West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

Handbells and Soccer Balls

This morning’s clinic was remarkable because several of our team have learned to communicate simple words with the deaf kids and are learning basic Kreyol as well. Bailey worked with me this morning, and by the end of clinic was doing basic exams, in either Kreyol or sign. (“Take a deep breath, open your mouth, I am going to look in your ear, etc.)

At the end of clinic I walked across the hall to the pharmacy, and witnessed Brittany have an entire conversation with a deaf teenager, explaining to him how to take his medicine. She agreed that she could not have done that a week ago!

One of the music teachers at St VIncent’s, Professor Simeon, welcomed us to the school on our first day, and I asked him if his hand bell choir could perform for our group. Today after clinic was finished (and the usual granola bar/fruit snack lunch) we all sat on the stage (in the open courtyard) and had a real treat. Three wooden tables were placed end to end, covered with a twin sized bed mattress and then a white sheet on top of that. About 9-10 blind kids lined up on one side of this covered table, with hand bells. Much chaos for about 15 minutes while the kids jostled each other for a place at the table. Finally Professor Simeon (who is also blind) introduced his choir and the kids stopped squirming and got very quiet, before they played their first song. Edie and I and Sherye were on the front row, and I watched Sherye with her mouth open, taking in the beautiful sounds. By the second song, which was OH SUSANNA, the kids started jostling each other again and cutting up, yet still managed to perform well. Most of the choir was teenage boys, with two girls squeezed in the middle and one older teacher who kept getting pushed out of the way until one of the boys was made to leave the table and sit down behind the choir. We laughed and enjoyed OH SUSANNA and then Joyeux Noel, the last song. I was amazed to see one of the boys rotate 4 bells (He is blind, remember) and also cue the boy on either side of him when to ring their bells. During the end of this song, the boy who had been put out started braying like a donkey and screeching like a rooster, trying to mess up the other kids. The girls dissolved in laughter, one of them falling down on the floor, yet her hands reached up to the table to grab her bells and ring them at the right time.

What a hoot. Beautiful music, raucous teenagers and people defying assumptions. Such a St Vincent’s experience.

Next came the soccer balls, brought out by James and Ashley, with a basketball as well. They could barely get them out of the bag before they were in play. Gordon took at least 100 pictures, to add to his collection of, say, 800 pictures he has already taken at St VIncent’s. Emily told me he went through 3 batteries on his camera today. Ashley showed Mackenson a basketball drill, and outperformed him shamelessly. John and I remember there was a basketball goal at the old school before the earthquake, so maybe we can get another goal put up for the kids. Don’t think that kids with one leg or in wheelchairs can’t play basketball, because at St Vincent’s that is typical.

The last few minutes we spent waiting on the bus to arrive, Edie and Gordon and I sat on a shaded bench with Frenel. Frenel is blind; he felt my watch and then ran off to his room, returning with a braille watch. It was very interesting to see but it was missing the second hand. Nonetheless, he was happy to show it to us. Gordon had learned from Sherye the previous night, how to let a blind person “braille you”. This means you let them touch your face and “read” your features. Gordon placed Frenel’s hands on his face, as well as stooping down to show him how tall Gordon is. Hair, eyebrows, nose, temples, lips, 3 days’ growth of beard. Now Frenel knows who Gordon is when he touches him, even if he can’t see him. Gordon showed Frenel his shoulder tattoo, which you can feel on the surface of the skin. Frenel was very interested in that and spent some time running his fingers over the pattern on Gordon’s arm. Then he placed his small hand into Gordon’s. The ten year old Haitian child, with fingers half the length of the tall American.

Edie said to me as we left “Why did we leave early the last two days when we could have been spending time with Frenel?” She agrees with me that Frenel enriches us more than we give to him.

Tomorrow we go to Kalico Beach, to see the beautiful coast of Haiti. Although I would be just as happy with another day at St Vincent’s.

Susan Nelson

This entry was posted in Stories & Updates. Bookmark the permalink.