Going away, but not leaving

“You’re not leaving, you’re just going away for a little while.”

These are the words Mama Odette said to me when I told her I would be moving to the south of the country for two years. The wisdom of this woman 40 years older than me has always impressed me. 

Her sentence summed up my situation perfectly. How could I consider leaving what I still hold dearly in my heart? 

Reading with Johnny and Peterson in November 2014

Six years have passed since I first walked through the gate of the Lighthouse. Though the home seems to always be the same on the outside, I am honored to have seen the light of the souls of those who live inside shine brighter every day.

It has always been my goal to help a child see that his or her emotional needs are just as valued and important as the physical. But this journey has not been the easiest one. 

My expectations were often different than the realities. 

The difficulties have been real and burdensome. 

Adhering to my job description was not always enough or what was needed at the moment. 

God taught me to extend grace toward myself and developed in me the ability to be flexible with other people in all circumstances. 

I’ve learned that knowing what to do is one thing, but it is quite another to align that knowledge properly within a given situation. No matter what lessons we want to teach others, they learn most from our behaviors and attitudes.

Scindie and Johnny, 2017
Scindie and Anne Marie, March 2017
Scindie and Anne Marie, March 2017

When I started working at Grace Emmanuel School a few years ago, it was an opportunity for me to face new challenges and to be in contact with more children.

Visiting the students became one of my roles, and I did it first out of routine.

As I spent time with each family, talking to them, learning from them, getting to know them, I realized the importance of these visits. To ask students how things are going with school or in their personal life is one of the best ways for parents and children to feel supported and to develop relationships. I truly believe that the student + counselor + parent is a positive circle that can help the struggling student to work better.

I was delighted to be surrounded by a staff with whom I communicated so easily, whether it was to identify a student in need or to follow up. This communication is essential for student success. For many of our students, school can be the only positive social environment they have in their lives. It is important that the staff who receives them is welcoming, understanding, and supporting. Learning to communicate is the key to fostering positive interactions. 

I would like to share a special word with the sponsors who are always meeting the needs of their students. You are wonderful! Your contribution has helped me a lot in my work. Many students don’t see you just as someone who pays tuition for them, but as someone who supports them and contributes to their future because you believe in them.

Girls with Scindie and Sisi in Cap Haitien, February 2018
Scindie and the Lighthouse kids, August 2020

During a dinner at the Lighthouse that the children chose to prepare for me, I was delighted with all their kind words and wishes.

Kimberly, whose intelligence has always amazed me, spoke the words that will especially stay with me.

“You are not really gone, you will just be absent.”

You are right, my girl. I am just absent because you know the love that I feel for you and for each of the students at Grace Emmanuel School is greater than the miles that separate us.

With love,

Scindie St Fleur served as a counselor at the Lighthouse Children’s Home and Grace Emmanuel School from 2014-2020. She currently works as a psychologist at LifeSong for Orphans, where, in addition to providing mental health services, she oversees an academy program that teaches children with motor, physical, cognitive, and behavioral disabilities.