As we reflect on our most recent Cross Cultural International Educational Exchange and look at the country of Haiti and the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix; it is with a strong love and reconnection of history, purpose and commitment. Luke 12:48, “To whom much is given, much will be required”.
TYA has received so much support in its infant years. For an organization only seven years young to have taken its fourth international trip with a minimum of twelve young people, is truly a blessing from God and a reflection of the love and support of our members, friends, family and community. It is time to continue the work that TYA was created to do. Since we have been given so much we are going to give back as a result of this trip.
Haiti is a beautiful country, green, dynamic, rich in culture and history. We met so many proud, strong Haitians and watched many more go about their daily lives through the window of the bus. Like so many developing countries, the struggle is great in comparison to life in the United States. Even though their struggle is reflected in their clothes or shoes; their grace, beauty, pride and spirit shows through their smiles, their generosity and willingness to share their culture and history with us.
While in Haiti, we were so fortunate to stay at the Haiti Partners Guesthouse, a beautiful bed and breakfast where our hosts John and Merline Engle were gracious and loving and made us feel instantly at home. Haiti Partners operate a Children’s Academy, called ADECA in Kreyol, where we met the WOZO Choir and many other young children learning English, math and history. We took a Haiti folklore dance class with Jean Appollon Dance Company in Port-au-Prince. We also traveled to Milot, and visited the Lakou Lakay Cultural Center and met the young ladies of their new dance group. Then on to Mirebalais to the Haiti Micah Project, an orphanage that feeds 500 youth a day, where we donated five bags of children’s clothing and shoes.
In each location, TYA had a cultural exchange or performance. We sang and danced and they would sing and dance and a connection was formed.
This connection continued at the Whim Plantation and at the Queen Louise Home in St. Croix. Young
people connect much easier than adults. One young lady ran up to Jena in TYA during the performance, hugged her and told her she loved her. It was a heart stopping moment. We were also fortunate to take a Quadrille dance workshop with the WE DehYah Cultural Dancers and attend a “Come Home to St. Croix”, event, “Remembering Our Ancestors”, by prayers and laying flowers at the waterfront.
To extend this trip beyond the typical, “reflection of memories”, and to give more than our usual school supplies and clothing, TYA has adopted the Haiti Micah Project and has set a goal to raise $1800 in the next six months to send back for the purchase of food. We will also donate money to the Queen Louise home in St. Croix. We have given the Wozo choir bags with books and pens, and will make and send six new costumes for the Lakou Lakay new dance group. Please look for our posting and donate on our website, Taratibu.org with the names Haiti Micah, Lakou Lakay or Queen Louise in the subject line.
I know this is a long post and most of you won’t finish reading it, but it’s important to honor our connections with others of African ancestry. As African Americans, we are still trying to find our true lineage back to Africa and some of us have families that ended up in the Caribbean. As stated in a documentary on the connection between and a Cuban and African tribe, “We are they”.
Director, Taratibu Youth Association