St. Andrew's Strengthens Relationships in Civol, Haiti

Ten members of the St. Andrew’s community recently returned from a five day trip that saw them visit the Christ Roi School in Civol, Haiti over President’s Day weekend. The purpose of the trip was to continue the relationship building that St. Andrew’s began with the school in February 2011.
Led by Lower School/Intermediate School Chaplain Reverend Betsy Gonzalez and science instructor Chuck James, both of whom had visited Civol in in the past two years, the St. Andrew’s delegation, which included Visual Arts instructors Tracey Goodrich and Gary Wyatt and seniors Ethan Lockshin and Andrew Davis and juniors Keenan Shepard, Noa West, Beverley Howard, and Leah Notter, spent quality time with the people of Civol playing sports and making art.

In addition, they visited the new school that educates about 160 students ages 3-15 and which was built with the help of donations from the St. Andrew’s community. The travelers took backpacks filled with school supplies for the teachers as well as soccer balls, Frisbees, and lion wristbands for the children.

Beyond taking the time to experience the daily life of the people of Civol to better understand what they love and what challenges they face, Gonzalez stated, “We had some specific goals around a collaborative art project, which included Gary's hand banners and Noa beginning the process of designing a mural for the school. Beverley Howard also wanted to launch a buddy program to link SAES students to Christ Roi students.”

Gonzalez marveled at how open her fellow travelers were to the experience of being in Civol. As she noted, “This group was always up for talking and connecting with others anytime, anywhere. They would talk with adults, kids, young, old, city folks, country folks. It generated energy that the students of Christ Roi responded to in kind.”

For Lockshin, the entire experience was meaningful as he believes, “Giving is always better then receiving and I think it was great to go to a developing country and see what it was like and to take a step out of our comfort zone.”

More importantly, he said, is the relationship building the trip afforded both the people of Civol and the students and teachers from St. Andrew’s. “ It was all about talking about music, learning English, passing the frisbee, and talking about cars. I made friends! Facebook friends! They started to have trust in us and ultimately that's what we want. Our relationship is the most important aspect. A good relationship is something I can promise,” he said.

Howard agrees. “Even though we did not speak the same language I know that to the people of Civol our presence means the continuation of a promise,” she pointed out. “A lot of the promises made to the Haitian people after the earth quake have not been fulfilled and because of that there is a lot of distrust. Every year the group of ambassadors to Haiti symbolizes that we the St. Andrews community have not forgotten about the people of Civol and will continue to help them.”

“I can not accurately describe the feelings I have, but I know I am not the same person I was before I left for Haiti. Seeing those people has changed me fundamentally and I am so happy for it,” she mentioned.

In this fourth St. Andrew’s trip to Civol, Gonzalez was reflective when contemplating the impact of St. Andrew’s visit to those living in Civol. “Perhaps they have sensed that we are committed and here to stay. Haiti is a place of broken promises in many ways and our communities are trying to run counter to that engrained belief,” she said.

In addition to Civol, the St. Andrew’s travelers visited Haiti’s capital city Port-au-Prince, Pere Jeannot’s home church in Mirebalais, toured Zanmi Lasante (Partners in Health) hospital, and met with Episcopal Service Corps Young Adult stationed in Haiti.

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St. Andrew’s Episcopal School is a private, coeducational college preparatory day school for students in preschool (Age 2) through grade 12, located in Potomac, Maryland.