By Carol Callwood, YWCA Virgin Islands
It has been said that beauty can be seen in some of the most unexpected places and on my recent trip to Haiti, I experienced beauty beyond expectation. Despite the obvious structural damages, Haiti is beautiful, the land and its people, and especially the ladies of the YWCA of Haiti.
I am not the typical person, my friends generally describe me as the least normal person they know because I never do what is expected. I have been known to travel to distant places by myself, without really knowing anyone there. I tell them that you won’t know anyone until you meet everyone. I didn’t know anyone in Haiti but I had the desire to go. Through networking with Donnalie Edwards-Cabey (President of the YWCA of the Virgin Islands) and Marie-Claude Julsaint (World YWCA Programme Director for the Americas and the Caribbean) I was offered a place to stay on my trip. And that was the most wonderful part. The ladies of the YWCA of Haiti are an outstanding group of young women. These women knew nothing about me except that I was a member of the YWCA and they opened up their homes and their lives to me. That is true sisterhood.
They are also exceptional in their abilities to juggle their own busy lives to organise and implement very successful programmes for the young people. These are professional young women: lawyers, educators, psychologists, accountants and potential politicians. They opened a youth center after the earthquake to offer youngsters a place for them to participate in structured activities. I saw in these children not only a need for love and attention, but a strong desire to learn. I laughed with them and them at me. I played, read and danced with them. In a few brief days they tried to teach me as I tried to teach them.
The ladies also started another programme for young women ages 15-25 focusing on leadership. At first they eyed me with an uneasy apprehension but I used one of my strategies for the beginning of school and had them comfortable with me. I had an open discussing with them (with translation) about their experiences of the earthquake and the YWCA. I met some outstanding young women in this programme, some that have already displayed great leadership potential. I watched a presentation that had been prepared by a few who had attended a seminar the week before. I was pleased at how much of their presentation I could actually understand.
I am surprised at how much I had an opportunity to do during my very brief stay in Haiti. I attended a meeting of the YWCA-Haiti; assisted at the Youth Center; visited a jewelry programme and attended a presentation by the Ministry of Youth. And I could not leave out the food – from the Haitian pizza, the great restaurants and the wonderful food of the Residence Coupard. I thoroughly enjoyed my brief Haitian experience. I look forward to the continued collaboration between the YWCA of the Virgin Islands and the YWCA of Haiti. With the growing population of Haitians in the territory, the empowerment of Haitian women in both regions will benefit both communities.