This is Weetherson Pierre, a nursing student I met on a recent mission trip. As a scholarship recipient of the Haitian Education Leadership Program (HELP), a CCO-sponsored program at the University of Notre Dame-Haiti, the country’s only Catholic university, Weetherson is not only a straight-A student, he is required to live by principals that are firmly rooted in Christian doctrines.
A couple of weeks ago, as I attended my fifth-grade son’s open house, I marveled at how much technology American children have at their disposal. It was the end of the year, and the kids were turning in the laptops their school had provided for homework. Yes, school-provided laptops! I compared this to my experiences traveling in the developing world. Students there were lucky if they had electricity, much less access to a computer.
As I stood at the back of this humble chapel, taking in this amazing moment, one particular child attracted my attention. He had one blind and clouded eye — but the other had a gleam in it. One of his ears was missing, but the other hung on to every word the priest said. His smile was bigger than everyone else’s, and he seemed to be oblivious to the third degree burn scars that covered his head, shoulders and chest.
I had heard about hungry Haitian children eating mud cookies to fill their empty bellies but I had never actually seen mud cookies with my own eyes — until I traveled to the slums of Ouanaminthe, located on Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic.
It felt wrong to reach for my water bottle. The thirst was a perpetual itch just beyond hand’s reach. Throughout the week, we’d been traveling from one remote village to the next — each a nearly identical sprawl of thatched-roof houses, dirt paths and sun-scorched farmland.
In September – literally two days before Hurricane Matthew devastated the southern peninsula of Haiti – I was in the country for the dedication of two schools. Sadly, one of those missions was damaged by the storm.