What Haiti can teach the world during a pandemic

On the morning of Thursday, March 19, JiHM’s national leadership met to discuss the coronavirus situation and how we could begin applying preventative measures to protect students and staff. We knew we needed to prepare for the possibility of it coming to Haiti, and we put an action plan in place for Monday.

That evening, plans changed quickly. A press release from the Ministry of Health announced that Haiti’s first two cases had been confirmed. Panic spread quickly, less over the virus than over the abrupt measures taken by the government. Effective within a day, public spaces, schools, factories and more would be closed.

As a people who live day-to-day, all of the questions and doubts began to swirl in our minds. How will we get through this? What are we going to do?

I called Marie Lyne, the school nurse, after I heard the news. We knew we needed to do more to educate the students at school and couldn’t rely on the Ministry of Health to take care of our community. 

Speaking to the students about COVID-19

The next morning we were at the school early. As we entered each classroom, we could see the fear on everyone’s face and sensed a despair over the days to come. Over and over, we shared everything we knew about this virus, knowing that knowledge is key in these moments of uncertainty. Marie Lyne spoke on preventative hygiene, and I spoke about not giving into panic and respecting the instructions of the authorities.

A few hours later, when I was in my office gathering my things to take home, two students came to speak to me. They started to ask me if I had seen the numbers of cases identified in the United States. I said yes, I had noticed.  

One of them finally asked the question that was weighing on them. “Do you think we will still have sponsors?”  

I did not know what answer to give. In recent days I feel less and less like I have the answers.

But I have read Matthew 6, and I believe God knows our needs and provides for them. I replied calmly and with a smile that I believed their sponsors would do everything they could. I did not answer this way because I can be sure of that, but because of the promises of God.

As I think of the days to come, I try not to worry over these students and whether they will have enough to subsist for a month according to the government decree. 

I remember a visitor once asked me how people survive when half the population is living on less than two dollars a day. 

I explained that in Haiti, everything is based on solidarity and sharing. One of the proverbs we live by is “Bay piti pa chich.” It means we give no matter how little we have, and we aren’t stingy.

In uncertain times, it is this solidarity that brings us all hope and keeps us alive. 

A lot of you are affected in this situation. The world is upside down. But no matter what situation befalls you, may you continue to live generously—both for your next door neighbors and those around the world. 

We are praying for you. Please continue your prayers for us.

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.