Wednesday morning I had an opportunity to share my reflections on my trip to Haiti (accompanied by my wife Jan) earlier this year to a group of school parents. The format of my presentation–focused on photo and video images–was similar to that of previous presentations to students, faculty and staff members, and parishioners. I thoroughly enjoy these opportunities, and Wednesday’s audience was very engaged, receptive and enthusiastic.
My hope for the Haiti partnership is that it will be an occasion of giving, receiving and learning for our students–and for everyone in our community for that matter. Service opportunities have been part of the fabric of most schools for many years, but that has not always been the case. I remember several decades ago when I was a first-year teacher at a Jesuit high school in Kansas City, and a service project was introduced as a mandatory core component of each senior’s academic year. There was considerable resistance at that time rooted in the opinion that the school was diverting students’ time and attention from more serious and important academic matters, especially on the threshold of their entrance into college. Our attitudes have certainly moved considerably since those days, but there are still challenges in fully transforming service experiences into learning experiences.
I am particularly consoled that our partnership is slowly but surely being imbedded into our consciousness and community life. One particular project this year exemplifies in a special way my hopes for the partnership and for all our service activities. Dr. Beth Carson has taught an elective course this year on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The MDG were developed under the auspices of the United Nations in 2000, with 192 member countries (including the USA) committing to work toward reaching the goals by 2015. The goals have as an overarching theme the improvement in the quality of life in developing nations throughout the world. The students in Dr. Carson’s class have chosen Haiti as the particular context in which to consider these goals. When I returned from our trip to Haiti, I brought back the message from Pere Jeannot, our partner priest, that sanitation–more precisely adequate latrines–were a priority for our partner St. Paul’s School. Because health issues are at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals, the MDG class embraced this notion and planned and executed a campaign to address this priority. In addition to creating a fundraising plan, complete with case statement and donor recognition (featuring a model latrine), Dr. Carson and the students researched latrine technology in-depth. All of this epitomizes my vision that an All Saints’ education is about weaving webs, in this case a relational web between two school communities and also a learning one between service and research.
The MDG class set an ambitious fundraising goal of $5000 to build five latrines at St. Paul’s School: 2 for girls, 2 for boys, and 1 for faculty and staff. A serendipitous footnote to this blog is that the goal was reached this very day, ahead of the Easter target date!
Until next time…