begin their adventure to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
After arriving at the Cap Haitien airport, the group rode in vans through the bustling coastal city. Students and chaperones alike were immediately struck by the beaches covered with mounds of trash, that were being scavenged by goats, pigs and stray dogs. Students also commented on the extremely poor conditions of the homes and the hundreds of Haitians out on the busy streets. They noted however, that despite the overwhelming poverty, the residents seemed “hopeful and happy, wearing brightly colored clothes, many with American logos,” and the group quickly became aware of the strong sense of community.

A brightly painted water taxi ferried the group to our waterfront hotel in Labadie, where we settled in after a quick swim and a hearty dinner of fish, chicken, rice and beans and plantains.