Friday, July 13, 2012

Haiti Day Three - Campers Arrive!!!

Today has been an extremely exciting and rewarding day, right from the beginning! We got up and met at breakfast around 8 a.m. Then, we made lunch for the campers and made sure that their new surprise bookbags were filled and ready. Extra Swim suits and other items were located in case any of the campers didn’t have one. Then, we waited. No one was sure exactly when they would arrive until we learned when they had left St. Vincent’s. I heard a bus!!!! Here it came, down the rocky hill and into the hotel area. The first bus had the wheelchair-bound campers. We formed a little music group and welcomed each student as they got off the bus. As they were being lowered down the ramp, I wish you could have seen the smiles on their faces!! It was worth this entire trip. They recognized familiar counselors and were SO HAPPY to see all of us. The joy was incredible. I found myself shedding plentiful tears and was super glad for my sunglasses to hide it among the giant river of sweat coming down my brow. These young people are beautiful and charming. This is a bright spot in their life, this camp. What an absolute honor to be able to be a part of something that will honor them and let them know they are loved and perhaps end up changing their lives. To be treated like a normal person in a normal place with loads of fun and lots of love – this is what it should be all of the time. More tears. Then, I realized I wasn’t the only one and that everyone was moved. It was an amazing moment.
After getting the campers off both buses, we all went into the “Oval Office” – a main organizing room that was rented for the week. Once we got everyone inside, Tom talked about plans for the day and week. Then each counselor introduced themselves and told where they were from.  After lots of clapping, it was time to eat lunch so we went down by the pool and shared a meal together. Many were able to eat lunch without help, but some needed the counselors to help a bit.
After lunch, it was time to get baggage to each room and get them settled in. In my charge are three lovely blind girls named Roseline, Rosana, and Jesula. They speak Créole, understand about 75% of my French, and Jesula knows some English. I have to say that finding their bags was a challenge, as they weren’t marked on the outside. Each girl had a piece of cloth in the back zippered pocket and they recognized their bags that way. Then, leading them carefully among the sloped walkway, while pulling their luggage was a challenge – as were navigating the stairs, BUT I did it and was also able to help pull a wheelchair (with camper in it) upstairs.  We were given time to orient them to the room, explain that we would all be going swimming soon and then go change ourselves. Doing this, we led them down to the resort pool and explained pool rules. Then, everyone went swimming and when I say they enjoyed it, that would be a severe understatement. Some of them were afraid of the water at first.....but I think if I did not have any arms or could not use my body to walk or stand, I would also be afraid. After a few minutes and some pool toys - along with each counselor helping to hold them afloat, they were enjoying themselves.

After some down time, we met for dinner. Then, Andrew and Casey started some music time with a fantastic box called a cajon and a guitar. Tom brought a giant bag of percussion instruments which were passed out so everyone could play.The whole group sang and danced. Then, we moved the music out by the pool and sang until the lightning got too close for comfort. We just barely beat the rain and moved upstairs to our main meeting room where we did music for another two hours or so. I taught them three easy songs and they sang beautifully! Being an Episcopal school, I brought a hymnal 1980 which I'll pull out later in the week. I started with "Father We Adore Thee" which they already knew, moved to Louez le Seigneur, a Cameroon processional which they loved and harmonized to. Then, we sang Siyahamba, a easy South African song. They are excellent at Call & Response and harmonize well. Casey did a rhythm game with them, Gregory sang some popular songs they knew, and Andrew used the cajon to get them energized and involve them in rhythm. After we walked them to their rooms, we had a staff meeting and went over some ideas fro tomorrow. The group is such a nice one and we all have been able to share ideas, to joke around, to laugh, to get hard things done, etc. so far. Looking forward to the rest of the week!


Anonymous said...

Caroline, sounds like you're having a great time! Meg

Anonymous said...

Humbled by all the caring, commitment and bravery on the part of the counselors and the campers as well. Leah

Randall said...

Music, the universal language! the picture inclusions on the blog and FB are wonderful...