"Haiti As I Lived It": A Short Memoir by Pat Peterson
Pat Peterson first became involved with the Colorado Haiti Project in 1995 when she traveled to Petit Trou de Nippes with a team of volunteers from Boulder seeking to gain a better understanding of what life was like in rural Haiti and deliver medical supplies to the community. She lent her French language skills to help interpret for the English-speaking Boulder team and Petit Trou community members who spoke both Creole and French. Pat has remained a steadfast CHP supporter since then, having returned to Petit Trou six times over the last twenty five years to contribute to a range of initiatives, primarily facilitating seminars on various topics for teachers at St. Paul’s School.
In a recent short memoir about her time in Haiti, Pat reflects on the changes that have unfolded in Petit Trou over the years, and the evolution of CHP as we continue to strive for meaningful and impactful ways to support leaders of the Petit Trou community. Read excerpts from Pat’s memoir below. (Her writing has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.)
The teachers [at St. Paul’s school] asked us to bring teaching materials. Over the years we brought hundreds of books, some donated from French sources, others from the local Boulder library. I remember spending one day in Haiti working with Madame Odette and other teachers to translate these simple books into French and Creole. They envisioned a library. We also made geography files with photographs from many foreign countries and laminated materials and maps.
Bev Robinson, a retired French teacher and head of foreign languages at Kent School in Denver, brought our education seminars to a higher level. By then teachers from Port au Prince with official training were teaching the upper classes at St. Paul’s. They had specific requests of Bev and me to increase their classroom skills. While Bev taught French, I taught map skills and geography. The students caught on quickly and I could see first hand why St. Paul’s students receive the highest scores of the region on National Examinations. Bev and I have volunteered to return to do seminars at St. Paul’s when teachers have specific requests to meet their needs. “Local initiative” is the new buzz phrase for CHP.
I no longer feel that my skills are needed at St. Paul’s, but I don’t forget my friends there. I remember the carpenter whose health issues prevent him for working at his trade. He was desperate for a way to support his family. The last time I visited him, he had assembled a series of solar panels and people were recharging their cell phones at his installation for a few gourdes. He was making a living.
Some of my happiest memories in Haiti are the church celebrations at St. Paul’s church. Women and children in bright dresses and hats dance and sing joyfully up the central aisle of the church carrying baskets of fruit and gifts to the altar. At such time I realize how much CHP is helping Haitians to help themselves and thrive. Despite earthquakes, storms and floods, they are able to spring up again and again and even celebrate!