I would like you to step back in time for a brief moment. Imagine your first memory of a book, a library. That leathery, sometimes musty smell. Walking in sensing an important silence….a place of words, sentences and yes…. stories. Now imagine never having that experience………….. An experience everyone deserves, yet poverty, life priorities, daily existence robs that from millions.
February 2013……..We were building out our 3rd library in Ferrier, Haiti. Oppressive heat. Humidity at 90%. I decided to take a break as we were preparing this centers Grand Opening. I sat on the front porch, catching what little wind existed……watching life happen. It was a weekday and I noticed many children not in school.
Then this young man walked by with his goat on a lease. Whether through politeness, shyness or fear, he didn’t want to connect with my eyes. I was a stranger…..Working on a strange project. To get his attention….I instinctively blurted out…. “Baaahhh”. He snapped his head around to look at me, and couldn’t hold back this enormous grin. I laughed, I smiled, went “Baaahhh” again. He laughed, but kept walking. I thought, Oh darn…this kid will think I am crazy, like every other kid I meet.
Over the course of the day, he continued to walk by doing chores. One time, from the dusty dirt road, he wailed “Baaahhh” directly into the library doorway and waited for me to respond. I did. Who knew this Jersey kid from Plainfield could speak goat so fluently. We continued our “Baaahhh” greetings throughout the day. Unfortunately I did not see him at the end of the trip and I was disappointed not to see him at our Grand Opening.
August 2014. I returned as an experienced Haitian traveler. Sa’ke Pase.
Upon visiting this center, I was dying to know something about this young man. You see I have his picture on the back of my business card, he reminds me of why we are doing this. Doing it for all those impacted by socio-economic and education struggles. Everyone deserves an education.
I asked TiJeanne, our lead at this center……In my limited French, pointing to his picture, “can you find him? Like a modern day Haitian Mary Poppins, she was off in a flash in a cloud of dust, leaving me standing there, “uh, uh, ok?” Minutes later, TiJeanne is walking back with a young man that has grown and changed over the course of a year and a half. She was marching him back in a hurried walk. I was panicked as I saw the look on his face. A look of fear, bewilderment, “What the heck did I do”?
I bent down to shake his hand, although I have been told I have an unforgettable face, he did not recognize me. I introduced myself. I then said “Baaahhh”. That beaming smile appeared instantly and he knew…he knew I came back. Then, TiJeanne speaking in English asked him….”What is your name” He looked up at her, not sure what to say. She repeated…. “What is your name”? He responded “Joseph.” I finally knew his name. And now you do too. Your support did this.
He is why I do this. He is, what my career…..what my experiences…..have prepared me for. Committing to helping and promoting education for all. I am still learning and growing through ULC. I have learned a heart is revealed through your actions, and actions become apparent over time.
It is through our actions…….our hearts are revealed. We continue to need your help, not only for Joseph, but for those less fortunate living on the fringe of society. The access to education will set people free.
I ask for your action, by spreading our story through your classrooms, places of worship, your communities. Your actions will be revealed through time. Thank you. Paul