Sunday, February 5, 2012

An English Class for Girls

When my sister, Beth, offered to come to Haiti and help out, I tried to think what she could do in a short time that would have the greatest impact. I thought of the many girls I met who were not in school and who often seemed eager to spend time at the clinic. I decided a girls class that combined health, art and English would be empowering and fun. Although I had planned for a small group of fifteen girls, the numbers often swelled to 60, as they packed into the postpartum room for songs, poems and lessons in English. The youngest was five and the oldest seventeen. They lingered long after the class was over and cried when she left to return home to the United States. Our Hatien midwives joined her each day for the advanced English class with the older girls. It was wonderful to have a sister here with me in Haiti and to watch her work with such skill and love with the young women of our community. After she left and the familiar solitary space grew around me again, I realized that most of the children I have met who were severely malnourished or not in school were girls.

Each day, at the start of clinic, I tell the women that they are the most valuable resource in Haiti because they will grow and care for its next generation. They look amused but also surprised to think of it in this way. In the girls English class, my sister and our friend, Maxa, showed the young women how important and valuable they were.

The international plan for lowering infant and maternal mortality is embedded in the need to empower, educate and protect young women. These last three weeks, with Beth and Maxa's help, MamaBaby Haiti helped build that strength in a beautiful, smart group of young Hatien women.

Thank you. Your songs and laughter still echo in our hearts.

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