On my way down to Haiti I talked with a Haitian man in the Miami airport for several hours.
His name was Vuther and he told me straight-up he doesn’t like America. His reason? The immorality we are exporting to his country. ouch. I find this a common complaint among Internationals. American culture is seen as “loose”. Argue how you will, but I have been told this by multiple foreigners. They say the way many women here in America dress is revealing. For instance, an Indian friend related to me recently how he was shocked by this very thing when he came to America, but now is desensitized. And my Kenyan friends also told me immodesty is much more prevalent here than in Kenya.
Anyways, back to Vuther. Even with his gripes about America, he nevertheless did appreciate our help.
After the earthquake, he sent his 12-year old son to the US. His son was here in the States seven months and studied in our public schools. Vuther explained we were so nice we even provided a Creole/English speaking para-teacher to accompany his son around school to interpret. He couldn’t complain about that. And he also appreciated all the folks who have come to Haiti from America to help with earthquake relief.
Though he added that he often feels the “mission teams” that came for short-term projects are completely ineffective. For instance, he pointed out how a team recently came to make new tarp shelters for those in a tent city because their old tents were rotting in the sun after a year. He thought this was stupid: his people needed permanent dwellings, houses, not new tents!
Vuther is among those fortunate in Haiti to have a decent job. When I was talking with him in Miaimi, he was traveling back home after having attended job training in South America.
He also told me he was a Christian believer, but when I questioned him on his beliefs he was uncertain. He was convinced there was a God, which is a start, but was trusting for his salvation based on merit rather than faith.
But as this man told me his vision, I was impressed by his “merit.” Vuther believed education is the key to helping kids have a better future and is acting on that belief. He and his wife have started a school in their home for families in their neighborhood too poor to send their children to school. So far, he and his wife currently have about fifteen kids enrolled (note that the literacy rate in Haiti is about 50%). His wife quit her job to teach full-time, which has put a strain on their finances as they now have more expenses, but less income.
Vuther was very excited about his school, and with the new model he is experimenting with. He told me how important he feels parental involvement is and how he regularly meets with the parents to give progress reports. He added that most parents can’t afford to pay him much in cash so he accepts pay in volunteering and barter.
Vuther was very adamant he had no desire to accept money from outsiders. He wanted this school to be completely Haitian initiated and supported. In particular, he didn’t want outsiders telling him how to run things or having any say in what he did. He was very independent minded. But he was also quick to admit he was super nervous about how his school was going to work out. He had put all three of his own children in this school to give legitimacy to those in his neighborhood. The first standardized testing was looming in June and he was nervous, hoping all passed.
Did I mention his house was destroyed in the earthquake less than a year and a half ago? He told me he had worked for years to have that house built. I asked him if he had insurance. The answer was no. Apparently they don’t do home insurance there.
An ordinary man with a dream: He said his dream was to help 100 kids get a good education.
Just 100, that was enough.
I asked, “What about 1,000 kids?”
He laughed and waved me off, “No, no, just 100. That’s all.”
But he also pointed out he is trying to develop a model, and if successful wants to share his model with others. He hopes that together Hatians can help change Haiti from the inside out. I was impressed.
I personally know many families who are into homeschooling their kids. And effectively, Vuther and his wife are homeschooling their three kids. But they are also homeschooling 12 other kids… and have a vision to homeschool 85 more!
How often do I run across someone with a vision like that? A vision to significantly impact the lives of 100 people? Meeting Vuther and having this random conversation was inspirational to me.
Vuther really appreciated I talked with him so long and commented on how friendly we are here in America to just approach a stranger and start a conversation. I liked him too. And was glad to promote a little American good-will.
He gave me his phone number and said to call him if they gave me any trouble in customs, as he would be there shortly after me – and had connections.
Speaking of connections, I almost missed my flight because I was so engrossed in talking (listening) to Vuther. Turns out, I was at the wrong gate: D32 instead of D33, and after a couple hours steeped in gab I should have noticed no one was in my waiting lounge area – but didn’t. What finally reminded me was a complimentary phone call from American Airlines:
“Mr. Middleton, where are you?”
“um, here In the Miami International Airport, why?”
“Where in the airport?”
“Sitting here at Gate D32?”
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING THERE?! You’re supposed to be at gate D33, and this is the last call for boarding to Port-au Prince!”
I quickly bid adieu and ran to catch my flight.
Have I ever mentioned I’m absentminded?