Impressions from Thoman
by: Parris Richie
The trip to Thoman begins with a ride through the city of Port-au-Prince, which is a sight to behold. The city streets are filled with rubble from the earthquake, some of it loose and some of it raked into neat piles. Vendors and markets are every other foot, it seems, along the way. People are selling everything from shirts and blouses hung on hangars on the wall behind them, baskets of bananas, shoes, scarves, pots and pans, and wood items to purses and much more. It is unbelievable that so many people can be crowding the streets and the taxis, called “tap-taps”. Tap-taps are really just covered pickup trucks painted with many bright patterns. What you see that’s orderly in the city are the school children wearing their school uniforms, which are specific colors of shirts and pants for the boys and shirts and skirts or dresses for the girls. The colors depend on the school. The children are slicked up and tidy by comparison to their surroundings as they wait for their rides.
Leaving the city, we take a long ride up the mountain to arrive at the church and school in Thoman. The school houses elementary children K-6. It is attached to the back of the small church and is a block building with corrugated metal roof. Inside that building were four classrooms. There is no electricity so the light for the classrooms comes from narrow windows or openings in the cement block near the top of one wall and the hallway. Many children are in each classroom. They sit three to a bench as they do their assignments.
The benches are made of wood planks, and an attached board that is not smooth is used for them to write upon. So the sitting is cramped and the surface for writing is narrow and bumpy for their pencils and paper. Even so, they want to do their work. We felt their penmanship was excellent for young ages just learning to write.
We brought scissors, crayons, colored paper and glue to lead the children in an art activity. Some of the children had never used scissors before. Some cut shapes while others had to have us hold their hands to guide the scissors around the paper. The children cut, glued shapes on paper and worked eagerly, all the while smiling up at us. The rooms might have been dark but the smiles and chatter lit them up.
After school was dismissed, we “teachers” waited while our doctors and nurses finished physical exams of over 200 people. While we waited we thought about cheering up the drab schoolrooms. What could we do? We decided to hang the tin foil stars made by the Pinnacle Presbyterian children from the ceiling in one of the larger rooms. The room seemed to have more light and the stars were shining when we left.
Hanging stars was a start, but to lighten up the classrooms that have no lights, one idea was to paint the walls white or bright cheery yellow. Although the need is simple, the logistics of getting paint and painters is not. Those are some of the challenges that hit us as we work with these beautiful Haitian children.
(Note: We subsequently raised money and Pastor Luc purchased paint for the Thoman school. A mission team from New Jersey did painting in the school.)